The Status of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

The report which follows was approved by the Association’s Committee on Part-Time and Non-Tenure-Track Appointments and adopted by the Association’s Council in June 1993.

Non-tenure-track faculty account for about half of all faculty appointments in American higher education. The nontenure track consists of two major groups: those who teach part time and those who teach full time but are not on tenure-track lines. Part-time faculty now hold 38 percent of faculty appointments, and non-tenure-track, full-time faculty hold 20 percent.1  The variety of persons and kinds of appointments within these two broad categories was discussed at some length in the 1980 AAUP report on part-time faculty and the 1986 report on full-time non-tenure-track faculty.2  Since those reports the variety within non-tenure-track, full-time faculty has expanded, as many faculty members who were once on the tenure track have been moved to term contracts. Together these two categories of faculty constitute a growing and critical problem for higher education. The impact of a long-term fiscal crisis that has produced fluctuating funding patterns has exacerbated the problem. Many institutions increasingly relied upon non-tenure-track faculty as a way to staff classes without having to make long-range commitments to faculty. Most of the relative growth in the numbers of part-time faculty occurred during the period from 1972 to 1977, a period often characterized as one of sharply reduced financial strength for both private and public institutions, and increased institutional interest in alternatives to the tenure system. If those events are important causes of the growth of part-time faculty, then the fact that the supposedly temporary situation did not improve after the economic recovery suggests a growing administrative desire for budgetary discretion. The pressure for flexibility also translates as a need to control the size and density of the tenured faculty. In addition to increased use of part-time faculty, administrative strategies to contain tenure have included extending the probationary period until the full seven years for most faculty, moving numerous faculty off the tenure track, and issuing more term contracts to the growing number of full-time non-tenure-track professors.

Public universities, wary of committing themselves to a long-range budget which the state legislature might not sustain, use non-tenure-track faculty members to buffer the strain between fluctuating student demand, on the one hand, and funding constraints for hiring permanent faculty, on the other. Non-tenure-track researchers who can be supported by grants directly or through overhead payments allow institutions to augment resources beyond their budgets. Institutions that find themselves in an increasingly competitive market for funding may reward research over teaching and use non-tenure-track faculty members in lower-division courses to fund release time from teaching for senior faculty.

The increase in non-tenure-track appointments affects the quality of education as a whole and the stability of the profession in particular. The growth of non-tenure-track faculty erodes the size and influence of the tenured faculty and undermines the stability of the tenure system. The large numbers of faculty who now work without tenure leave academic freedom more vulnerable to manipulation and suppression. The professional status of faculty suffers when so many are subject to economic exploitation and demeaning working conditions inconsistent with professional standards. And the quality of education is at risk when the curriculum, advising, and instruction are not in the control of faculty to whom the institution has made the kinds of commitments that ensure scholarly development and recognition of performance.

The term “nontenure track” is sometimes used narrowly to refer only to those full-time faculty members who hold positions off the tenure track at institutions with a system of academic tenure. To assess the full scope of the number of faculty who work outside the tenure system, one must combine several categories. Some part-time faculty members never work full time, and some non-tenure-track faculty members are never part time, but for many others, their appointments may vary from full time to part time from semester to semester or year to year, depending on fluctuations in funding and enrollment. Some faculty members in each category are employed exclusively in the classroom, the laboratory, or the clinic. We also eschew the customary term “temporary” faculty, because the data demonstrate that typically such appointments are not temporary but rather continue indefinitely.

The growth of part-time faculty has often come at the cost of stable employment for those who seek full-time careers. Institutions which assign a significant percentage of instruction to faculty members in whom they make a minimal professional investment undercut their own commitment to quality. Academic programs and a tenure system are not stable when institutions rely heavily on non-tenure-track faculty who receive few, if any, opportunities for professional advancement, whose performance may not be regularly reviewed or rewarded, and who may be shut out of the governing structures of the departments and institutions that appoint them. The tendency to use more part-time faculty to meet enrollment pressures in basic courses also makes the academy more vulnerable to critics who charge that universities pursue research at the expense of teaching.

Some community colleges depend on poorly paid, non-tenure-track faculty members to remain in existence. Many of these institutions have no tenure system and appoint only a few full-time faculty members to organize and supervise a large department of part-time faculty. In four-year colleges and universities, large departments that teach many sections of required freshman courses, for example, in mathematics, English, and foreign languages, often have the highest density of non-tenure-track faculty. In some departments, more than half of the course sections are taught by non-tenure-track faculty members and teaching assistants. While graduate-student teaching is increasingly supervised and evaluated, the performance of non-tenure-track faculty members teaching basic courses may not be monitored or reviewed before reappointment.

