By Ali Abubakar Sadiq
Several years ago when I was in Cambridge University for a course, I was perplexed considering the Director of the program I was attending, Denis Alexander, a Professor, rarely use the title but held on to his Doctor Title. I believed a professor is someone higher than a Doctor but why is Denis not using it? Finally I approached the man with my dilemma and he explained to my satisfaction.
Bruce Macfarlane, the author of Intellectual Leadership in Higher Education, describes ‘professor’ as ‘a slippery term’. That’s because in the UK it means something quite different from what it denotes in North America. In North America ‘professor’ and ‘professorship’ are generic labels applied to all academics employed to research and teach in universities.
In the UK, much of Europe (and, for the most part, in Australasia and South Africa), ‘professorship’ denotes distinction: a professor is someone who has been promoted to the highest academic grade – usually on the basis of her or his scholarly achievements. It’s the equivalent to what, in North America, is known as full professorship.
Some people are unclear about how someone known as ‘Dr’ is different from someone whose title is ‘Professor’. ‘Dr’ denotes someone who has studied for, and been awarded, a PhD, so it denotes an academic qualification: the holder of the highest university degree. It’s the equivalent of writing ‘PhD’ after someone’s name. Most professors will be PhD-holders, but so will be many – if not most – other academics employed as university teachers and researchers.
‘Professor’ doesn’t denote a qualification but an academic staff grade – the most senior one. So, in the UK, an academic whose title is ‘Dr’ is someone who’s got a PhD, but hasn’t been promoted to the highest academic grade, while an academic whose title ‘Professor’ is someone who probably (but not necessarily) has a PhD, but who has been promoted to the highest grade on the university pay scale. Professorship therefore denotes seniority and status.
If we make a comparison with medical doctors working in a hospital, all will have medical degrees, but they are employed at different levels of seniority, with consultants being the most senior doctors. We may think of professors as the equivalent of hospital consultants. On the other hand, there is an honorary doctoral degree, which is often awarded in recognition of one’s life experiences.
It is denoted by the letters “h.c.”, which is an abbreviation for “honoris causa” (Latin for “for the sake of honor”). This means that the degree is bestowed as an honor rather than through the completion of certain academic requirements. Those who are honored with this title often do not have any prior connection to the award-giving institution. But we don’t have an Honorary Professorial conferment, what Pantami seems to have received from Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO).
According to the Governing council of the University (FUTO) Pantami was among seven Readers promoted to the rank of Professorship. A Reader (in some countries equivalent to a Senior Lecturer or Associate Professor) is a bonafide lecturer in a university, something Pantami never was at FUTO in the first place. It is therefore easily discernible that you can never be a professor without being employed and teaching in the particular University awarding you the title.
I was ashamed when I learnt that Pantami is awarded a professorship from a University he never taught. As an Islamic Scholar, an academician and a leader, it is really disgraceful of him to accept something as dubious. It is an open fact that nowadays Doctorate degrees are bought and sold and whoever can do that is not a worthy academician or scholar.
In July 2020 the London Graduate School in UK offered to confer me with a Honorary Doctorate degree and despite the fact that an appendage of Dr. to my name will have a nice rings (we all want titles and accolade, right?) I eventually declined since I learnt that I had to pay 3,500 USD, which in essence is saying I am buying the title and not earned it. The last title standing is Professorship and with Pantami’s pacesetting trend, it is not a matter of if but when, for our academic excellence to be buried for good.
My question to Pantami is, are there any material honor that God had not given him? Is he not contented with all the blessing God had showered on him? What does he need with a professorial title while serving as a minister of the Federal Republic?
Does he have to contribute in undermining the system that propelled him to limelight? Will he sleep well, lead people in prayer, explain the Quran in his Tafsir knowing he is legitimizing academic corruption by accepting a dubious honor which will go a long way in negatively impacting on aspiring youths that look up to people like him as an inspiration?
Well, lest we forget that titles, no matter how numerous, are only your own personal achievement. It is only the legacy you offer or leave behind that made positive impact on the people around you, as neighbors or fellow countrymen, which will eventually matters, in the eyes of God and Man.
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