Just because you have a PhD in your subject does not automatically mean that you are a better teacher. The University Chancellor's Office's (UKÄ) annual report contains statistics that deal with everything except what is most important for students to receive a good education, namely pedagogy.
The proportion of PhD teachers does not have to be a measure of quality
Last week presented UKÄ's annual report with statistics on Sweden's universities and colleges. One of the news of the year was that the staff at Swedish universities has become more well-educated. The report shows that the number of senior lecturers has increased by 33 percent from 2004 to 2014. The number of professors has also increased, but for a longer period. At the same time, the number of assistant professors has decreased. Last year, there were a total of 5080 assistant professors (full-time staff *), which is 1570 fewer than in 2004. According to UKÄ, a probable explanation is that higher education institutions employ more PhD teachers to strengthen the research connection and scientific competence in the educations.
The diagram found on page 98 in UKÄ's annual report shows the number of research and teaching full-time employees at universities and colleges, broken down by employment category.
That more students are taught by a teacher who has defended his dissertation is positive news. Teachers' scientific or artistic competence is central to creating a close connection to research. On the other hand, it is not at all certain, as many seem to argue, that the proportion of PhD teachers necessarily needs to be a measure of educational quality. (See for example SACO's latest report and many different types of ranking systems.) The teacher who is more well-educated and has great subject knowledge is not automatically a better teacher. From the students' perspective, the subject knowledge is not worth much if it cannot be passed on.
National statistics on higher education institutions' work with pedagogy are lacking
What is missing in both UKÄ's report and in the entire debate on quality of education is an analysis of pedagogy in higher education. In meetings with the university chancellor, SFS has criticized that the otherwise excellent report does not say anything about what actually happens in the classroom. What proportion of the teaching staff, regardless of whether they have a PhD or not, have a pedagogical education? How many higher education institutions even have a definition of what pedagogical skills are? Here, UKÄ's report owes us the answers.
Since SFS did not have time to wait for an authority to make a national analysis of the pedagogy at the country's universities, we did an own survey. Among other things, we came to the conclusion that 60 per cent of the higher education institutions do not require that teaching staff must have completed a pedagogical education and that two thirds do not have guidelines that teaching staff must have competence development in pedagogy. The results do not mean that all teachers are bad educators, but that there is a lack of systematics in the promotion of pedagogical training for our teachers.
Education and research must be valued equally in the educations
There is great agreement that education and research are equally important assignments for the academy. At the same time, it is no secret that the research assignment generally has a higher status than the teaching assignment. It is a theme that can be seen in the education itself as well. For university teachers, the scientific competence is valued higher than the pedagogical one. This is noticeable not only in UKÄ's report but also in the universities' work with merit systems. For scientific proficiency, there are well-established ways of taking a position on merits with the help of experts who have special competence in assessing scientific proficiency. Corresponding practice for pedagogical skills is lacking. SFS's report shows that two out of three higher education institutions lack central systems for assessing pedagogical skills and less than half always use an expert with special competence in pedagogy to assess teachers' pedagogical skills. There is a lack of understanding and acceptance that the university teaching profession arises in the meeting between scientific and pedagogical skills.
Together we can take responsibility for developing the pedagogy!
If we are serious about the fact that education and research are equally important tasks for the university, we must steer the debate on education quality to be about what plays the biggest role in how good the education the students receive is, namely the quality of teaching. The responsibility is shared. The higher education institutions must introduce secure career paths where pedagogical and subject-scientific skills weigh equally heavily. The university teaching profession must be changed so that the teaching assignment can also be designed in a professional manner. Finally, the state and its authorities must take responsibility for creating the conditions for this development. Starting to map out on a national level how the country's colleges and universities work with higher education pedagogy would be a good start.
* Full-time employees - employees. The number of employed persons converted to full-time employment during one year. (The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education's concept manual for follow-up of the university, 2008)