Docent is a title in some European universities to denote within a set structure of academic ranks below professor (i.e. professor ordinarius). Docent is also used at some universities generically for a person who has the right to teach. The term is derived from the Latin word docēns, which is the present active participle of docēre (to teach, to lecture).
In Finland, docent (Finnish dosentti, Swedish docent) is purely an academic title conferred to a person fulfilling the requirements similar to German Privatdozent. According to Section 89 of the Universities Act (558/2009) it can either be awarded for life or for stipulated period of time depending on the choice of the unit that is conferring it. It is a rank between Lecturer and full Professor, i.e. it is similar to an Associate Professor according to the American universities. The title of docent is also translated in English as a Reader or as an Adjunct Professor to avoid the confusion with the use of docent in terms of such as a museum docent (USA).
A person may be granted the title of docent upon application. According to Section 84 of the University of Helsinki Regulations, the University may grant the title of docent to a person who has comprehensive knowledge of his or her own field, a capacity for independent research or artistic work as demonstrated through publications or some other manner, and good teaching skills. The docent may participate in the teaching of his or her discipline, the supervision of students and theses as well as other University activities in a way to be agreed upon on a case-by-case basis (see Docent Agreement). There are two basic principles in requirements for the docenture (in Finnish dosentuuri): the first main principle is that to be nominated as a docent one should have gained research merits corresponding another doctoral thesis besides completed doctoral degree. This means that in order to be nominated as a docent, the applicant should have scientific publications in the field of docenture, and the academic standard and the scope of these should be equal to at least two doctoral dissertations approved with the grade of good. The second main principle is that to be nominated as a docent, one should have good teaching skills (Section 89 of Decree No. 558/2009 on Universities).
Unlike a professor’s chair, a docenture is not an administrative position, and docents may work elsewhere full-time. Otherwise, they can be principal investigators, lead research groups and act as the supervisors of doctoral students. Most of the docents employed by the university work in the positions such as university lecturers or senior researchers.
Foreign scholars who are docents at the University of Helsinki can give lectures as agreed with the relevant Department or Faculty. Usually this kind of a teaching agreement is made while a foreign docent is visiting Finland for some or other reasons. Foreign scholars usually give a short course; participate to a seminar by giving one or two lectures. The teaching given as a docent is remunerated only by the number of agreed teaching hours and not by a monthly salary.