Is academic professionalism adequate?

“Over the past two decades, there has been a serious diminution in professionalism as we are
compelled more and more to complete accountability/kpi measures, as if jumping over ‘productivity’
hurdles could substitute for professional ethics.”

– quote from an academic, p.24 of the Australian Academic Profession in Transition report.

Overall, 37.3 per cent of academics have never undertaken training in university teaching,
and 72.1 per cent indicate that training is not mandatory in their institution.

– report of survey research, p. 25 of the Australian Academic Profession in Transition report.

As this report makes clear, collecting data and filling in forms – administrivia, as Conrad calls it – is the bane of academic life. I’m quite prepared to believe that some of it is unnecessary and much of the rest could be delegated to administrative staff.

But I am much less prepared to believe that we can put our faith in the ‘professionalism’ of academics. Quite clearly in my view, academia failed to develop a proper professional ethos around teaching. Though things have improved in the last 20 years, still a very large minority of academics have not undertaken any training in one of the key tasks of their occupation. The previously abysmal results recorded in the survey sent to completing students are now reasonable though not great.

Until the norms of good teaching practice are internalised in the academic profession, external pressures to protect and promote student interests are necessary.