Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tenure and Promotion, a la Hongroise

What does a DSc wear? I'll investigate!


Like most systems of academic rank around the world, the Hungarian system is rather baffling to the outsider.  Let's see if I can sort this out.  The equivalent to an American assistant professor is an adjunktus.  Adjunktus is a false cognate with the American adjunct faculty, and I don't think I've met the equivalent of an adjunct instructor here in Hungary: a perfectly well-qualified university teacher who is, for dubious reasons, not actually part of the faculty.  The equivalent to an associate professor is an egyetemi docens.  Both of the foregoing ranks must have a Ph.D.  But here's where it gets tricky.  It is possible for Hungarian academics to get something called a habilitation, which seems like a cross between tenure and a second Ph.D.  The Hungarian equivalents to full professor (egyetemi tanár) seem to generally have both a habilitation and a Ph.D.  More rarely, one can also be honored by a DSc, or Doctor of Science, which is awarded only by the National Academy.  Thus, it seems, that Hungarians can attain a couple of distinctions which don't really exist in the United States.  (I must disclose that while I've learned this a bit from my colleagues at Pécs, I also consulted a fascinating Wikipedia article, detailing these ranks for many countries: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_ranks#Hungary>.)   
     I had the pleasure of attending the tail end of a habilitation lecture today.  That's right, dear readers, this second Ph.D. comes with a special lecture.  In the case of my colleague, this meant two hours, discussing research he had done since the Ph.D., tying it all together, taking questions about anything and everything he had discussed (questions which came in either Hungarian or English, mind you), and then vacating the room for a few minutes, just like in a dissertation defense, to hear a committee's decision.  The room was packed with colleagues, students, friends, people from (gasp) other departments.  Moreover, I gather that it came with champagne and snacks which I, unfortunately, missed in order to be at my office hours. 
     I have to say: this was pretty cool.  I aspire, dear readers, to be granted tenure in a couple years.  As I understand it, a candidate gathers up evidence of everything she or he has done since starting as an assistant professor, submits multiple copies of this evidence in paper, and then hopes to receive a piece of paper in return, stating his or her official status.  Imagine, though, if in addition to gathering up all of this evidence on paper, one also had to spend a couple of hours discussing it and defending it, describing the connections of article A to monograph B, and providing a picture of your scholarly career to a room full of people.  Oh, and then topping it off with champagne and snacks.  It would be a bit like a dissertation defense, except mid-career.  As I think about the changing face of academia, the rise of online courses, and what I believe are the merits of face-to-face teaching, I wonder if we American faculty could use more face-to-face interaction on our scholarship.  Of course we have conference presentations, which are great.  Rarely, though, do these allow us to reflect with friends and colleagues on our careers altogether.  What do you think?  Wouldn't that be nice?


  1. I think my renewals would be better if I could do an oral defense...

  2. Thanks for coming to my habilitation!!

  3. It was fun, Joe! I really do wish we could do an oral defense of tenure. I think most people would enjoy that. I really liked my dissertation defense.