70 percent of UNA faculty hold Ph.Ds

Among UNA’s 231 instructional, full-time faculty members, 173 hold a doctorate or other terminal degree, putting that number at approximately 70 percent overall, according to UNA’s institutional research website.

Last spring, UNA enacted a policy that requires tenure-track professors to have terminal degrees, said John Thornell, vice president of academic affairs.

According to Barron’s “Profiles of American Colleges,” 2011 edition, 75 percent of professors at the University of South Alabama (USA) hold Ph.D.s., 81 percent of professors at Mississippi State University hold Ph.D.s., 86 percent of professors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hold Ph.D.s., 88 percent of professors at Auburn University hold Ph.D.s. and 90 percent of professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) hold Ph.D.s.

All of UNA’s classes are taught by faculty members rather than graduate assistants, according to UNA’s website.

UNA, along with USA and UAB, does not have graduate students teaching any introductory courses, according to the 2011 edition of Barron’s “Profiles of American Colleges.” While graduate students teach 6 percent of the introductory courses at UAH, 8 percent of the introductory courses at Mississippi State University and 18 percent of the introductory courses at Auburn University.

UNA student Adam Robinson said he was surprised by the high number of professors who hold doctorates at UNA. Professors who hold doctorates are more often than not better teachers, he said.

“I’ve learned a lot from the people who have doctorates, and I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth,” Robinson said. “I definitely pay more attention when someone knows what they’re talking about.”

Professors who hold doctorates usually use thorough explanations and examples in their teaching rather than simply reading from a well-rehearsed lesson plan, Robinson said.

“In every possible case, we are going to hire someone with a terminal degree,” Thornell said.

UNA student Brandon Trussell is indifferent about whether a professor holds a doctoral degree.

“While having a doctorate can certainly increase credibility in the professors’ respective fields, I think it depends on the field as to how much it can impact their teaching,” Trussell said. “Plus, I’ve had professors that are doctors but seem to just be there, as well as professors that aren’t doctors that get significantly involved with their students. So, depending on the field as well as the person, a doctorate can be just another label or the mark of a seriously determined and involved teacher but should by no means be used to decide how good they will be at teaching.”