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On 10 July 2013, at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, a second hearing was held on the amendments to the Law on Higher Education which defined a doctoral degree as an essential requirement for obtaining the position of assistant professor. During the discussion of the amendments Tamar Sanikidze, then Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, stated:  “A doctoral degree is an essential requirement for any academic position and this is true everywhere, in Europe as well as in America.”

At the time of the draft law being discussed in the Parliament, university academic staff was defined by Article 33 of the Georgian Law on Higher Education to consist of full professors, associate professors and assistant professors. The amendments initiated by the Ministry of Education and Science added the position of an assistant to the academic staff, previously comprised solely of professors. Furthermore, the draft law initiated by the Georgian Government proposed the following changes into Article 35 of the Law on Higher Education which defines the terms of electing individuals to academic positions. The wording of Article 35 is as follows:

Article 35 – Conditions for Filling Academic Positions

  1. Any person having a doctoral or an equivalent degree and at least six years of teaching and research experience can be elected as a professor. Additional conditions may be defined by the statute of the higher educational institution.
  2. Any person having a doctoral or an equivalent degree and at least three years of teaching and research experience can be elected as an associate professor.
  3. Any person holding a doctoral or an equivalent degree can be appointed to a position of assistant professor for a period of three-or-four years as prescribed by the statute of the higher educational institution.
  4. A PhD student may be appointed to the position of an assistant for a period of three-or-four years as prescribed by the statute of the higher educational institution.
  5. The statute of the higher educational institution may provide for filling the academic positions envisaged by Paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of this Article by qualified personnel according to professional merits. In this case the qualification of the person can be evidenced by professional experience, special training or/and publications. A person with relevant qualification means a person who has competences necessary to attain the learning outcomes envisaged by the programme concerned.
  6. Requirements prescribed by this Article shall not be applied to the academic positions of the Orthodox Divinity Higher Educational Institutions.
FactCheck

inquired whether or not the USA and Europe set the doctoral degree as a requirement for acquiring an academic position. In our research we also bear in mind the context of Tamar Sanikidze’s statement which is represented by the fact that the presented draft law defines a doctoral degree as a compulsory requirement for taking up a position of a professor and, at the same time, introduces the academic position of the assistant which can be assumed by individuals not holding a doctoral degree (doctoral students). Hence, in all probability the statement refers to the academic positions of professors (full professor, associate professor, assistant professor) in the Western system and not to the first steps of an academic career. Consequently, the primary goal of our research is to seek out the regulations corresponding to the restrictions initiated by the Ministry as concerns the USA and Europe.

Comprehensive information on academic careers in the USA and Europe is provided by the website of the European University Institute located in Florence, Italy, and so our research is primarily based on this source.

Pursuant to the website, the position of assistant professor is the entry-level position to the USA

academic system and can be assumed only after completing doctoral studies. Having obtained a doctoral degree scholars often start off with working as instructors (teachers) or hold a temporary postdoctoral position and only afterwards manage to acquire the position of assistant professor. The average age for completing doctoral studies in the US is 37 years. Doctoral studies include two years of intensive learning and research training.

A doctoral degree is normally required for obtaining the lowest academic position in the UK

– lectureship. Postdoctoral training of at least one year is generally an advantage for applying for a lecturer position but it is not a requirement. The average age for completion of a doctoral degree is 26-27 in the UK which is very low as compared to other European countries.

In Germany a PhD candidate can assume the position of academic employee/junior research fellow (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) during doctoral studies.  After completing the PhD, a researcher has two options – write the Habilitation and at the same time hold a position of academic assistant/senior research fellow (Wissenschaftlicher Assistent)

or obtain the position of W1 professorship/junior professorship (junior professor).

In France an academic career takes its start from being a PhD candidate which lasts three years. PhD candidates receive the allocation de recherche. Some of them hold the position of a teacher (moniteur)

and teach 64 lectures a year to university seniors. Assuming the position of an assistant professor requires a doctoral degree as well as qualification from the University National Council.

The main starting position for a career in Italian academia is that of a researcher (ricercatore). To become a ricercatore,

one needs to win a competition but a PhD degree is not among the requirements for the participation in this competition. It is also a common practice in Italy to employ contracted professors to conduct courses. The position was conceived as an opportunity for universities to hire experts in certain subjects as teachers for one or more courses. Many universities, however, use this form of contract to employ young researchers, especially after their PhD. Subsequent academic career steps, following the position of a researcher, are the positions of associate and full professors.

The entry-level position to an academic career in Austria is that of assistant (Universitätsassistent) which can be assumed by MA degree holders.  Assistants are hired for a fixed term of six years during which a PhD has to be completed. Before this first contract expires, it is decided by the employer whether or not the researcher can apply for a so-called Laufbahnstelle

which is a postdoctoral position for six years as an assistant professor.

