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What is a Visiting Professor?

Professor teaching a class

If we’ve been to university or college, we might be familiar with the concept of a visiting professor. These are the highly educated individuals who might come to teach a course for a semester or so and then leave the institute.

Some students might view a visiting professor with a feeling of respect; they add something different to the usual mix of courses offered at an educational venue. Others may view them as a bit of a mystery because they’re not really a part of the faculty. They may teach brilliantly, leading toseveral students enrolling in their courses. Many might even enroll hastily because they know this might be a once in a lifetime chance. However, several students might not even understand what this position entails. If you’re thinking about taking a course taught by visiting faculty or have been given the opportunity to be a visiting professor yourself, make sure you know what it means before taking the plunge:

What is a Visiting Professor?

A visiting professor is one that’s usually appointed full-time, but the appointment is non-tenure. That means the professor in question is not really a part of the university. He or she can’t get tenure from that organization unless they become a full-time employee there.

How Long Does a Visiting Professor’s Appointment Last?

The appointment of a visiting professor may last for just a single semester, a few semesters, or a few years. This might be one reason why the hiring process for visiting faculty isn’t as rigorous as for that of a full-term professor. However, the process is still similar for both positions.

Some visiting professors might also be contracted on the basis of a single semester per year. For instance, a professor might come and offer a certain course only in the summer semester for some years. The course will then not be available for students for the rest of the year.

Why Would Universities Hire Visiting Professors?

One of the most common reasons for universities and colleges to hire visiting professors is as a substitute to a tenured professor who’s on sabbatical. The same reason applies when the usual professor teaching a course has to go on leave due to health issues, bereavement, or any other grounds. A few adjuncts might be needed to teach the course. There may also be other requirements related to administration, services, and advising along with teaching.

A university might also be unable to find a qualified adjunct for taking over a professor’s courses. They may not be able to find anyone with a master’s degree in a relevant field, so they have to look around for someone who’s willing to come in and teach for some time.

Professor in an office

Another reason for hiring a visiting professor is because the regular tenured professor left the academic institution. The reason for this might be late or early retirement; in either case, the university is left without much time to look for a full-term replacement. In such situations, a visiting professor might be hired with the expectation that they might apply for a permanent position when the next hiring cycle comes up. The time in between will determine if the professor is a good fit in the institution and is able to carry on the work of his predecessor.

There are also some faculty exchange programs between certain universities. These are like student exchange programs; only here, the professors exchange their courses and institution. This allows them to benefit from a new location and perhaps a new culture. At the same time, the students in each institution benefit from the different teaching styles of their professors.  Countries who aren’t that well-developed when it comes to education will benefit from having professors who hail from the most educated countries in the world.

One last reason we’d discuss is that a visiting professor might be the result of the university’s own intention to have new faculty members in certain departments. This might be a new policy, formed in order to offer the student body a different type of viewpoint and/or skill set. Departments such as Humanities and Social Sciences might be especially welcome of new people who can give new insights into different theories.

Qualifications of a Visiting Professor

A visiting professor is usually equally qualified for the position as any of the university’s full-time faculty. They might also be a full-time professor themselves at another university. They might currently be conduction location-specific research away from their own institution. This will leave them free to offer their services to another university as long as it does not violate the terms of their contract.

The Issue With Visiting Professors

It might seem great to have the option of a visiting professor, but it does have some downsides. For Instance, some visiting professors find themselves unemployed after their contracts come to an end. Some also complain that universities are more interested in hiring professors for their research and not their teaching experience. Finally, such professors might find themselves unable to progress in their academic career and yet unable to leave it due to the salaried positions.

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