The simple answer to this question is yes. But, as the expression goes, the devil is in the detail. Let me explain.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- What or who is a professor?
- What qualification must one have to be a professor?
- How does one become a professor?
- Why query whether a doctorate in business management holder can be a professor?
- Institutional autonomy to recognise a doctorate in business management
What or who is a professor?
The Macmillan Dictionary defines a full professor, in the American context, as “a teacher at a US college or university who has the highest status and has the right to keep their job as long as they want”.
What qualification must one have to be a professor?
According to Wikipedia’s overview of academic ranks in South Africa (2022):
- A distinguished or extraordinary professor must hold a PhD, except in Accounting.
- A senior professor must hold a PhD, except in Accounting.
- A professor must hold a PhD, except in Accounting.
You will have noticed that the overview above refers to a PhD, and not a doctorate in business management, as a required qualification to become a professor. The explanation will be given shortly. First, let us answer the question below.
How does one become a professor?
The thesaurus cited above explains that in the British context, someone begins as a lecturer, then becomes a senior lecturer, then sometimes a reader, and finally a professor.
In its article titled How to become a professor in South Africa, Greater Good SA says: “There are different routes that one can take in order to become a professor in South Africa. The most common is to first complete an undergraduate degree, followed by a master’s degree, then a PhD. After completing a PhD, candidates must complete a post-doctoral fellowship. Once the post-doctoral fellowship is complete, candidates can apply for a position as a professor at a university.
“In addition, professors in South Africa need to have a strong record of research and publication in their field, and will need to be able to demonstrate teaching excellence.” Clearly, becoming a professor takes many years.
The most academically plausible explanation behind why this question is asked has to do with the relatively recent emergence of business and management as academic disciplines. According to Starbuck, cited in Saunders M.N.K., Lewis P., and Thornhill A. (2019), when business and management emerged as academic disciplines in the 20th century, they drew their theoretical base from a mixture of disciplines in the social sciences, natural sciences, applied sciences, humanities, and the domain of organisational practice. These disciplines had long traditions of scholarship based on research grounded in “proven” and “recognised” research philosophies and approaches to theory development, qualifying them for the accolade of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which business and management did not have.
The business and management disciplines are now recognised in their own right, and business and management schools award qualifications such as a doctorate in business management. Academic leadership at business and management schools resides with senior academics such as professors and those with doctoral qualifications, who supervise research undertaken by master’s and doctoral candidates.
Universities have institutional autonomy to appoint qualifying candidates to professorial positions. Universities have the prerogative to make exceptions, for example, professors having to hold a PhD, except in accounting … or a doctorate in business management.
Business management is now recognised as a discipline in its own right. Holders of doctoral qualifications in business and management are eligible to be considered for professorship if they meet the requirements, including teaching, research and publication. In practice, there is no one-size-fits-all. Institutional autonomy gives universities the prerogative to appoint as professors academics who meet set academic criteria, regardless of their discipline of specialisation.
- Greater Good SA. (2022). How to become a professor In South Africa.
- Saunders, M.N.K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2019). Research Methods for Business Students. 8th Edition, Pearson, New York.
- Macmillan Dictionary. (nd). Teachers in college or university.
- Wikipedia. (2022). Academic ranks in South Africa.
- Can someone with a doctor in business management become a professor? - January 5, 2023