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Archive for May, 2010

The Ph.D. Fallacy

The idea that a Ph.D. is necessary to teach such subjects as Math 101 (Calculus), Physics 101, or English 101 seems just plain stupid to me, but over here it’s the general way of thinking.  Take your average university in Abu Dhabi, and have a look at its employment ads.  Here are a few random examples:

Abu Dhabi University invites applications for the above position to be engaged in teaching undergraduate students.

Qualifications and Requirements:

  • An earned Doctorate from an accredited institute
  • A record of outstanding achievement in higher education and scholarship
  • University teaching experience complemented by a superior research and scholarly record
  • Excellent communication skills, a commitment to the importance of scholarship and diversity, a spirit of entrepreneurship and an understanding of the role of the university in economic development
  • Experience in working with people from different ethnic backgrounds
  • Computer literacy and familiarity with educational technologies are a must.
  • Excellent oral, written and multimedia communication and presentation skills
  • Fluency in spoken and written English is a must. Knowledge of Arabic is an asset.

Here’s another one:

Khalifa University

Main duties:

Teaching in engineering programs, developing curriculum, and establishing research programs in the area of specialization.

Required Qualifications:

Applicants must have a Ph.D. or equivalent degree by date of hire. For senior positions, applicants should havea proven track record of scholarly contributions and a proven ability to lead research projects. For junior positions, candidates should have demonstrated potential for quality teaching and research.

Interestingly, Khalifa University’s Sharjah campus is also looking for English Ph.D.s, but puts a different spin on it:

Khalifa University is seeking applications for faculty to teach Freshman Writing within an Engineering Degree Program. The communicative skills course focuses on using the standard rhetorical styles and report writing. Applications must have a Ph.D. or equivalent degree by date of hire. For senior positions, applicants should have a proven track record of scholarly contributions and a proven ability to lead research projects. For junior positions, candidates should have demonstrated potential for quality teaching and research.

The Petroleum Institute had a recent advert for ‘Communication’ faculty (read, Freshman comp and tech writing), and was also looking for Ph.D. holders, but that one’s disappeared from the ether.

And finally, the one sensible solicitation in the whole pot, is this from Zayed U:

Enthusiastic and experienced instructors are sought who are prepared to contribute to the University’s general education curriculum, the Colloquy on Integrated Learning. Delivered during the first three semesters of the baccalaureate program, the Colloquy builds students’ knowledge of the world in a skill-rich, interdisciplinary set of interrelated courses.

The Requirements

  • M.A. in Humanities, Social Sciences, Area Studies, or a related field.
  • A record of successful baccalaureate-level teaching in a Western or Western-style university or college.
  • Willingness to teach core courses with common assignments and expectations.
  • Native proficiency in written and spoken English.
  • Just in case you missed something:  TWO universities offering engineering degrees (and pretty much only engineering degrees) are demanding that their English faculty have doctoral degrees.  What sort of English teaching in a BSE program could possibly require a Ph.D. in English?  This is indeed perplexing, particularly when one considers three things:

    1. The courses most likely to be taught in the average BSE curriculum are Frosh Comp and Tech Writing.
    2. Frosh Comp and Tech Writing don’t demand a doctoral level of expertise in many U.S. institutions.
    3. Frosh Comp in the UAE, given the generally low level of student proficiency in English, might realistically be renamed “How to Write a Sentence.”

    And then there’s this other thing…

    Is an English Ph.D. holder really going to want to move halfway around the world to teach engineering students how to write a sentence?  Before you answer that one, have a quick peek at the titles of some recent English dissertations from a random U.S. institution (Cornell).  Yes, I picked that one out of a hat.

    Cornell English Dissertations

    I hope you had a good look at some of these — Finnegans Wake?  Filipino literature?  Liberal Englishness?  Ezra Pound?  Queers of Color?  I am really struggling to figure out what a middle eastern engineering school would presume to be able to offer them (aside from a healthy dose of censorship in a few cases)?

    Here’s some free advice, Abu Dhabi higher education:  go get yourself some crackerjack high school English teachers.  You’ll be better off, and so will your students.

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