As the academic programs in community colleges increasingly move toward offering credits transferable to four-year institutions, the need for a wider adoption of the tenure system in these institutions becomes more apparent. Tenure would support a stable faculty and an improved academic reputation. Faculty in these institutions need professional conditions, academic protections, and curricular control similar to those afforded tenure-track faculty in four-year institutions. The continuing increase in the number of students and faculty members in community colleges means that the overall quality of higher education and the profession will be significantly affected by the professional standards that prevail within these institutions. The high percentage of non-tenure-track faculty in community colleges underscores the importance of enhancing conditions for faculty in these institutions for their own benefit as well as for that of the profession as a whole.

The large number of community colleges is indicative of the diverse developments in contemporary American higher education. The range of institutions and the diversity of student needs have resulted in increasingly diverse kinds of faculty positions. Higher education today includes community colleges which offer a mix of vocational training and transferable college credits; private liberal arts colleges; comprehensive colleges and state universities which may have several campuses offering different kinds of degree programs; and the fifty-eight Association of American Universities institutions which comprise the major research universities. Within these institutions individual faculty members may combine teaching and research, do only one or the other, combine one or both with part-time administrative duties, staff clinics, libraries, or laboratories. Given the variety of needs and assignments, institutions should develop more than one model of the tenurable professor. Multiple models for faculty, developed around the kinds of work they do for their institutions, will better serve both the profession and the institutions. The profession and the public need to recognize and reward valued work on its own terms rather than measure faculty against a dominant model of the traditional professor that may be inconsistent with the institution’s own mission for instruction, research, and service to a region or local community.

Growth and Distribution of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

A 1980 study by the National Center for Education Statistics reported that “part-time faculty members now comprise 32 percent of the total teaching force in higher education [excluding graduate students].” In 1986, the AAUP study, On Full-Time Non-Tenure-Track Appointments, reported that “between 10.6 and 12.6 percent of full-time faculty were not on a tenure track,” that “between 25 percent and 40 percent of all first-time junior faculty appointments in 1981 were to non-tenure-eligible positions,” and that “between 40 and 45 percent of all non-tenure-track positions were filled by women. . . .”3  The above-cited 1988 NSOPF survey, which included more two-year faculty and faculty at institutions without tenure, found 20 percent of full-time faculty were off the tenure track. This increases the urgency of the warning in the 1986 report that the substantial increase of non-tenure-track faculty has created a two-tier system that could alter “the outside world’s perception of academe” and undermine the tenure system. The survey results again affirmed the AAUP’s position that with few exceptions there should be only two kinds of appointments for full-time faculty: those that are probationary for tenure and those with tenure.

The average of 38 percent of all faculty who are part time reaches 52 percent of the faculty in community colleges. Less than 5 percent of faculty who are part time are on the tenure track. Seventy-nine percent are classified below assistant professor, for example, instructor, lecturer, or reader. About 90 percent of all full-time lecturers and nearly 50 percent of all full-time instructors are non-tenure-track faculty. Less than 20 percent of the total number of part-time faculty apparently seek full-time positions, though two-thirds of recent Ph.D.’s seek such positions.

Perhaps the key factor in the growth of part-time faculty is the economic advantage for institutions that pay them substantially less than the prorated equivalent paid for comparable work by full-time faculty. Three out of eight part-time faculty members, or nearly 38 percent, earned less than $20,000 from all sources in 1987; and fewer than half earned as much as $30,000 in 1987. (At the same time, it should be noted that nearly one-third of part-time faculty earned $40,000 or more from all sources, while more than 20,000 earned at least $75,000.) As a point of reference, the average salary for full-time faculty was $37,000 for the 1987–88 academic year.4 Some part-time faculty members who combine two or more jobs do so to earn a total salary of two-thirds that of full-time faculty members, but others combine part-time teaching with well-paid careers in other fields. Non-tenure-track faculty are found among the lowest paid and lowest in total earnings of full-time faculty. No survey exists of the stipend paid per course, but the basic academic salary of part-time faculty members is $6,302 of a total income from all sources of $34,275. Our informal soundings found that stipends per course ranged from $900 to $3,500, with $1,500 per course the most common figure.

