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The Disappearing Tenure-Track Job

Tomorrow's Academy

Message Number: 
951

The overall number of faculty and instructor slots grew from 1997 to 2007, but nearly two-thirds of that growth was in "contingent" positions -- meaning those off of the tenure track. Over all, those jobs increased from two-thirds to nearly three-quarters of instructional positions. 

 

Folks:

The posting below by Scott Jaschik, looks at the decrease in tenure-track jobs over the last 10 years.  It is from the May 12, 2009 issue of INSIDE HIGHER ED, an excellent - and free - online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education.  You can subscribe by going to: http://insidehighered.com/.  Also for a free daily update from Inside Higher  Ed, e-mail [scott.jaschik@insidehighered.com]. Copyright © 2009 Inside Higher Ed Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School

 

Tomorrow's Academia

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The Disappearing Tenure-Track Job

 

Year by year, various federal data sets are released, and document the steady growth of adjunct positions and decline of tenure-track jobs in the academic work force.

In an attempt to draw more attention to these shifts over time, the American Federation of Teachers is today releasing a 10-year analysis of the data, showing just how much the tenure-track professor has disappeared. The overall number of faculty and instructor slots grew from 1997 to 2007, but nearly two-thirds of that growth was in "contingent" positions -- meaning those off of the tenure track. Over all, those jobs increased from two-thirds to nearly three-quarters of instructional positions.

The growth in these jobs -- and the decline in tenure-track positions -- was found in all sectors of higher education, but was most apparent at community colleges. However, one of the most notable shifts was at public four-year colleges and universities, where over the period studied, tenured and tenure-track faculty members went from being a slight majority to less than 40 percent of faculty members. At the end point of the AFT study, tenured and tenure-track faculty members do not make a majority of faculties in any sector.

"What was shocking to me, even though I think about this all the time, was that the percentage of tenure and tenure-track faculty has shrunk to almost a quarter," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the AFT chapter at the City University of New York. "The deterioration of staffing has reached a crisis point when only a quarter are tenured or tenure-track."

National discussions about higher education have focused on issues of cost, and Bowen said that it was important to involve students and parents in looking at academic staffing and its impact on the quality of education. "Part-time faculty have done an amazing job, especially under the circumstances that they work," Bowen said. "But I think parents and students are beginning to see the difficulty when the part-time faculty member you loved for English 101 is no longer there for English 201, or to write a recommendation. You don't have that continuity."

The AFT is in fact preparing a brochure that it will be distributing to high schools, encouraging students and parents looking at colleges to "just ask" about the faculty work force. "We want people to ask 'What are the chances I'm going to be taught by a full-time faculty member?' or 'What kind of salaries do your faculty get?' " said Lawrence N. Gold, director of higher education at the AFT. "In terms of achieving our goals, consumer pressure has got to be part of it."

Given the competition among colleges for students, Gold said that institutions could be motivated to change if the people who talk to prospective students "report back that this is what they asked about."

Both Gold and Bowen -- clearly aware that some adjunct leaders have criticized the AFT's efforts as focused too much on the creation of new tenure-track jobs -- stressed dual goals. They said that they wanted to see a far greater percentage of jobs go to tenure-track faculty members. But they also said that those who teach off the tenure track must have better salaries and benefits. The AFT's campaign on these issues is called FACE, for Faculty and College Excellence.

Here are the numbers from the report, which come from the federal data prepared by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics

    Distribution of Teaching Positions in Higher Education, 1997 and 2007

Job Type                1997            2007

All Institutions

--Full time, tenured or tenure track    33.1%            27.3%

--Full time, non-tenure track        14.2%            14.9%

--Part time            34.1%            36.9%

--Graduate assistants        18.6%            20.9%

Public doctoral granting universities

--Full time, tenured or tenure track    34.1%            28.9%

--Full time, non-tenure track        14.1%            14.4%

--Part time            14.3%            15.8%

--Graduate assistants        37.5%            41.0%

Public four-year colleges and universities

--Full time, tenured or tenure track    51.0%            39.0%

--Full time, non-tenure track        9.0%            10.9%

--Part time            33.6%            43.9%

--Graduate assistants        5.7%            6.3%

Public community colleges

--Full time, tenured or tenure track    20.6%            17.5%

--Full time, non-tenure track        13.4%            13.8%

--Part time            64.7%            68.6%

--Graduate assistants        1.2%            0.0%

Private doctoral-granting universities

--Full time, tenured or tenure track    34.9%            29.2%

--Full time, non-tenure track        17.3%            17.9%

--Part time            29.9%            31.3%

--Graduate assistants        17.9%            21.6%

Private four-year colleges and universities

--Full time, tenured or tenure track    39.3%            29%

--Full time, non-tenure track        15.6%            17.2%

--Part time            42.3%            52.2%

--Graduate assistants        2.9%            1.6%