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Guidelines for Determining Faculty Qualifications

Introduction

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) recently adopted a policy change related to expectations regarding faculty qualifications. By the time of our next HLC review, which will occur in 2018-2019, we must demonstrate compliance with the new policy. In relation to Criterion Three, Core Component 3.C, reviewers must consider:

3.C. The institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services.

  • 3.C.1. The institution has sufficient numbers and continuity of faculty members to carry out both the classroom and the non-classroom roles of faculty, including oversight of the curriculum and expectations for student performance; establishment of academic credentials for instructional staff; involvement in assessment of student learning.
  • 3.C.2. All instructors are appropriately qualified, including those in dual credit, contractual, and consortial programs.

Reviewers also consider faculty qualifications when reviewing for the assumed practices relating to faculty roles and qualifications (B.2.a and B.2.b), which read:

B.2.a.Instructors (excludes teaching assistants enrolled in a graduate program and supervised by faculty) possess an academic degree relevant to what they are teaching and at least one level above the level at which they teach, except in programs for terminal degrees or when equivalent experience is established. In terminal degree programs, faculty members possess the same level of degree. When Faculty members are employed based on equivalent experience (i.e., “tested experience”), the institution defines a minimum threshold of experience and an evaluation process that is used in the appointment process.

B.2.b. Instructors teaching at the doctoral level have a record of recognized scholarship, creative endeavor, or achievement in practice commensurate with doctoral expectations.

HLC expects that using credentials (degree one level in the area of and above the course that an instructor teaches and a master’s degree for teaching Global Miami Plan) will be the norm for universities.

Minimum Qualifications for Miami Faculty

Full-Time Faculty Teaching Undergraduate Courses

For tenure-eligible ranks, MUPIM (6.3) states that the “…essential factor in such appointment is recognition of a person’s competence in an academic discipline or area of knowledge administered by the department.” Thus, tested experience will not be a substitute for formal educational preparation required to meet the criteria for tenure and promotion. Tenure-eligible faculty should hold an earned doctorate or terminal degree in the field in which they will be teaching (MUPIM 7.4.C-E).

For faculty appointed to the ranks of Lecturer, Clinical, or Professionally Licensed (LCPL) Faculty, instructors, as well as Visiting Assistant Professors (VAP), a Master’s degree or higher, or the equivalent (MUPIM 7.11) will serve as the standard acceptable faculty credential, and tested experience will generally not be a substitute for formal educational preparation.

In rare situations, tested experience criteria may apply to VAPs, instructors and LCPL faculty who exclusively teach undergraduate courses in highly applied or highly skilled professional disciplines. The minimum threshold to teach such highly applied or skilled courses will be a Bachelor’s degree plus at least five years of applied experience or equivalent certification or licensure in the field that clearly relates to the learning outcomes of the courses being taught along with a demonstration of the capacity for teaching excellence. Teaching excellence can be demonstrated via course evaluations, teaching demonstration or other clear measure.

Highly applied or skilled programs wishing to use the tested experience criteria must either use the metric that has been developed by the University (see below) or develop a departmentally-based metric for determining what constitutes applied experience or equivalent certification or licensure in the field along with the capacity for teaching excellence (see proposal form below). Departmentally-based metrics must be approved by the program’s faculty, the Dean, and the Office of Academic Personnel prior to the hiring of any faculty member using the tested experience criteria.  Metrics shall be kept on file in the Office of Academic Personnel, Office of the Provost and department.

Part-Time, Adjunct or Per-Credit-Hour Faculty Teaching Undergraduate Courses

When hiring part-time, adjunct or per-credit-hour faculty, every effort will be made to select individuals who have the traditional faculty qualifications.  However, in rare cases, such as in highly applied and skilled programs and disciplines, tested experience in the field may serve in place of formal educational preparation.

When applying tested experience, the minimum threshold to teach courses in Miami Baccalaureate programs will be a Bachelor’s degree plus at least five years of applied experience or equivalent certification or licensure in the field that clearly relates to the learning outcomes of the courses being taught along with a demonstration of the capacity for teaching excellence. Teaching excellence can be demonstrated via course evaluations, teaching demonstration or other clear measure.

Highly applied or skilled programs wishing to use the tested experience criteria must either use the metric that has been developed by the University (see below) or develop a departmentally-based metric for determining what constitutes applied experience or equivalent certification or licensure in the field along with the capacity for teaching excellence (see proposal form below). Departmentally-based metrics must be approved by the program’s faculty, the Dean and the Office of Academic Personnel prior to the hiring of any faculty member using the tested experience criteria.  Metrics shall be kept on file in the Office of Academic Personnel, Office of the Provost and department.

Faculty Teaching Graduate Courses

All faculty teaching at the master’s or doctoral level must have graduate faculty standing. Faculty must apply to the graduate school to obtain graduate faculty standing and must satisfy one of two criteria to qualify (5.2B in the Handbook for Graduate Students and Faculty):

Criterion I: An approved terminal degree in the discipline.

Criterion II: A master’s degree plus five (5) years of significant and relevant professional experience that meets the applicant’s departmental guidelines for tested experience. A department wishing to grant graduate faculty standing under criterion II must submit and have approved by Graduate Council, criteria for evaluating “significant and relevant professional experience” that is equivalent to the terminal degree for the graduate programs offered by the department.  The definition of tested experience must be approved by Graduate Council prior to nominating an instructor for graduate faculty standing under criterion II.

Any exceptions to these guidelines must be approved by the Dean and Provost prior to an offer being extended. When requesting to hire faculty based on an exception to these guidelines, the individual must clearly demonstrate extraordinary experience or expertise in the field.