Thursday, 29 December 2016

Teaching activity in Italian Universities is not valued for professor career progression

After years of forced stop, career progression for researchers and professors in Italian University is allowed again. With the new "Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale" (ASN) many submitted their curricula and publication list to the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). There have been uncertainties about the bibliometric cutoffs that changed from the previous "mediane" to the new "soglie" and changed again since the first calculation was not acceptable. I was not shocked by that, but by the very low importance given to education for career progression. In the "DECRETO 7 giugno 2016, n. 120" the only parameter related to teaching activity was teaching in PhD courses (see Annex A, #7 in the list of "Elenco dei titoli"). And what about the other massive amount of teaching activity? In my teaching registry the portion devoted to PhD courses is less than 10%; other colleagues of mine do much more hours of lesson so that this percentage goes even lower. This clearly means "Dear professors, we don't care how many hours of lessons you do, nor how well you teach or how satisfied are your students". To be noticed, much obsessive emphasis is otherwise directed to research activity, concerning both publishing (number of publication, number of citations, H index) and related activity (member in editorial boards, international fellowship, research projects leadership, etc).
What will be the consequence in the next years? Obviously professors will spend less and less time in preparing lessons and they will try to avoid teaching activity as much as they can, in order to dedicate most of their time to research activity.
I suspect that the number of courses in Italian Universities will shrink in the next years much more than predicted by the the retirement of the professors born during the "baby boom" period. A solution could be to call even more non-university personnel to teach ("professori a contratto"), with a further obvious reduction in teaching quality. Otherwise I hope that the solution will be to allow increased recruitment ("punti organico") of professors and researchers in Italian Universities.

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