Each professor in higher education builds an academic agenda that has different focuses and particularities that are not always recognized by promotion systems. Considering that the culture of quality assurance and the national and global rankings have standardized the types of activities and products that are valued, with criteria mostly associated with research, this is paradoxical in the Colombian higher education system, given that most ofst universities are not declared as research intensive institutions. In this context, professors are faced with the challenge of continuing to develop their academic project while at the same time meeting institutional requirements for promotion centered around research. As a result, many of them have had to transform their academic agendas in response to the promotion criteria. How can these two realities be brought closer together so that institutions can have promotion processes and instruments that allow for the particularities of individual careers under a principle of equity? At Universidad del Rosario we are working in an interesting alternative based on knowledge management narratives, inspired by research narratives, which give a voice to the professor so that they can, supported by evidence, give a comprehensive account of how their academic project has evolved and how they have contributed, from their teaching research and service activities, to the generation, appropriation, use, circulation and transfer of knowledge. This allows having a qualitative input on the contributions of the professor in line with the interests of the institution, while at the same time making visible the differential factors and possible obstacles in the academic trajectories. This last point is relevant because it allows the institution to identify vital aspects in the academic life of professors and establish strategies to seek greater equity and reduce gender, age, disability and race gaps, among other aspects.
The quality assurance culture and national and world rankings have standardized the types of activities and products that are valued, with criteria mostly associated with research (Altbach et al, 2015; Zapp & Ramirez, 2019). Despite higher education institutions require each professor to build an academic agenda of teaching, research, and extension that has different focuses and particularities, these efforts are not always recognized by the promotion systems.
This kind of evaluation of professors' pathways presents a paradoxical scenario for many research universities. For example, in Colombia's higher education system, most universities have not declared as research-intensive institutions from their foundation in the country in the 16th century (Soto, 2011). Research in Colombian Universities became a substantive mission at the end of the twenty century with the Higher Education Law reform in 1992. It produced a change in the national policy generating consequences on the universities which began to create an organizational infrastructure for research activities and design mechanisms for hiring high-level academics and promoting their careers as a pathway to strengthen their research culture and research productivity (Chalela & Rodríguez, 2020).
Universidad del Rosario, founded in 1653, published the faculty policies in 2002, that include definitions of faculty appoinments, decision-making bodies and general guidelines for faculty assessment and recognitions. It was a mechanism that strengthened the promotion and attraction of professors from around the world to improve the university’s teaching quality in different knowledge areas and to establish a high-quality research system. Some of the most relevant initiatives have been the expansion of scholarship options for doctoral studies, teaching and research stays and internships for innovative pedagogical experiences. Also, the growth of the number of faculty members in the last two decades has been important, which increased from 340 in 2002 to 594 in 2023. Currently, 41,5% of faculty have doctoral degrees.
Additionally, in 2016, the university created a reward scheme for scientific production based on a payment per publication that perceived the researchers considering the impact factor of the journals. It has been fundamental to continue attracting talent and has also influenced promotion processes, enabling it to establish one of the strongest research systems in the country. However, not all professors are interested in publishing papers in scientific journals. Just 48% of faculty are engaged in this kind of knowledge production and dissemination.
Recognition and rewards for other types of activities that professors undertake within the framework of research activities and other substantive functions are not equal. For example, over the last decade, the university has implemented an instrument to reward professors with an economic bonus for publishing papers in top journals, books, or book chapters. Each year, professors submit their publications to an institutional committee, and they decide if the research results meet the quality requirements established for the rewards. These publications are also considered in promotion processes; consequently, professors who focus on these kinds of results have a double incentive (financial and promotional). On the other hand, professors engaging in other activities such as research, teaching, or service do not receive any economic reward for their results.
The current promotion and attraction model does not comprehensively evaluate professors, who face the challenge of continuing to develop their academic project while at the same time needing to meet the institutional requirements for promotion. Many of them have had to transform their academic agendas to meet the promotion criteria. In accordance with the University's current regulations, the most highly valued activities correspond to the publication of articles in indexed journals and the publication of books with international publishers (See Table 1).
Academic production evaluation scores for professors at Universidad del Rosario.
Considering the above, Universidad del Rosario is working on an interesting alternative to renew the professors policy to attract and promote them based on knowledge management narratives, inspired by research narratives1. This would give a voice to the professors so that they can, supported by evidence, give a comprehensive account of how their academic project has evolved and how they have contributed to the generation, appropriation, use, circulation, and transfer of knowledge through their teaching, research, and service activities.
The approach is intended to allow having a qualitative input on the contributions of the professor in line with the interests of the institution, while at the same time making visible the differential factors and possible obstacles in the academic trajectories. This last point is relevant because it will allow the institution to identify vital aspects in the academic life of professors and establish strategies to seek greater equity and reduce gender, age, disability, and race gaps, among other aspects.
As a fundamental principle in the institutional process of adjusting the faculty policy, collaborative work was developed involving faculty and administrative staff. The first phase was aimed at reviewing the current scheme of evaluation of the academic production of professors2 and to make the appropriate adjustments by differentiating between products and processes conceptions of research approaches (Brew et al, 2016). Within the framework of these adjustments, other activities that correspond to the role of professors, beyond research, were also included.
As a result of this first phase, the following activities and products were included:
Differentiation between research books and textbooks.
Virtual learning objects.
Digital learning environments.
Mentoring for professors.
Fundraising with national and international entities.
Transfer of rights.
Continuing education without economic retribution.
Projects of articulation with the environment.
Coordination of dialogue scenarios and events of public interest.
Monitoring of practices.
