|Year : 2018 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 203-206
The promotion conundrum: Is it time for reform in Indian dental schools?
Vasanti Lagali-Jirge1, Kamal Shigli2
1 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, KLE VK Institute of Dental Sciences, KLE Academy of Higher Education, Belagavi, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Prosthodontics, D. Y. Patil Dental School, Pune, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||25-Sep-2018|
Dr. Vasanti Lagali-Jirge
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, KLE VK Institute of Dental Sciences, KLE Academy of Higher Education, Belagavi - 590 010, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Promotion is an academic reward system for university faculty. The word promotion these days comes with mixed feelings. With our rapidly escalating population and increase in the number of dental schools and availability of specialists, faculty positions are rapidly getting saturated. In the early days, career advancements and promotion were primarily based on time. According to the current promotion guidelines, career advancement depends on performance, namely, publications, research, participation in other administrative responsibilities, and clinical work. However, publications seem to have a greater impact on the decision to promote. The Dental Council of India has devised a point system to aid in decision to promote. Currently, we do not have a system of recruiting or promoting faculty under different tracks such as clinical teachers, researcher teachers, and tenure-track faculty as in American and British universities. All recruitments are for full-time jobs. The number of ranks is three, namely, lecturer, reader (equivalent to associate professor), and professor. There is a dire need for reforms in promotion policies. We need new policies to be framed so that teachers can engage in different aspects of scholarship defined by Boyer. This article looks at current deficiencies in promotion policy in dental schools in India and career advancement policies in American universities which can be used as a template for framing new guidelines in the Indian scenario.
Keywords: Career advancement, dental faculty, promotion
|How to cite this article:|
Lagali-Jirge V, Shigli K. The promotion conundrum: Is it time for reform in Indian dental schools?. Indian J Health Sci Biomed Res 2018;11:203-6
| Introduction|| |
Promotion is an academic reward system for university faculty. The word promotion these days comes with mixed feelings. As the “due date” approaches, one is filled with fear, apprehension, excitement, and longing for that academic advancement. Promotion and career advancement have existed since ancient times – a crown prince became king, a top military officer was made commander of armed forces. Even a wolf pack chooses a leader based on its abilities.
With our rapidly escalating population and increase in the number of dental schools and availability of specialists, faculty positions are rapidly getting saturated. We have a total of 23,780 seats which were available in all dental colleges (2420 in government colleges and 21,360 in private colleges) in 293 colleges in India. The distribution of colleges is skewed with majority of the colleges being housed in five states, namely, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
| Current Scenario in Indian Dental Schools|| |
In the past 20 years, there has been a staggering rise in the number of dental colleges in India. Correspondingly, there has been a rise in the number of dental graduates and postgraduates. It has been observed that majority of the postgraduates choose to join academic jobs and work part-time in privately owned dental clinics. Consequently, faculty positions in most of the dental schools are filled, and finding an empty slot for a newly passed postgraduate is becoming increasingly difficult.
A short description of the current promotion guidelines will place this paper in context. According to the current promotion guidelines, career advancement depends on performance, namely, publications, research, participation in other administrative responsibilities, and clinical work. However, publications seem to have a greater impact on the decision to promote. The Dental Council of India has devised a point system  for publications which will be considered while granting a promotion. The decision to grant promotions rests with the dean/principal or the vice-chancellor depending on the affiliation of the dental school.
We will take a look how career advancements take place in most of the American health professions universities. At present, there has been only one track for promotion unlike what is seen in American medical and dental universities. Currently, we do not have a system of recruiting of promoting faculty under different tracks such as clinical teachers, researcher teachers, and tenure-track faculty. All recruitments are for full-time jobs. Part-time positions do not exist. Few dental schools have preset guidelines for application to promotion. In the early days, career advancements and promotion were primarily based on time, i.e., the number of years of service from the day one joined a dental school as a teacher. The older promotion track was lecturer (3 years), assistant professor (2 years), associate professor (3 years), and professor. The number of ranks has been brought down to three, namely, lecturer, reader (somewhat equivalent to associate professor), and professor. Currently, anyone who completes a Master of Dental Surgery is recruited as a lecturer soon after obtaining the degree. After 4 years of experience as lecturer, he/she is eligible to become an associate professor/reader. After 5 years of service as associate professor/reader, they are promoted to professor. There also exists a general sentiment that after a certain period of employment, one is entitled to a promotion regardless of whether they have earned it or not. The time period for review of faculty promotion to associate professor is currently 4 years. This is a very short period to conduct good quality research. To be eligible for promotion, this might foster conduct of poor quality research and therefore result in publications of questionable standards.
