Stefan Hansson, vice dean at the medical faculty in Lund is positive to the associate senior lecturer positions. But he also wants additional, more flexible combination positions for those who combine clinical work with research.

Getting the best researchers

Svenska 2015-11-12

Several seats of learning are establishing associate senior lecturer positions to get more distinctive career paths and be able to recruit the best scientists. These are four-year meriting employments, which since 2013 once again are included in the Higher Education Ordinance. But in spite of these efforts it is still only a reform on paper, means Karin Åmossa, Research manager at the Swedish Association of University Teachers.

The idea is that after four years the associate senior lecturer positions will be qualified to apply for senior lecturer positions. This is a natural career path to take for those with a PhD degree and could begin with a two-year post-doctoral position.

The next step will be a four-year employment as an associate senior lecturer, after which the person will be qualified to apply for a senior lecturer appointment. Step number three is a senior lecturer position, if the requirements are fulfilled. Then it will be possible to apply for a post as Professor.

Considerable interest in new positions

The faculty for Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences (the NJ faculty), at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, have decided to follow this model. In a couple of years the faculty hopes to establish 15-20 associate senior lecturer positions. The first announcements are completed and the interest has been considerable.

“This is an issue for the future. It is important that we have a high level of competence and sometimes it has been hard to recruit the scientists we want. Those who are really good are often established somewhere else and not so moveable. That is why we have to be able to offer those in the beginning of their career good positions,” says Pär Forslund, Pro Dean at the NJ faculty

To be able to apply for a senior lecturer position after four years at the NJ faculty the associate senior lecturer must be well merited. Above all it is important to have both scientific and pedagogic skills.

The departments must fulfil certain requirements as well. From the beginning they have to be able to show the possibilities for the associate senior lecturer to participate in research and education. The institutions should also offer support in the work.

“The big difference compared to previously is that there are explicit requirements for this now,” Pär Forslund says.

Funded internally

The funding of the associate senior lecturer positions will come from internal resources from the faculty and the separate departments. Then, if the employment is transferred to a senior lecturer position, the internal funding is reduced successively to 50 per cent.

“We have our fundamental grants and we can choose to invest them in good employment positions,” says Pär Forslund.

The medical faculty at Lund University have also decided to establish positions as associate senior lecturers. During 2014 and 2015 it concerns a total of 14 positions and during 2016 another four.

It is also possible to use certain research grants for these positions. Here the position also gives the right to apply for a lectureship while the next step – application for promotion from lecturer to professor – is a possibility but not a granted right.

Different career paths in medicine

In the medical area the career paths are a bit different since you can have two careers – one clinical and one academic – depending on your background.

“The associate senior lecturer positions are beneficial since they imply another explicit step in an academic career, but the applicants are not clinically active physicians. That is why other endeavours are needed as well,” means Professor Stefan Hansson, vice dean at the medical faculty in Lund, who has a special responsibility for education at the post-doctorate level and career paths.

He wants additional and more flexible combination positions for those combining clinical work with research.

“80 per cent of our part-time of our PhD students have a clinical support, either as physicians or in the health sciences. Clinically active researchers facilitate implementation of research results in the medical care and they can gather ideas for new research,” he says and adds that the positions should be formed in the same way all over the country so the career paths will be the same in the different universities.

Wanting a larger venture

Karin Åmossa, research manager at the Swedish University Teachers Association, welcomes the endeavours in associate senior lecturer positions.

“It means a lot for the single scientist that the meriting position is coupled to a promise of application for employment and that it will be clear from the beginning what it will require. In any case it is predictable.

At the same time she thinks that the number of established associate senior lecturer positions is so small that it hardly qualifies as an endeavour.

“They do not really exist. It has been more of a discussion so far.”

A measuring of the number of associate senior lecturer positions made last year showed that just above 400 such positions existed, in a professional collective of around 28,000, PhD students not included.

“If we, in Sweden, endeavoured to create clear and attractive career paths we would gain a large competitive advantage and become interesting for the international collective of scientists.”

“It would also increase the gender equality,” Karin Åmossa points out.

“If you ask those who leave the academia why they did it, the men answer that they can have a better career somewhere else, but the women state the reason as inferior working conditions.

Text: Yvonne Busk
Photo: Charlotte Carlberg Bärg