Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Academic Tensions

Working at a University is somewhat different than working just about anywhere else. The nature of our work leaves a lot of the decision making concerning the focus of our work up to the individual professor. However no decision is ever made in a vacuum and there are pressures brought to bear on each of us working in the academy.

My faculty has always been known as having a focus on the preparation of beginning teachers. Our undergraduate programs are generally 'certification' programs. Students come to these programs so that they can become certified teachers in Saskatchewan and also, it is hoped, become skilled, well prepared beginning teacher.

So there is one set of pressures.

Recently we implemented a doctoral program and a course only master's program in addition to our normal research focused master's degree. These two changes have attracted many students to our graduate programs. Our graduate students are normally mature, experienced, intelligent, anxious to learn and happy to participate in many of our professor's research projects. Many of my colleagues prefer to work with these kinds of students.

Another set of pressures

The demand of the university in general for individual professors to acquire external
funding for their research project has grown exponentially over the last few years. The research and knowledge generation aspects have, like at many other universities, become the elephant in the room. You can ignore the demand but at your own peril. In our university in particular this has posed problems. Canada, at least in the opinion of some westerners, has always privileged the centre - Ontario and Quebec. This seems to be no different in research funding - compounded by a propensity to give funding to those who have already been successful at being funded. Backing an acknowledged winner is a good philosophy but how does one begin to be a winner?

A third set of pressures

Then comes the question of research. Does an individual professor follow his or her curiosity? This may be the ideal in the academy but it is rare. The granting agencies set priority areas - does an individual professor chase the priority areas? And what about the issues surrounding basic and applied research? Should the individual professor not think about practical applications of the research? Or should practical application be the only focus?

Many sets of pressure!!!

I am glad I'm not just starting out.


Blogger Shuana said...

hmmm...i am very interested in your point of view on research funding...:)

3:35 PM  

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