When analyzing the activities and products that we adjusted and added to the evaluation scheme of the teaching career, we found that they were all related to one or more of the substantive functions (teaching, research, and service) and that, similarly, they were all related to the knowledge management model, since they contributed to its generation, appropriation, use, circulation, or transfer. Taking this into account, the objective was to complement the current scheme of rewards for academic production, with an account from the professor's own voice, presenting a comprehensive view of the evolution of their career, its particularities and contributions to knowledge management (see Figure 1).
Knowledge management narratives at Universidad del Rosario.
In the second phase, we designed a basic document to explain to professors what the proposal of knowledge management narratives consisted of to evaluate the professor's trajectory. The document, based on Résumé for Researchers,3 included guiding questions so that professors could write their own narrative involving their profile, their career path and their contribution to knowledge management at the institutional level, as well as in relation with other institutions and the sector. The guidance document was accompanied by a list of possible activities and products identified in the first phase, so that professors could include them as evidence of what was reported in their narratives.
In the third phase we contacted 13 professors at the University, characterized by their outstanding trajectory in teaching, research, or service. They are professors proposed by the Academic Direction, the Direction of Research and Innovation and the Direction of Extension and Alumni, who stand out institutionally from the average number of professors due to their levels of academic production, their contribution from their academic management roles or the impact of their teaching or extension activities. In their selection, we also considered discipline and gender representativeness and that the five categories of academic rank were considered. With each of them we had a conversation about their perception of the current scheme of valuation of the professorial trajectory, we also presented the proposal of knowledge management narratives and asked them to write their own narrative. The exercise had several purposes. We intended that the professors would provide us with feedback on the narratives instrument and on the activities and products they could mention as evidence of their narratives and reflections. Additionally, the results of the exercise would allow us to have the texts of the narratives to verify if they provided enough information to make decisions about promotion, or if, on the contrary, adjustments were required in the recommendations for the construction of the narratives.
As a result, we received 12 of the 13 planned knowledge management narratives, as one of the professors was unable to continue with the process due to academic commitments. All professors also filled out a feedback form, in which 100% of them answered YES to the question “Do you consider that the narrative adds value to the recognition of your academic career?”. The responses on the clarity and relevance of the different sections of the knowledge management narrative are presented in Figures 2 and 3.
Main results of the pilot of knowledge management narratives - Clarity.
Main results of the pilot of knowledge management narratives - Relevance.
The results showed that although in general the instrument for the construction of the narrative was considered clear and relevant, the section labeled "additional aspects to consider" was mentioned by several professors (14,3%) as an aspect that could be eliminated. We noticed that in that section, which asked for additional information that professors would like to add about personal, professional and institutional factors that have impacted the evolution of their career, was only filled out more thoroughly by those professors with particular cases that could have an important impact on their trajectory (for example, professors who had a 1 or 2 year break due to maternity leave or personal issues). We understand that this is a section that not all professors will need to fill out, but we still think it is important that those who have had interruptions in their careers or who want to mention aspects that have positively or negatively affected their performance find a place to communicate this.
Among the adjustments suggested by the professors, they mentioned some formal aspects such as establishing a text limit for each section of the narrative and substantive aspects such as the need to make this institutional exercise compatible with the external measurement that is mostly focused on research. They also mentioned the need to accompany this exercise of narratives with a process of strengthening incentives and support for other dimensions that are valued beyond research.
The transformation to a more inclusive and integral recognition and rewards scheme for professors' pathways in Colombian higher education ixqnstitutions is a significant challenge being faced by educational managers. For Universidad del Rosario, it represents an interesting opportunity to promote a new assessment culture that influences how professors approach teaching, research, and service activities, enriching the university's vision in its relationship with external stakeholders. However, during the incorporation of these new practices, it's important to consider that the mainstream approach promoted by the knowledge economy (rankings, competition, and other factors) is generating sensitivity and instability within the institution.
This makes it difficult to implement this project in the short term and implies attending some new inquiries such: how does the institution generate a scheme of rewards for new activities that are not centered on publications or patents? How would this proposal be compatible with mainstream evaluation and assessment practices as quality assurance agencies? For the time being, we are interested in advancing in a hybrid route that does not completely discard the evaluation scoring system and that complements it with the qualitative view of knowledge management narratives, so that these narratives give meaning and context to what can be analyzed in the teacher performance figures.
Altbach, P.G., Yudkevich, M. & Rumbley, L.E. (2015). Academic inbreeding: local challenge, global problem. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 16, 317–330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-015- 9391-8.
Brew, A., Boud, D., Namgung, S. U., Lucas, L., & Crawford, K. (2016). Research productivity and academics’ conceptions of research. Higher education, 71, 681-697. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9930-6.
Chalela, S. & Rodríguez-Gómez, D. (2020). Caracterización del profesorado con perfil investigador en universidades colombianas. Revista Electrónica Educare, 24(3), 350-369. https://dx.doi.org/10.15359/ree.24-3.17.
Nupia, C. M., & Barón, V. (2013). El BID y Colciencias. Continuidades de las operaciones crediticias para ciencia, tecnología e innovación. Colciencias cuarenta años: entre la legitimidad, la normatividad y la práctica, Bogotá, Observatorio Colombiano de Ciencia y Tecnología - OCyT.
Soto, D. (2011) The doctorates in Colombia. Legislation, dayliness and construction of identities. Revista Historia de la Educación Latinoamericana, (12). https://doi.org/10.19053/01227238.1520.
Zapp, M & Ramírez, F (2019) Beyond internationalisation and isomorphism – the construction of a global higher education regime, Comparative Education, 55:4, 473-493, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03050068.2019.1638103.