This is leading to increasing insecurity and resentment among teaching faculty because promotions are also linked with monetary benefits. To add to this problem, universities in some states have caste-based reservations in promotions. Due to this, preference is given to faculty who falls in the reservation categories over a deserving candidate. The implications of such policies may not always work in favor of progress.
| How Can This Issue Be Addressed?|| |
While it is not possible to promote every faculty member in due time, there can be new guidelines framed and brought in place to ensure that everyone has a fair chance of career advancement. The new guidelines will also help currently placed faculty choose their desired track and work to excel.
It is not realistic to expect every faculty member to participate in every academic and research activity primarily because of their professional interests and inclinations. While some may possess exceptional clinical skills, there are others who excel in research and/or teaching. Conforming all of them to one silo would make career advancement difficult and also affect their motivation to work. Overcommitment to one area may also result in neglect in other areas. Furthermore, if a good teacher is denied career advancement for want of commitment to research, it can be quite a setback to the individual considering motivation to pursue working, professional advancement, and monetary benefits involved. Achieving academic advancement is an important facet of faculty satisfaction.
| Career Tracks and Promotion|| |
There are primarily two tracks reported in literature in the United States: tenure track and nontenure track and three career lines, namely, clinical, research, and lecturer. Some universities also have two general types of appointments – regular and special. Regular appointments may be tenure track or nontenure track. Special appointments include emeritus, affiliated, or voluntary positions.
It is expected that faculty in the tenure track will contribute to each of the three principal areas of faculty obligation - teaching, scholarship, and service to the school, university, community, and profession. This is a generally practiced definition across various universities and disciplines including health professions education. Nontenure-track faculty are those full-time, part-time, or volunteer faculty members who are not appointed to tenure-track positions. Both tracks have specific ranks. The tenure-track ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. A review for tenure is generally conducted in the 6th year after appointment. If approved, the candidate will receive a promotion along with tenure. If a candidate is appointed associate professor without tenure, then they are subjected to a detailed review for tenure. In addition to having qualifications of an assistant professor, an associate professor is also expected to have successful experience in teaching, research, and scholarship at a nationally recognized level of excellence. Promotions to professor do not follow specific timelines. In general, tenure is awarded to faculty who has a greater likelihood of securing independent funding for research. It must also be noted that the tenure track is quite demanding and requires a great deal of dedication from the faculty.
The nontenure track consists of two lines for full-time faculty – research and teaching/clinical. Clinical teachers can hold part-time positions. Their responsibilities generally include teaching, research, and supervising students in laboratory activities. Their promotion primarily depends on research activities and publications. Nontenure tracks were created to employ faculty members who are not eligible for tenure but at the same time valuable to universities for their academic and clinical contributions.
Teaching and/or clinical positions may be part-time or full-time jobs. The full-time faculty ranks include dental school assistant professor, dental school associate professor, and dental school professor. Part-time faculty ranks for clinical positions are clinical instructor, clinical assistant professor, clinical associate professor, and clinical professor. The minimum qualification required for dental school/clinical positions is a terminal degree in their field of specialization, high level of ability in clinical practice, and teaching. For advancement in career, they will have to demonstrate extensive successful experience in clinical and professional practice in specialization and superior teaching ability.
The lecturer track is reserved for faculty who demonstrates excellence in education. Effectiveness in other areas though not mandatory will strengthen their position. Their areas of accomplishment include effectiveness and excellence in education and investigations (research, quality improvement, bench research, clinical trials, etc.). Promotions are given if the individual demonstrates potential and commitment to develop excellence in education.
