Among the top, most key components to having a successful learning institution is having a well-qualified and committed workforce, irrespective of where they work. That means from the cooks, the security personnel, janitors, to the administration, lecturers, and coaches. Academic institutions are like a machine, it can only perform efficiently and sufficiently when all individual parts work as it’s supposed to. Therefore, this means that any successful learning institution needs to have everyone playing their part. However, the emphasis is more on the quality of education, a responsibility that squarely lies on professors and tutors.
Academic institutions currently face a lot of pressure from competing not just for the best students, but also being able to give their students the edge that they need to secure employment. With the turn of the 21st century, learning institutions have experienced massification. Traditionally, education was a luxury only meant for the elite in the society. Obviously, this kind of thinking has no place in our society today and the result is that learning facilities are enrolling more students than the available teaching personnel. To compensate the gap, they have resorted to hiring part-time faculty.
Who forms the part-time faculty?
Research into campus employment over a period of 10 to 30 years shows an increasing reliance on part-time instructors. The question we ask ourselves to fully understand the trends in employments in learning institutions is, which people form part of this group? The issue of part-time instructors is a global phenomenon, especially in developing countries. However, the trend hasn’t picked on as much in Western European countries although currently there has been a slight increase.
The perception we have when we think of part-timers is a group of poorly paid, exploited and working under unfavorable conditions individuals. This may not be the case. Globally, in some countries, this category of professionals work in better conditions and receive good pay. Also, have in mind that the level of prestige that an institution holds has a hand in the amount of compensation that individuals receive.
Yes, compared to their full-time counterparts, they aren’t as academically qualified. Take an example of the U.S., according to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), approximately 67% of the full-time instructors hold a first professional degree or a doctorate degree while only 27% of the part-timers have attained this level of qualification.
The gap between the two groups isn’t just with regards to academic qualifications but also with the remuneration. Full-time instructors get better basic pay, allowances, and bonuses. In the U.S., (it’s the most attractive destination for international scholars and scientists alike) the AAUP collected the following data:
Note: Institutions have the right to choose whether to participate or not. These figures are based on data collected from 1,022 institutions in the 2016/17 academic year.
- Full-time faculty members received an average income of $80,095
- Part-time instructors on a per-section basis only took home a total of $7,066
- Part-time faculty at a single institution stood at $20,508
Globally though, it’s difficult to give a thorough analysis of academic salaries. The disparity that exists in academic fields, institutions and countries is wide especially with basic pay and other increments. Also, part-timers often have a second and third job, therefore, getting the actual income from teaching alone is a bit tricky and getting the needed data is a challenge.
Research done by the AAUP showed that 50% of the part-time faculty reported having another job. 79% did not have a teaching job, while the remaining 21% taught at one or two other institutions. Other existing employment opportunities for part-timers is in tutoring, offering resume or essay writing services online, in research among others. These trends are similar in both developing and developed countries.
Why are academic institutions turning to part-time faculty?
Contingent faculty has become the norm worldwide. A fact that hasn’t been taken well in certain circles probably because it spells doom to our students. Yes, it has created massive employment opportunities for most but not without its drawbacks. Firstly, they aren’t as qualified. Now, couple that with unfavorable working conditions and low pay, it’s evident that they will not perform and commit themselves as expected. So, despite its drawbacks, why are institutions turning to adjuncts?
Part-time instructors are a cheap source of labor. Compared to their full-time counterparts, any institution would prefer their services. Limited resources coupled with constant budget cuts and increasing numbers of student enrollments has forced administrators to hire more part-time instructors compared to full-time faculty. This is a global problem, experienced in most academic institutions.
The Number of Qualified Personnel
Because of the falling quality of education, the number of adequately qualified graduates has dropped. What we currently have is mediocre talent, and their performance is poor. Becoming a full-time instructor doesn’t just come easy, although, in certain countries like Japan, personal connections have a hand in securing such positions. In countries like France, before one can secure a position, they must undergo a rigorous interview process. Russia, on the other hand, has a system where hiring is it at the discretion of the chair.
Hiring patterns affects the quality of staff retained. Without a formal and strict system, less qualified staff are hired. The reason as to why institutions have resorted to part-timers is simply because of the limited number of qualified staff and the informal hiring systems that exist.
At the turn of the 21st century, there was a sharp increase in student enrollments globally. A lot of factors played a role in this turn of events. Technological advancements, changes in perceptions and the global push for education to be considered as basic human right. The older generation saw education as a luxury that was meant for the wealthy in society, but gradually, this perception has changed and anyone can access education including higher learning. These reasons have resulted in high student enrollments without the adequate learning facilities and a more qualified teaching personnel. And to bridge the gap, institutions have resorted to part-time faculty.
The Big Dilemma
Why do we need to understand academic hiring trends with regards to part-time faculty? Simply to understand what impact they have on the education systems. It’s at this point that we are faced with the big question. Are they the way forward or is there need to divert from this trend? Well, they have created quite a number of employment positions but at the same time lowering the quality of education and putting students’ future prospects in jeopardy. However, some of them are better qualified compared to some full-time instructors.
According to a research done by the Delphi project, students taught by contingent faculty performed less than those taught by full-time faculty. Now, what is the way forward, should we resort to hiring full-time instructors or the trend of part-time faculty continues?
In Canada, faculty unions reported that North American Universities and opting to use sessionals in place of full-time contracts and the effects already are that they are producing a generation confused academics which is definitely not a good thing.
Part-time faculty form almost half if not more of the teaching personnel in most institutions. Administrators have resorted to hiring them because they are a cheap source of labor, and with tight budgets, they have no alternative. The part-time faculty is faced with numerous challenges that include low pay and poor working conditions among other challenges. They are however contributing a lot to the academic fraternity and therefore cannot be ignored.