On the average, part-time faculty members spent 6.5 years at the same institution in comparison with 11.6 years for full-time faculty. Still, more than 62 percent of part-time faculty reported that their appointments did not last beyond the current term. More than half (52 percent) of part-time faculty had other full-time employment. Part-time faculty averaged fourteen hours per week for the academic institution but had a combined workload of forty-four hours from all jobs compared to fifty-three hours per week averaged by regular, full-time faculty.

Although part-time faculty are employed at institutions of all types, the greater the emphasis the institution places on research, the smaller the percentage of part-time faculty it is likely to employ. These figures conceal within them, however, the reliance of research institutions on graduate student assistants to teach introductory courses. About 17 percent of the total faculty in the prestigious research universities are part-time faculty. At doctoral and comprehensive universities combined, the percentage of part-time faculty goes up to 26.4; at comprehensive institutions alone, part-time teachers constitute 29.8 percent of the entire faculty.5 At liberal arts colleges, the part-time figure rises to 32.6 percent. At the two-year institutions, the percentage of part-time faculty reaches 52.1 percent of the total faculty. Public research universities employ proportionately fewer part-time faculty than private research universities, though the actual numbers are greater in the public than in the private universities, because the public universities are so much larger. Of the 119,000 faculty members at public research universities, only 14.4 percent are part time; of the 53,000 faculty members at private research universities, 21.7 percent are part time. Although university faculties may have lighter teaching loads and a heavier research emphasis, the data indicate that an institution’s commitment to graduate programs and research is likely to reduce the institution’s reliance on non-tenure-track faculty. These universities utilize graduate students as teachers, but the ratio of tenure-track to non-tenure-track faculty suggests that public research universities are more likely to have a stable faculty of full-time professors than are institutions in other categories.

The distribution of full-time non-tenure-track appointments also varies significantly by type of institution. Private research and comprehensive universities lead with about 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in full-time positions classified as nontenure track or for which tenure is not available. Public doctoral and comprehensive universities are close behind with 10.4 and 10 percent, respectively.

Liberal arts colleges, a category that includes most of the four-year institutions that lack tenure systems, have 11.4 percent of faculty in full-time non-tenure-track appointments. Almost 13 percent of liberal arts faculty are at institutions that do not have systems of tenure; 25 percent of the public two-year faculty and 71 percent of the relatively small number of private two-year faculty are at colleges that do not offer tenure. Almost 90 percent of all faculty members are at institutions that have tenure policies.

Almost all non-tenure-track faculty are in the lowest ranks. About 90 percent of all full-time lecturers and nearly 50 percent of all full-time instructors are nontenure track. Among part-time faculty, slightly more than half (52.7 percent) are employed at the instructor rank, while another quarter (27.6 percent) are employed either as lecturers or with miscellaneous titles or none at all. More than 27,000 part-time faculty members are employed at the senior ranks of associate or full professor, and almost 10 percent are full professors.
Part-time faculty are disproportionately female. Although men are the majority of part-time faculty in all categories of institutions, women constitute about 42 percent of the part-time faculty compared to 27 percent of full-time faculty. Viewed from another perspective, 43.2 percent of women faculty members work on a part-time basis, while just under 30 percent of male faculty do so.6  Between 1975 and 1985 the percentage of women on the tenure track went from 18.3 to 20.7 percent, while the percentage of women in non-tenure-track positions rose from 33.6 to 40.3 percent.7  The gender disparity is greater, fully two to one, for non-tenure-track positions, where 29.4 percent of female full-time faculty members hold positions off the tenure track compared to only 14.7 percent of men. The number of male part-time faculty rose 10.3 percent between 1975 and 1985; the number of female part-time faculty rose by 54.1 percent during that same period.8 The rapid growth in non-tenure-track appointments of women has had little if any effect on the number of full-time women on the tenure track. It is also disturbing to find that, although similar proportions of white and African-American faculty members are found at institutions without tenure systems (9.1 and 10.2 percent, respectively), the proportion of African-Americans in non-tenure-track positions (15.2 percent) is more than 50 percent greater than that of whites (9.6 percent).

Degree status is an important factor in part-time employment. Overall, part-time faculty are much less likely than full-time faculty to hold doctoral degrees (29 percent vs. 67 percent). In four-year institutions, 55 percent of part-time faculty hold a doctorate in comparison to 89 percent of the full-time faculty. Similarly, fewer than 25 percent of those faculty off the tenure track hold Ph.D.’s compared to 60 percent of tenure-track faculty. Doctoral or professional degrees are held by 28.6 percent of the part-time faculty, while 48.9 percent either have master’s degrees or have taken other graduate study. In public two-year institutions, fewer than 20 percent of either full- or part-time faculty have a doctorate or comparable professional degree.

