The only way to form a naturally balanced relationship between the coordinator and the doctoral student is the academic apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is the small-scale process, lasting several years, inscribed in an institutional tradition.
Institutional tradition is the subtle combination of informal and formal rules, the mixture of tacit and explicit knowledge already functional, productive and constantly evolving. The phenomenon of exploitation can occur in the absence of such an institutional context, where the professor is not a mentor, and the doctoral student is a human resource. There are two variants of the absence of the context necessary for discipleship, one in which the tradition has degraded and one in which the tradition never existed. The situation of the absence of tradition is specific to Romania.
The exploitation of doctoral students and post-doctoral students in the West has other mechanisms than in Romania. In the West, this phenomenon is the result of the degradation of tradition under the influence of one’s own burden, expressed through changes in values in the external social and cultural environment. A typical cause of exploitation in the West is the transformation of the dominant type of university to one with an emphasis on economic market values. The marketization of universities is inevitable when the hierarchies of values shared by people dissolve. The market is a useful phenomenon only in the production of certain goods and services, where a high rate of bankruptcies and emergence of new organizations is acceptable. For universities, which are essential hubs in the functioning of civilized society, such a strategy is not useful, it can only be used for internal efficiency, not to underpin the grand strategic direction.
Let’s move on to Romania’s situation. In the absence of the university and research tradition and under the conditions of forcing the process of its emergence, several typical phenomena appear, which do not exist in the West:
- The total refusal of change in the professor/researcher-student community, provincialization by mutual agreement in an autarchic apprenticeship. There is no exploitation because nothing scientifically relevant is produced. The community is pseudo-scientific. As the gap between what the community does and what happens in other communities grows, a conscious tradition of incompetence and fraud emerges and develops. The phenomenon manifests itself at smaller or larger scales, from the research group to the faculty, institute or even disciplinary field. The group cannot evolve through internal mechanisms.
- General acceptance of changing practices in terms of professors’ competence, measurable alongside standards of academic production. It is not a very common case in Romania, but with examples of success. Exploitation of doctoral students can only occur in a market approach to the educational act. The group can evolve through internal mechanisms.
- The general acceptance of the change of practices in the conditions of the incompetence of the coordinators. It is not a very common case in Romania. In such situations the exploitation of doctoral students is a dominant phenomenon. To keep the incompetent group afloat all the burden of failure is transferred to the doctoral students. They work a lot on irrelevant topics, they can’t produce, they have no one to learn real research from. When they submit, their theses can be rejected at the upper level. If they pass this level, they have little chance of development. Tensions are simmered down and covered up by top-down management methods, especially by eliminating those who signal the situation. The group cannot evolve through internal mechanisms.
- Heterogeneous acceptance of changing practices by both facilitators and students. This is the most common real case. The situation is characterized by inevitable internal tensions due to different attitudes. Tensions come from different interests, different professional strategies and are constructive in the sense that they allow internal group evolution. Exploitation of doctoral students exists, but it can be brought naturally to a minimum. The group can evolve through internal mechanisms.
In the table below we apply this model to comment on the role of academic ethics.
From the above mentioned, it can be seen that there cannot be a unitary approach in the system to encourage the modernization of Romania. For case B the solutions are administrative from the governmental level through restructuring, for case C the solutions can be administrative from the governmental level through the real conditioning of the funding on the fulfillment of the performance criteria by the coordinators, for case D any ethical situation must be judged individually, in its organizational uniqueness. Such judgment cannot take place without an Aristotelian sense of justice, exclusive appeal to general rules does not help. For case A, an ethical model imported from the West can be applied, preferably adapted to Romanian cultural realities, or adjusted with other arguments from the theory of the field.
I conclude by stating that the title was formulated in such a way as to increase interest in reading through emotional capture. The issue addressed in the text is, in fact, the adaptive management of the university education and research system according to the reality of its situation and its dynamics. Without such a thing we waste resources, the most important of which is time. The absence of open minded and adaptive management shows a lack of respect for the lives of people in Romania.
About the author:
Assoc. Prof. Virgil Iordache teaches and researches at the University of Bucharest – Faculty of Biology, since 1993; he has a degree in biology specializing in biochemistry, a doctorate in ecology on issues of ecotoxicology and a degree in philosophy on issues of the evolution of institutions. He is the author of numerous books and articles; he is the director of the Research Center for Ecological Services of the University of Bucharest. Member of CNECSDTI and the Board of Directors of INCD for Industrial Ecology.
The article signed by researcher and professor Virgil Iordache was taken from edupedu.ro.