In Sweden a PhD degree is not required for being appointed to the position of adjunkt (junior lecturer). Normally, a doctoral degree becomes mandatory for the applicants to the academic positions of senior lecturer and professor. A PhD degree holder can become a senior lecturer also in the case of not having initially worked as a junior lecturer. The Swedish educational system also leaves a theoretical chance for assuming the positions of a senior lecturer and professor without the PhD degree – once appointed to a permanent position (adjunkt

or lecturer) one is eligible to apply for promotion to senior lecturer or professor on the basis of individual research competence and teaching skills. The average monthly salary of a junior lecturer amounts to EUR 2,365. The average age of acquiring a doctoral degree in Sweden is 35 years.

In the French-speaking cantons of Switzerland

a PhD degree is a condition for acquiring academic positions while in the German-speaking cantons doctoral candidates can start their academic careers as research assistants or as lecturers.

In Norway any holder of a PhD degree can compete for a permanent position as lecturer (foerste amaneuensis)

which, however, can also be obtained without a doctoral degree but with documented academic competence at the same extent and quality. Higher academic positions in Norway are those of senior lecturer and professor.

In Cyprus

the first step of an academic career is the position of research assistant/teaching assistant which is followed by that of lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor. To obtain a lectureship one must hold a PhD degree and produce evidence of competence in university teaching and research. For the position of assistant professor, apart from a PhD degree, at least three years of university teaching or research work are required.  The position of associate professor requires at least seven years of academic experience after the PhD and a substantial publications record while a professorship requires at least 11 years of experience and a significant contribution to university teaching and administration as well as international recognition of scientific work.

In Denmark

applicants are required to hold a PhD degree for the lowest academic positions of assistant professor/researcher/post-doc.

Most academics in Greece

start their careers as temporary lecturers for which a PhD is the minimum requirement. The positions of assistant professor, associate professor and full professor require academic publications, teaching and research experience.

In Hungary

as a rule a PhD degree is required for obtaining a lectureship but no requirement of a doctoral degree exists for the position of assistant professor.  A PhD degree is mandatory for applicants to the higher academic positions of reader and professor.

In Ireland

the lowest academic position of lecturer sets a PhD degree as a requirement for applicants. Higher academic positions in the hierarchy of the Irish system are senior lecturer, associate professor and professor.

Academic positions in Poland

are as follows:  assistant, which does not have the requirement of a PhD degree, assistant professor, associate professor and professor, all of which require the applicants to hold a doctoral degree.

In Slovenia

the requirement of a PhD degree is set for the positions of assistant professor, associate professor and full professor although the Slovenian educational system also introduces the positions of lecturer and assistant for which Master’s degree holders are also eligible.

In Portugal

a doctoral degree is required for the positions of assistant professor, associate professor and full professor but the Portuguese educational system also has the lower academic positions of junior assistant and assistant for which Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holders, respectively, are also eligible. Different conditions apply to specially contracted personnel. As they come from the private sector, they are assessed based on professional experience and not academic degrees.

In Spain

academics are required to hold a PhD degree from the very first postdoctoral steps of their academic careers.

In Finland applicants to the positions of assistant professor, lecturer and full professor are normally required to hold a PhD degree but a lectureship position can be assumed with a licenciate thesis as well. The licentiate is an academic degree, which on its part is an essential precondition for teaching at the university. The licentiate is an optional pre-doctoral degree considered to be equal to the completion of the doctorate and a dissertation coursework which is formally equivalent to half of a doctoral dissertation. In Finland, the licentiate degree requires two-to-three years of full-time research and is equivalent to 120 ECTS. As stated on the University of Helsinki website, the licentiate

thesis is more limited in scope than the doctoral dissertation and represents a scholarly work that demonstrates the postgraduate student’s ability to independently and critically apply methods of scholarly research.

In Estonia a PhD degree is required in order to assume the positions of dotsent (

associate professor), professor and professor emeritus. There are, however, other academic positions in the Estonian educational system for which a Master’s degree is considered sufficient; specifically:  teacher, assistant and lecturer.

Conclusion

The draft law presented by the Ministry of Education and Science to the Parliament defines a doctoral degree as a compulsory precondition for taking up the position of professor and, at the same time, introduces the academic position of assistant which can be assumed by individuals not holding a doctoral degree (doctoral students). Hence, in all probability Tamar Sanikidze’s statement refers to the academic positions of professors (full professor, associate professor, assistant professor) in the Western system and not to the first steps of an academic career. Consequently, in our quest of checking the statement, the primary goal of our research was to seek out regulations in the USA and Europe corresponding to the restrictions initiated by the Ministry.

In the USA, the United Kingdom and the French-speaking cantons of Switzerland, a PhD degree represents an essential condition for acquiring an academic position. Similarly, the majority of European countries, normally, maintain a doctoral degree as one of the requirements for academic positions despite the fact that one can start an academic career prior to completing the doctoral degree. In some of the examined countries such as Sweden, for instance, the highest academic position can, in theory, be acquired without a PhD degree but such cases are rare. We also found cases of different conditions being applied to specially contracted personnel. Accordingly, we conclude that Tamar Sanikidze’s statement, “A doctoral degree is an essential requirement for any academic position and this is true everywhere, in Europe as well as in America,” is MOSTLY TRUE.