Full-time and tenure-track faculty are also substantially more likely to have published in the two years preceding the survey. Some 21 percent of part-time faculty and 53 percent of full-time faculty reported publishing at least one refereed article, chapter, or book over the preceding two years. The difference in expectations regarding publication and publication rates is substantial between research and doctoral institutions, where publication may be a professional expectation, and two-year colleges, where it may not be.

Recent trends indicate that some tenure-track faculty are being moved to non-tenure-track positions. This shift is especially prevalent in medical colleges and other areas in which clinical and research faculty are employed.9 Numerous institutions have moved toward the use of five-year renewable contracts to replace tenure-track appointments for faculty members who are not primarily classroom teachers, such as researchers, clinicians, laboratory managers, and librarians. The growth of outside grants to fund research has also produced an increasingly large number of faculty members whose appointments are tied to the duration of the grant and who are not eligible for tenure in their institutions.

Appointing nonteaching clinical and research faculty to non-tenure-track positions is often justified by an institution on the grounds that nonclassroom personnel do not need academic freedom. The AAUP’s Special Committee on Academic Personnel Ineligible for Tenure considered this matter and determined that all full- and part-time faculty who are employed by the institution (in contrast to those doing contract work sponsored by an outside agency), including those whose responsibilities include only research and not instruction, have academic freedom and should receive the protection of the Association. Only researchers housed in universities but funded by outside agencies may fall outside the protections of tenure. The growing trend to place research and clinical faculty of the institution on temporary contracts weakens academic freedom. The public suffers accordingly.

Job security, benefits, and opportunity to advance are the three working conditions that most divide non-tenure-track faculty from their tenure-track colleagues. Fully half of the full-time non-tenure-track faculty expressed dissatisfaction with their job security, compared to 34 percent of tenure-track and 3.5 percent of tenured faculty. Satisfaction with job security fell to 43 percent for part-time faculty. Almost 80 percent of part-time faculty were satisfied with their assigned workload in comparison to 73 percent of full-time faculty. Only 24 percent of part-time faculty were satisfied with their opportunities to advance as compared to 58 percent of full-time faculty. Women were less satisfied than men in all categories, and markedly more dissatisfied in their sense of the opportunity to advance (38 percent and 51 percent, respectively). Lomperis’s study found that among recent Ph.D.’s (those received between 1981 and 1986) in the 1987 labor market, two-thirds were seeking full-time work. Her study indicates that new Ph.D.’s are much less satisfied to be part time than is the group as a whole, which includes all age brackets and types of degrees.

Many institutions prorate benefits for faculty members who have, at least, half-time (twenty hours) appointments. Forty-two percent of part-time faculty who worked more than twenty hours a week reported that the benefits surveyed were available to them, compared to only 11 percent of those who worked fewer than twenty hours a week.10 The figure fell from the overall average of 42 percent for faculty members working more than twenty hours a week in two-year public institutions. Only 16 percent of faculty members working more than twenty hours a week at two-year public institutions have access to medical insurance, and only 12 percent have access to life insurance.

Many non-tenure-track faculty members labor under conditions that hinder the professional quality of their work. Lack of office space or basic equipment is a common problem that plagues their efforts to prepare course materials and meet with students. Non-tenure-track faculty are typically ineligible for research or travel funds, and those who are part time substantially more so. Many institutions that require regular evaluation of tenure-track faculty lack any process for reviewing the performance of part-time and full-time non-tenure-track faculty members. This absence of incentives or rewards for performance speaks bluntly to the marginal status of non-tenure-track faculty within these institutions.

To be off the tenure track in an institution that has a tenure system also usually means being outside the structure of faculty governance and, for most part-time faculty, outside the bargaining unit in those institutions where there are faculty unions. Only 10 percent of part-time  faculty are protected by collective bargaining, as opposed to 23 percent of full-time faculty. The majority of faculty union contracts cover only full-time faculty.11 Not surprisingly, the exclusion of non-tenure-track faculty members from the rewards system and the governance structure leaves non-tenure-track faculty powerless and isolated. Since their attainments and abilities do not accrue toward promotion or tenure, non-tenure-track faculty are often invisible within their departments.

