Publication Date

April 1, 2003

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

Last fall, the American Council on Education released a report entitled The New Professoriate: Characteristics, Contributions, and Compensation. Based on an analysis of Department of Education data, the study (by Eugene L. Anderson) found that during the years 1918–1999, proportion of part-time faculty increased by 79 percent (a free online copy of the report is available at Data from the report also reveal that, although most of these part-time teachers worked at more than one job, they earned less than their full-time counterparts in higher education and were substantially less likely to have held a PhD. These numbers will come as no surprise to readers of Robert Townsend’s regular columns in Perspectives in which he analyzed data collected by the AHA and other organizations. Indeed it is now six years since the American Historical Association joined with several other scholarly societies to establish the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, with the aim of regularly collecting and disseminating information on the growth of part-time and contingent faculty appointments and developing strategies to address the problems created by inappropriate use of such appointments.

The members of this coalition (which meets regularly in Washington, D.C.) want to strengthen teaching and scholarship by evaluating and publicizing both the short-term and long-term consequences of changes in the academic workforce. At a 1997 national meeting, the Conference on the Growing Use of Part-Time and Adjunct Faculty, the members of CAW developed a set of policies and guidelines for good practices for institutions that employ part-time faculty and a set of recommendations on how to implement the guidelines and policies. These are available on the AHA web site at The subsequent report, “Who Is Teaching in U.S. College Classrooms? A Collaborative Study of Undergraduate Faculty” (available online at found that in three of the seven disciplines surveyed, the proportion of full-time tenure-track faculty had fallen to less than half of all faculty.

Since the 1997 survey and subsequent report, CAW's success in publicizing the problems stemming from the decline in the proportion of full-time faculty on campuses have been mixed. General news media, which not infrequently offer up features on the lives of "roads scholars," exhibited scant interest. Accrediting organizations, which over the past several years have moved from evaluating higher education institutions based on their resources to developing criteria based on "outcomes" evinced only slightly more interest. Higher education associations and their publications have proven to be a more useful vehicle for targeting attention to this problem.

In January 2003 CAW members joined with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to cosponsor a segment of the latter's 89th annual meeting by providing sessions aimed at exploring the current state of higher education research on the relation between student learning and faculty staffing. These efforts were also supported by TIAA-CREF, which has begun to fund research on this subject. In one of these sessions, Jack Schuster, professor of education and public policy in Claremont Graduate University pointed out that the composition of higher education faculty is currently changing at an unprecedented pace and argued for the need to assess the consequences of this change. The full-time tenured workforce in the nation's colleges and universities is aging, he noted, and will have to be replaced in the next few years. What will be the nature of these new appointments and what impact will they have on the quality of students' education?

Ernst Benjamin of the AAUP, one of the cosponsors of the 1997 conference and of the 1999 survey, also emphasized the drastic changes in instructional staffing over the last two decades. According to his analysis of trends in faculty distribution from 1975 to 1995, a period that saw the total number of faculty grow by 50 percent, the number of full-time tenured faculty in higher education increased by only 27 percent. The number of nontenure-track full-time faculty, however, grew by 92 percent, while the number of part-time faculty mushroomed by 103 percent. Benjamin urged both faculty members and higher education policymakers to give more attention to the consequences of these disturbing changes. Other sessions at the Seattle meeting of the AACU included an open discussion on how disciplinary associations are addressing these trends. The fall 2002 issue of the AACU's journal, Peer Review, contains several articles by authors who were participated in the Seattle meeting.

Clearly, these concerns will be with us for the foreseeable future. While considering the next steps, the Coalition on the Academic Workforce is currently preparing for publication a short brochure highlighting its recent efforts and listing links to resources for those concerned about part-time and adjunct appointments in higher education. We will distribute the brochure to its institutional members. We also share with the OAH a Joint Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment. This committee, which meets twice a year (at the annual meetings of the AHA and the OAH), is developing recommendations for standards of employment that relate more specifically to the discipline of history.

For details about the committee's activities, contact Juli A. Jones, Chair, Joint AHA-OAH Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment, AHA, 400 A Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889.

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