Most professorships are achievements at the pinnacle of a career, and we must defend that standard. When somebody shows up on a stage or on television and is introduced as “professor”, somebody needs to ask: what exactly do you profess? That would put the skids under these pretenders.

Strangely, we are less tolerant as a society of people who fraudulently use the title of “doctor”. Lives have been ruined by fake doctors but not by fake professors.

There is a fraud we seldom talk about. It concerns the way in which the title “professor” is attached to people without any claim on this highest achievement in the academic profession. Yes, it is an achievement. It starts with the hard work of obtaining a research or professional degree called the doctorate (mainly a PhD). That itself takes years of study, often combining field research in distant places and difficult theoretical labour with countless revisions and then a searching final examination involving four or more assessors from around the world. You don’t just collect the PhD, in other words. But that is only the start, for then you have to produce years of scholarship involving peer-reviewed articles in leading journals as well as books (in the non-science fields). That is not enough, though, for you then have to successfully supervise Masters and especially doctoral students as part of your portfolio of academic works.That collection of scholarly works, including evidenc...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as articles from our international business news partners; ProfileData financial data; and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now