Volume 9 Issue 5 News & Resources | September 2016
The "ideal" job
1. The job
I have been imagining the difficulties of being a new academic staff in public universities nowadays. With the continuous cost cutting measures by the government and the gloomy economic outlook of the world and the not so positive situation in the country, one would need to be much more creative and industrious in figuring ways out of the glut. The seemingly insurmountable challenges and expectations are there to stay, and no tangible efforts are visible in making them more responsive to the dynamics of society at large. For example, the promotion criteria are static in nature and the measurement tools and promotion evaluation processes are not linked to the prevalent conditions one is facing. Embarking on an academic career needs serious commitment and focus. One will need to accelerate on the learning curve and pick up the tricks of the trade the soonest. The job is not an easy meat and may not suit everyone’s palate. But, one thing for sure, this job has the potential to bring out the best of ourselves. And, the opportunities to imprint our legacies in future generations are in abundance.
2. The requirements
A lecturer has to teach the precepts and contents of knowledge, research the solutions for the ever-persistent problems in society, facilitate the rudimentary of university’s administrations and serve the needs of surrounding communities, professional or the general masses. In order to teach, he/she must allocate sufficient time for material review, preparation and assessment. The specific aspect of knowledge to be imparted must be sculptured in ways which will ease the learning processes. The research efforts must be made to be relevant and practical in terms of its actual utilization and usefulness. The product of research can be as varied as the topics which can be tackled. Admittedly, highly-cited publications will be the main outcome of all research efforts. A relevant and up-to-date teaching content is also a major byproduct of productive research endeavor. Teach and research has always gone hand-in-hand. Another task of an academic staff is to learn the traits of an administrator. There are many opportunities to make mistakes and to learn. The vocation will allow us many opportunities to interact with various segments of people in the university’s environment. One should be able learn and pick-up the best practices. Though, understandably, this will only happen with the right intention and spirit of self-improvement. Last but not least, an academic staff should serve the communities he/she is in. We must bring add value to the communities. And, in all these elements, a lecturer performance will be evaluated and judged.
3. The challenges
In order to get promoted up the academic career ladder, one needs to fulfill the basic requirements and have the proper and right credentials. An academic staff will normally be evaluated for promotion on the outcome of his research work. How many publications in Q1 journal have been published? How many citations have one garnered? How much research grants have acquired? How many PhD or MSc students have successfully completed their study under him? What is his academic recognition given by others? These are some basic but pertinent questions. The output or outcome being evaluated needs a number of prerequisites; such as the grant money, post-graduate students, proper research facilities and healthy research eco-system. Basically one needs money for things such as to pay for the new students, to buy components, to rent research equipment, to fabricate the designed system, to travel for conference and meeting attendance and to pay for publication charges. When research grant money “cake” is getting smaller and the success rate of new grant applications is falling, a new or junior academic will perpetually be in a precarious position. Without sufficient funding, no many can move and nothing much can be done, i.e. things which really matter the most. The time spent on teaching also will eat a big chunk from his or her daily working hours. To make matter worse is the non-existent links with the industry and community at large. This put the junior staff in a secluded position away from main-stream academic activities. With the lack of mentoring from senior staff, he will be left to fend for himself. No money, no student, no real research. Hence, no promotion in sight!
4. The opportunities
With this not so promising background, the life of an academic is still full of opportunities. There is a need to be more assertive and forthcoming in putting forwards one’s intents. The confidence in one’s ability will be a good start. The new academics must be foolish enough to traverse new routes and to create one, if there is none in existence. The road less travelled normally will offer many gains. Though the risks are higher, one will have nothing to lose when one has nothing to start with. The new academic must be bold and goal-driven. The opportunities will be as big as the challenges. In time of crisis, there is opportunity, if only we search and look for it. Good luck my dear academic.
“Life is a journey. Seek the good, do good and good will come to you”
Written by :
Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering