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The adjunct faculty, part-time professor, 'instructor' problem - Life is strange...

Nov. 30th, 2007

08:20 pm - The adjunct faculty, part-time professor, 'instructor' problem

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Hi!

My ex-wife was a part-time professor for a long time, before she got permanent employment. We both could see what was going on, it is clear what are the incentives and market conditions that make teaching by adjunct and part-time academic faculty an increasingly larger part of the educational experience of most students. The New York Times had an interesting article (complete with reader letters) on the subject.

Here is my take from personal experience....

The problems with the system as it is evolving, visible in its results, include:

  1. Much less stability and shorter time in any particular institution for each professor
    thus less investment in the institution, and lower-quality teaching results;
  2. Less time available for research and other academically-useful activities
    due to lower pay forcing less time per student, or for research activities;
  3. Lack of health insurance forces professors out of academia and into other types of work when health issues come up
    or out of the work force altogether.

Some of the reasons that institutions are evolving in this direction include:
  1. Many more Ph.D. degrees are granted in many disciplines than Ph.D. -carrying individuals 'fit' in the academic system;
  2. Progressively less money, as a percentage, is going into humanities research than science research;
  3. Much more prestige is garnered from research than from teaching, even from teaching that is acknowledged to be extraordinary;
  4. Much more grant money comes from research, in almost all fields, than from teaching.

Students, professors, institutions and the whole cause of higher learning suffer when expectations and realities are as out of sync with each other as they are now. It is clear that high-quality teaching is not a luxury, that high-quality research is similarly not a luxury, and that higher education costs more now, as a percentage of income, than it has for quite a while. What is not clear to me is where the money is going, and what the best ways are to solve the problems and meet the needs.

Cheers! generalist

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