Academic terminologies

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HERE are some terminologies about academic institutions — their structural divisions, their constituents and how they are classified, ranked and tenured, types of learning institutions, etc — which we may come across in writing or in conversations as we go onward into the 21st century of a rapidly globalizing environment and much more so, once APEC has really set in our academic lives. How are such divisions, constituents, etc referred to in universities in other continents and which usage has become part of the language of our Asean neighbors drawn from their respective national histories?

Once I asked the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair, whether a ”community college” could be allowed to offer graduate courses.The CHED created in 1994, was barely several years old then. Except for the Pamantasan ng Maynila chartered in 1995, there were hardly any LGU post-secondary schools in the country. This practice became popular in the later 90’s after the Local Government Code (RA 7160) was passed into law in 1991. What is a school, an institute, an academy a college, a university, I asked? What we had in the CHED agenda then was to distinguish these educational entities from each other similar to what each is in other parts of the globe. With CHED’s typology-based quality assurance — there are telling signs that this now is coming to pass.

When HEI’s set aside a faculty or staff development budget annually, who do they refer to? In our country, the faculty who are the academics are distinguished from the non-academic employees referred to as staff. Similarly as in the US, we in the Philippines refer to “faculty” as a distinct category from staff although members of both groups are employees of an institution. But European universities, such as those in the United Kingdom, refer to all university constituents as staff either on academic or professional (i.e. non-academic) contracts.” Singaporean and Malaysian universities, and those in the UK similarly refer the term “faculty” to a group of academics in “related subject areas“ and which enrolls students for an academic degree or allied degrees, such as the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Music. In our country, we usually refer to this as a “college,” such as College of Education, or of Music. Some universities may also mix terminology—like having a “school” even while having its “colleges,” such as School of Graduate Studies and a College of Criminal Justice. Harvard and Stanford and other US universities use a single terminology such as Harvard or Stanford Medical School and Harvard or Stanford Law School. A university can also have an “institute,”– an academic unit within a university “organized for advanced instruction and research in a relatively narrow field of subject matter,” <dictionary .reference.com/ browse/ institute> such as the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture at Xavier University, the Ateneo de Cagayan in Cagayan de Oro City. The Cebu Institute of Medicine refers to the entire University and offers no other academic degree except the Doctor of Medicine. Still about schools, an “academy” is a place of study or training in a special field, such as a “police academy.”

The academics (as used in European universities) are to us “faculty members” whose functions are teaching, research and extension including academic management or any combination of these and are either ranked or unranked. The ranked faculty refer to the assistant, the associate, the full and the university professors – the latter, being the highest academic rank and given to one or several in a university earning such at the peak of their career characterized by professional achievements and recognized by international/national bodies or top universities and alumni. Instructors are “unranked” faculty members. They do not possess at least a masters degree, hence are untenured. Tenure which means “guaranteed permanent employment, especially as a teacher or professor, after a probationary period,” is usually awarded at the assistant professor level.” However, for teachers, permanency or regular employment status under Philippine law is after three consecutive years as full time probationary or non-regular status. Before the CHED made the masters a requirement for collegiate teaching, many instructors have become permanent by virtue of Philippine law, Even today, these instructors though already permanent are still without the required minimum graduate degree — perhaps, if qualified, they can join the ranks of those to teach in senior high school of the K-12 system. But then, they have to acquire a teaching license. For many years, the past minimum criterion for collegiate teaching was having earned a baccalaureate with honors — which exclusiveness obviously could not provide enough qualified faculty members for our burgeoning number of HEI’s.


In referring to the “non-teaching personnel” as “staff,” we distinguish those among them who are “academic support staff”— librarians, registrars and guidance and testing counselors who, if they have aligned masters, qualify for faculty status. Hence, they can also submit for academic ranking per order of the then Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (MECS) and likewise, by CHED. Finally, terminologies about academic degrees refer to a graduate degree as a “master’s” (shortened possessive) or “master’s degree” and not “masteral” degree; the post-masters degree, is appropriately referred to not as a “doctors,” but as a “doctoral degree” or a “doctorate;” an MD is a Doctor of (not in) Medicine degree; an EdD, a Doctor of (not in) Education degree.

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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