Let me elaborate: I’m aware that school teachers often do private tutoring for children on the side (although I believe it’s only ethical/fair if they tutor children from other grades, classes or different schools).

Are university professors (at any level) able to engage in a similar job? Could they offer private tutoring as a paid service to students from different classes or institutions, or even to children and adults in general who need tutoring? Would this breach any university policies or regulations?

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    There will be no one single answer o this question. It will vary from country to country and university to university, and depend on their particular contract of employment or legal system and employment regulations. – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Jan 2 '20 at 15:30
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    There's no universal answer, because policies and regulations change from country to country and university to university. For instance, my university requires me to ask permission to engage in certain private activities which involve an exchange of money, but for other activities there's no requirement to ask permission. I have no idea in which of the two categories tutoring would be considered. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 2 '20 at 15:32
  • I have heard second hand at least one example of a university lecturer privately tutoring a student (I believe of the same institution) at a classroom belonging to the same university. Although, I think it is not a course she was teaching at the moment. As it is done so openly, I am assuming at least this university is okay with the practice. – Boaty Mcboatface Jan 2 '20 at 22:58

Many university professors have side gigs doing consulting work for industry, writing, starting companies and doing many other things. At all universities I’m familiar with this is permitted and to some extent even encouraged. Usually there will be a policy in place specifying how much outside work is permitted. For example, here is a link to the relevant policy at the University of California system.

As for your specific question, tutoring students at other universities is not any different from any other kind of side work. As long as the professor is in compliance with their institutional conflict of commitment policy, this is totally fine. The only other case where it would be a problem is if they want to make money from tutoring students at their own institution. This would create a fairly blatant conflict of interest and would likely be regarded as unethical. See for example this question.

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    A practical problem is that the students seeking the services of a professor outside the university are competing with private industry. I occasionally get requests, but when I tell them my hourly rate they very quickly loose interest... – Maarten Buis Jan 2 '20 at 18:18

I'll just have to guess that most places will have regulations concerning, or even forbidding, this. But it is a big and variable world.

But, at a minimum, a person contemplating doing this needs to check with the university administration, who may permit it or not. Or they might set some boundaries. I doubt that many would permit tutoring students at the same institution for pay. They would rather provide tutoring opportunities for grad students, for example.

I know of one case in which a person was fired for doing such things, but mostly, I think, for not revealing the relationship, which was with another school.

But if you can justify that the tutoring is completely independent of your university duties and doesn't compete or interfere with it, then you probably can make a case that it is OK. The university doesn't own all of your time and what you do with it is a personal matter - up to a point.

I'll also note that there are other educational activities that are somewhat similar and most universities don't interfere with them. Writing textbooks, for example can make quite a profit for a few professors and I don't know of universities that get in the way of this. Some activities are even encouraged, such as consulting to organizations or businesses.

But note that the activities that are encouraged tend to have a repetitional benefit to the universities. Tutoring for pay doesn't seem to fall into a category like that.

Adjunct professors, of course, normally have to teach at more than one institution, provided that they want to eat and pay rent.

Also, being a professor (at any level) is normally more than a full time job. It is difficult to do everything required and have enough time for much else, especially if that other commitment requires a schedule.

  • (thinking out loud) I'm curious as to what it is you said or didn't say that generated the downvote. – Dave L Renfro Jan 2 '20 at 17:03
  • @DaveLRenfro, sometimes the reason is obvious. But a lot are not. Some are generated because a reader doesn't want to deal with the truth. But I don't think that is what is going on here. People have their own reasons. – Buffy Jan 2 '20 at 17:32
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    My guess is that the down vote is due to the first sentence. In the universities I know side gigs were regulated but not forbidden. – Maarten Buis Jan 2 '20 at 18:26
  • "Regulated not forbidden" for the general case, yes, but I was looking at the specifics of tutoring, specifically. Like I said, a well liked prof I knew was fired. Let me soften it a bit. – Buffy Jan 2 '20 at 18:30

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