Docentur & Academic Ranks

My Graduation from SFU in 2003, the summer before I started my PhD and wandered down the academic path.

Being in Academia, one gets used to the idea that not all institutions have the same criteria for tenure and promotion. Still, you usually expect the ranks or levels to be the same. In Sweden (and likely lots of other places in Europe) there is an additional rank called ‘Docent’. This is not like tenure and not specifically related to your job or payment, but rather an academic designation that signifies one’s competence.

From KTH:

Docentship is an academic title showing a higher scientific competence than a doctorate. A docent is not an employment but rather a mark of competence regarding research and teaching expertise. Admission as a docent is a step in an academic career through which researchers and teachers can become main advisor to doctoral students and build up their own research groups. The title of docent may also have the function of unpaid connection to the university, in order to support cooperation with external parties through, among other, assistant supervision at third-cycle level.

-KTH Promotion Policy

From the Wikipedia Academic Ranks article on Sweden:

The title is in most cases awarded to people employed as Assistant Professor(“biträdande universitetslektor”), or Associate Professor (“universitetslektor”/Senior Lecturer) with a distinguished international reputation after a rigorous review of their research. Docent translates as Associate professor, or Reader, or just “Docent”. The title of docent is the second highest grade in the Swedish academic system, the highest being (full) professor. A docentship should be regarded as an educational title not connected with the employment pyramid as such. This is rather an assurance of the level of expertise, to enable the person to advance further in his/her academic career. A docent qualification is required of all head doctoral student supervisors. For conferment of the title, there is a requirement that the researcher has a good overview of his/her research area and has demonstrated both the ability to formulate research problems and to independently carry through research programs. It is a requirement that the researcher should be able to lead research projects. The researcher must have substantial scientific research experience and be well published in scientific journals.


Were you a full professor in Canada? Cool! Still need to apply for Docent though if you’d like to supervise PhD students though. This makes for a consistent standard and educational experience for students (at least in theory). Although first review of my CV looks to be in order, I am supposed to take a ‘Supervising Students’ course that doesn’t look like it will be waived, although mostly because NO TRAINING is required of PhD supervisors at my previous institutions. I think some introduction to best practices seems like a really good idea; we’ve all heard the horror stories of students having conflict with unreasonable supervisors. PhD education provides a lot of specialized knowledge and experience and skills… but for most of us, it does not provide any training in fund management, people management, strategic leadership, or education. Yet, most of a faculty member’s job relates directly to competencies in those areas. Although the notion of going through MORE promotion hoops is not very attractive, I am looking forward to the supervision course (and I am sure I will learn something new).

The application process to be a Docent includes the preparation of a case file and a public presentation on one’s specialty area, just like in Canada. As a bonus, it also includes an interview. Question topics at the docent interview from the KTH procedures document:
• Subject area of the docentship
• Teaching experience and expertise regarding teaching and supervision
• Development of skills within third cycle teaching
• Individual study plan (for third-cycle studies)
• Rules regarding third cycle studies and rights and obligations for doctoral students
• Equal opportunities
• Diversity and inclusion
• Ethics and integrity
• Reasons for the application
• Self-awareness and continued development

So I will be doing the course and submitting an application so I can contribute ‘officially’ to research at KTH.

Pssssst… don’t tell anyone but I am already doing Research and supervising PhDs!