Degrees of deceit: SA's professors of academic fraud

17 May 2018 - 08:17
The contempt for standards in higher education is something one sees also in senior appointments in the Ministry and Department of Higher Education.
The contempt for standards in higher education is something one sees also in senior appointments in the Ministry and Department of Higher Education.
Image: 123RF/Christos Georghiou

There is a fraud we seldom talk about. It concerns the way in which the title “professor” is attached to people without any claim on this highest achievement in the academic profession.

Yes‚ it is an achievement. It starts with the hard work of obtaining a research or professional degree called the doctorate (mainly a PhD). That itself takes years of study‚ often combining field research in distant places and difficult theoretical labour with countless revisions and then a searching final examination involving four or more assessors from around the world.

You don’t just collect the PhD‚ in other words. But that is only the start‚ for then you have to produce years of scholarship involving peer-reviewed articles in leading journals as well as books (in the non-science fields). That is not enough‚ though‚ for you then have to successfully supervise Masters and especially doctoral students as part of your portfolio of academic works.

That collection of scholarly works‚ including evidence of outstanding teaching and the approval of your peers‚ qualifies you to be considered to be an associate professor and‚ with more research of international standard‚ you become a candidate for (full) professor.

Not in South Africa. The number of people appointed to professorship these days amounts to academic fraud.

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