Expectations of a Professor (August 2009)
UNIVERSITY EXPECTATIONS OF A PROFESSOR
The roles of professors have undergone considerable change in recent decades. External
demands on universities today, as well as imperatives within institutions, have created some
confusion and division of opinion about what now constitute appropriate roles.
The University of Melbourne has its own special features and mission, and hence the role of a
professor in this University can be expected to differ from that in many other institutions. It is
thus appropriate to clarify what the University expects of its professors.
The expectations of a professor in the University rest primarily on the nature of academic and
professional leadership appropriate for a major international research university. Professors
must always be distinguished academically in an international environment and are expected
to maintain that distinction. While some may confine their leadership largely within their
strict academic discipline (as shown, for example, by providing a focus and inspiration for
research and teaching in their area of expertise), it is unlikely to be fulfilled simply by
continuing to pursue their own work in isolation from others, as this does not denote
Professors in the University of Melbourne distinguish themselves by demonstrating
leadership that can take several forms:
• Leading a group of individuals in research centred around the Professor and broader
research leadership developing the research talents of other academics;
• Leading staff members involved in developing undergraduate or graduate teaching;
• Leading the overall management of particular functions in a department, such as teaching
activities; coordination of a department's research or undergraduate teaching activities;
• Leading in an academic field as evidenced by publications in outstanding journals, or as
the editor of journals, authorship of books, monographs and artistic works, invited papers
and presentations at international conferences and by the organisation of such conferences;
• Leading in management particularly in assisting individuals and/or groups to channel and
focus their efforts;
• Leading in the community beyond the University, particularly in professional
organisations and institutions and in industrial and/or government and business activities.
In more specific terms, the expectations of a professor may be clarified as follows:
In all cases, the professor is expected to foster the research of other groups and
individuals within the Department, within the discipline and within related
disciplines. In particular, guidance and assistance to more junior staff in developing
their capacity for teaching and research is of great importance. In many disciplines,
provision of an environment for honours and graduate students is dependent upon the
ability to attract external funds. Many professors will secure substantial grants which
Expectations of a Professor (August 2009)
cover teams including junior staff while others will carry on research at a more
individual level. Professors should introduce research students and colleagues to
useful networks inside and outside the University. Normally, professors will also be
required to carry a teaching load and be involved in some of the large classes and in
teaching of both undergraduate and graduate students.
It is expected that a professor will seek continuing improvement in academic
standards rather than merely maintaining them, and make a distinguished contribution
to teaching in the faculty and University. A professor should be expected to provide
leadership in curriculum development, design of courses, and innovations in the
delivery of teaching in the discipline. Professors should be role models in their
relationships with students and with professional staff at all levels. They should be
accessible in the Department/Faculty and should take part in the community life of
the University, including ceremonies where degrees are awarded to students of the
department and to persons honoured by the University.
Professors are expected to participate in the appropriate national and international
organisations of their discipline or profession. In most fields, such international
involvement and standing should be clearly evident. It is expected that a professor
will serve on expert committees, be willing to participate in reviews and to work at a
national and international level.
Professors have a responsibility to advance the image of the University in the
community locally, nationally and internationally. That image will be enhanced by
excellent research and good teaching, the receipt of awards and participation in major
conferences. Community involvement might also be demonstrated in adopting the
role of a public intellectual who contributes to the nation’s culture and institutions.
This might take many forms, including media commentary and the preparation of
opinion articles, speaking at public events, and visits to schools and other community
Professors should be willing to contribute in policy formation and management of
their department, their faculty and the University (through the Academic Board)
where from time to time they have a contribution to make. They should play a
constructive role in appointment, confirmation and promotion processes for academic
and professional staff.
It is expected that professors from time to time carry out senior executive roles in the
University, Faculty and/or Department.
Endorsed by Academic Board
Approved by Council August 2009