On being a Senior-Senior Lecturer

In Finnish, my job title is "vanhempi yliopistonlehtori", the official English equivalent of which is "senior university lecturer". I was promoted to this position by the University of Jyväskylä in 2020, after having worked there as a senior lecturer for six years. It is a recently introduced job title, part of the lecturer career track. At most universities in Finland, there are three levels in this track: yliopisto-opettaja (university teacher), yliopistonlehtori (senior lecturer or university lecturer), and vanhempi yliopistonlehtori (senior university lecturer). I found only one exception to the three-stage model, the career track offered by Aalto University. It has a fourth level: johtava yliopistonlehtori (principal university lecturer - see below). 

Aalto University's lecturer career system 

The introduction of the lecturer career track was an excellent idea, which emerged from the need to acknowledge teaching and research-based teaching development work in Finnish higher education. The experience and skills assessed for the position of senior university lecturer involve high-quality and research-based teaching, active teaching development, international network, community work, research, pedagogical leadership and innovation. Senior university lecturers are also required to have doctoral degrees. 

I feel honoured to be among the first four senior university lecturers of the University of Jyväskylä. Still, I have mixed feelings about the job title, especially about its English translation. When I was promoted, some colleagues congratulated saying that it was high time I got the title of senior lecturer. They did not realize that I had been a senior lecturer for years. Whenever I have to introduce myself, I feel embarrassed to say that I am a senior university lecturer because it sounds like I am emphasizing the obvious. Lecturers work for universities, don't they? One colleague made a joke that I was now a "senior senior lecturer". For me, this did not sound funny. In a funding application, the term "university" got deleted from my job title due to the document's strict character limit. The word felt redundant.

Do words matter? Yes, they do. At Finnish universities, for example, the position of "doctoral student" was modified to "doctoral researcher" not long ago. It was a nice way of acknowledging the work of doctoral researchers, seeing them as colleagues. It is great that there is a lecturer track in addition to the researcher track in Finland. In many parts of the world, this opportunity does not exist. But the English versions of the new job titles would need a bit more thought.



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