No. 35




Role concept of academic worker from the perspective of stat, organisation and individual *

08 June 2017


RiTo No. 35, 2017

  • Anne Reino

    University of Tartu, Associate Professor of Management

  • Maaja Vadi

    University of Tartu, Head of School of Economics and Business Administration, Professor of Management

The effectiveness and development of a university, but also an academic worker himself or herself depend on the interpretation of their role. The research conducted among the lecturers of the Estonian universities gave interesting results, on the basis of which the following recommendations can be given.

First, part-time employees perceive their role at the university rather narrowly, which may turn out to be a problem for the universities. Part-time work may be the wish of the employee, but may also caused by the limited resources of a university. One circle of problems is caused by the narrowness of specialities: there are no full-time positions that can be offered to top specialists of their fields, and a valuable resource, which could be implemented if the public sector was more decisive in ordering large-scale applied projects and research from the universities, is unused. Part-time working may also be caused by the fact that the employee has no qualifications for working on a higher and better-salaried position in the academic hierarchy. By concluding performance agreements with the universities, the ministry could review the requirements on the structure of the academic workers of the universities, and create support measures for the realisation of the idea of applied doctorate.

Second, due to the diversity of their role, it is hard for part-time employees to set priorities. The ambiguity of the role is supported by the project-based nature of the academic work today – financing of research is modest, and therefore it is necessary to create permanent financing mechanisms that would clearly allow to focus on one or another component of the role. In many specialties, the base funding of teaching activities is low and the minimum salary level in universities is lagging behind the salary level of general education schools. The state should conduct an integrated analysis of the career model of academic workers and their salaries, and work out methods for supporting sustainable development.

Third, it turned out that studying is more and more seen as cooperation between a student and a lecturer, which means that the competence model of a lecturer involves diverse skills in addition to knowledge. Training of students and lecturers should be made a priority. and the state should consider how to include such evaluation criteria that focus on the process and not only quantitative output into performance agreements.

In addition to the above, the article also resents several other recommendations for reviewing the profession of university lecturer.

* The article is based on a study conducted at the University of Tartu: Vadi, M., Reino, A., Aidla, A. (2014). Student and Lecturer: Role Concept View. Data gathered with the support of Archimedes Foundation Primus Programme, financed by the European Social Fund.