In the research track, faculty members are expected to demonstrate excellence in investigation. Excellence in investigation specifically requires scholarship and dissemination outside the institution. The operational definition of investigation by the University of Utah is “efforts by the faculty member that generate or advance creation or development of new knowledge. These could include such activities as bench research, clinical trials, quality improvement, and evaluation of educational efforts. Team science, clinical care, collaboration, technology commercialization, education, community engagement, advocacy, inclusion, sustainability, web-based dissemination, administration/service, and global health can all be areas for effective and excellent investigation.” Engaging in research requires significant effort, protected faculty time, and resources.
In India, Aggarwal et al. found that there are very few students who are genuinely interested in research or teaching after graduating. If this is a general sentiment across majority of the dental schools in India, then we may expect shortage of teachers and researchers in the years to come.
| Activities Considered|| |
Examples of criteria in evaluating all full-time tenured/tenure-track and nontenure-track faculty are as follows :
- Teaching performance
- Research/creative and other scholarly activities and all faculty members at UTHSC are expected to contribute to their professional discipline by participating in research/creative and other scholarly activities. Such activities can be broadly defined and encompass a wide range of activities
- Patient care
- Service to the department, college, university, and community outreach
- Tracks for professor (recognition of the candidate's value to the university at the national/international level, which may be obtained through leadership in national/international organizations, national/international invitations to speak or present continuing education, national funding of research projects, and/or high level publications in national/international journals).
While it is appropriate and even helpful for there to be differences in opinion and interpretation of guidelines, the promotion and tenure guidelines should be consistent with activities; faculty members are asked to perform in order to fulfill the institutional mission.
Since research is a common theme in each track, faculty must be given protected time for pursuit of scholarly activities which is not practiced routinely. It might take a while for us to introduce this change because it would involve a big departure from convention. It would not be surprising to face resistance if such a change was to be implemented. However, it will be a worthwhile effort. In the process of creating all these positions, the existing faculty can be redirected into various positions based on their preferences. The new positions will have to be filled by interviews and a demonstration of excellence in the chosen position. The recruitment and promotion policy should also consider part-time positions. Everything about clinical practice cannot be gleaned from books. Dentistry is a skill-based profession. Having skilled and experienced clinicians to teach students has undeniable benefits. It will be advantageous to recruit clinicians as part-time clinical faculty because they will be able to lend their clinical expertise. To prevent misuse of part-time positions, clear guidelines have to be framed regarding free-trade agreements and working hours, duties, and responsibilities which will be congruent to learning outcomes. The presence of such a system of recruiting faculty and career advancement policy will encourage truly motivated candidates to seek these positions. The option of part-time positions should also be considered. General dentists have many useful skills that can be imparted to undergraduates. Their real-world experience can be used by employing them as part-time faculty. To expedite effective teaching, the prospective teachers will require faculty development to prepare them for duties of a teacher expected of them.
The advantages of having new guidelines for career advancement and promotion are multifold.
- It will generate more employment opportunities for faculty
- It will reorganize their focus on excellence in academics and research which seems to be fading
- The success of an organization depends on workplace motivation. One of the most important ways to stay motivated is by recognition of excellence by promotion
- Lending preference to only research at the expense of lectures and clinical teaching will lead to deterioration in teaching–learning activities
- Hybrid tracks reported in literature should be considered while preparing policies, to facilitate scholarly activity in discovery, application, integration, and teaching 
- The bar for professional accomplishment or standards for merit is constantly rising. The presence of a well-defined policy for tenure and promotion will encourage truly motivated faculty to pursue their goals. This will consequently raise the quality and standards of the university that the faculty is associated with.
While majority of the graduates will still continue to opt for general dental practice, teaching and research need to be made more rewarding. Boyer's expanded definition of scholarship gives equal importance to scholarship of discovery, application, integration, and teaching. It is time to introduce reform in promotion and career advancement policy.
| Conclusion|| |
Faculty promotions and career advancement are vital to sustain progress and success of any academic enterprise. Lately, due to a rise in the number of specialists filling up all academic posts, career advancements have come to a near standstill leading to dissatisfaction and frustration. This could also lead to a decline in the number of academic posts being filled in the future. The career track and advancement system is in need of a major overhaul. We can learn from policies in the west and tailor it to the Indian context. To ensure credibility of academics, it is time for the Dental Council of India to implement reforms.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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