Monday, November 27, 2017

Most UniversityTeaching Staff are Non-Tenured

The US Government Accountability Office has  released a detailed report finding that 70% of those employed teaching at universities are non-tenured and those part-time were paid 75% less than full-time tenure-track faculty (GAO, 2017). This is consistent with a survey by the Florida Public Services Union, which found two-thirds of university teachers have jobs without long-term security (SEIU, 2017).

The levels of the use of "contingent" teaching staff are likely to be similar in Australian higher education, but hopefully without such poor work conditions. However, advances with on-line education and AI are likely to  reduce the job opportunities and working conditions for all adjuncts.

I suggest graduate students need to be encouraged to think of academia as a supplement to a career in an outside field or profession. Those who do wish to have a part-time career in academia need to be encouraged to obtain formal qualifications in two disciplines: firstly in their chosen profession and secondly in teaching.

Teaching academics how to take a professional attitude to teaching, I suggest, can help improve their working conditions. Rather than work long unpaid hours to attempt to keep up with an unrealistic workload, academics can instead change their teaching techniques to fit the resources available.
 As an example, I have academics complain to me that they do not have enough time to do all the lecturing and marking required. So I suggest they do less lecturing, and use alternative forms of assessment, which do not take as much time. The problem is that unless they have been trained how to do this, staff are not confident to make the change. A typical response is that alternate teaching and assessment techniques will not work, or will not be approved by accreditation authorities.

Universities can offer their teaching staff training and education to improve both quality and the efficiency of the teaching. However, it is up to individual academics to take the time, and considerable effort, needed to learn their craft.


SEIU (2017, November). Life on the Edge of the Blackboard: Florida Adjunct Faculty Survey 2017, Florida Public Services Union. URL

GAO (2017, October). CONTINGENT WORKFORCE: Size, Characteristics, Compensation, and Work Experiences of Adjunct and Other Non-Tenure-Track Faculty". United States Government Accountability Office. URL

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