There is little evidence to support those who hope that their accomplishments off the tenure track will result in consideration for a tenure-eligible appointment. Part-time positions are not regularly converted to full time, and non-tenure-track faculty seldom receive any priority consideration when their positions are upgraded. Typically, when a non-tenure-track position is converted to the tenure track, the department advertises nationally. The teaching experience of non-tenure-track faculty members in the pool of local applicants may be interpreted as evidence of failed promise when measured against new Ph.D.’s who are just entering the market. Indeed, some part-time faculty who continue to teach in an effort to sustain a professional life while seeking full-time employment are bitterly disappointed to find that the fact of working part time may be taken as a sign that they are not serious about their careers.

It is essential that the extent and nature of non-tenure-track instruction be a central consideration in reviews by accrediting bodies. Some accrediting agencies do recognize the connection between the professional conditions for faculty members and the quality of education offered by the institution. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools now urges that “criteria for the appointment of part-time or adjunct faculty and their supervision should be comparable as far as possible to the full-time faculty,” and that “provisions for review of teaching and opportunities for professional development should be available.”12 The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) requires “a core of full-time faculty to support each program.”13 The influence of accrediting agencies, professional associations, and collective bargaining agreements can strengthen efforts to improve the stability and professional development of part-time faculty.

The AAUP is concerned about institutions which persist in practices that undermine or destroy the stability of tenure and academic freedom, including practices that exploit non-tenure-track faculty. Institutions that rely heavily on non-tenure-track faculty members to teach undergraduate students undermine the institution’s respect for teaching and the reputation of higher education in the larger society. Institutions exploit faculty members when they appoint numerous part-time faculty in a single department or renew “temporary” faculty  members year after year without offering them raises in pay, access to benefits, opportunities for promotion, or eligibility for tenure.

There are legitimate uses of part-time appointments, for example, to meet unexpected increases in enrollment or faculty vacancies, to provide service in a specialized field, or to develop a new academic program. However, the extensive use of part-time positions or extended “temporary” appointments has become habitual in too many institutions. Basic instructional responsibilities should never depend on faculty who are denied professional consideration and who are exempted from the evaluations that are essential for maintaining academic standards.

Guidelines for Improvement

Improving the professional status of the growing number of non-tenure-track faculty members is difficult in financially hard times and unpopular with most administrations and many faculty members. Still, the AAUP believes that the long-range health of higher education requires that institutions greatly reduce their reliance upon non-tenure-track faculty members, and that faculty members who are appointed to part-time positions should be extended the benefits and privileges of the academic profession. The AAUP’s position about full-time faculty is clear: “With the exception of special appointments clearly limited to a brief association with the institution, and reappointments of retired faculty members on special conditions, all full-time faculty appointments are of two kinds: (1) probationary appointments; (2) appointments with continuous tenure.”14 The possibility of tenure for part-time faculty should also be an option when the need for less-than-full-time work extends indefinitely. Administrators often oppose tenure for part-time faculty because it constrains the budgetary flexibility that makes non-tenure-track appointments attractive to them. Some part-time faculty members oppose tenure for part-time faculty because they fear it would eventually result in the termination of their own services. Non-tenure-track faculty members who usually lack research support often worry about standards of judgment that measure them against tenure-track faculty members who engage in research.

The 1980 AAUP report on part-time faculty recommended: (1) that some part-time faculty members should be eligible for tenure; (2) that security of employment for part-time faculty include regularized appointment practices, reasonable notice, and access to the institution’s regular grievance procedure; (3) that part-time faculty should participate in academic governance; and (4) that the compensation and fringe benefits of part-time faculty should be equitable, perhaps including prorated compensation and equal access to benefits. The report’s recommendation, that “those individuals who, as their professional career, share the teaching, research, and administrative duties customary for faculty at their institution, but who for whatever reason do so less than full-time . . . should have the opportunity to achieve tenure and the rights it confers,”15 echoes that of the 1973 report of the Commission on Academic Tenure in Higher Education, a study jointly sponsored by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges.

Although some institutions have moved in the direction of tenure for part-time faculty, and several are negotiating tenure eligibility as part of collective bargaining agreements, others have developed long-term contract arrangements. Extended term appointments or seniority-based security gives part-time faculty members greater appointment stability. Stability of appointment opens the way for the fuller integration of part-time faculty into the academic profession. Only 6 percent of institutions offer tenure to any part-time faculty, but 22 percent of research universities and 17 percent of doctoral universities report having some tenured part-time faculty. Institutions need continuity in their faculty, and contract arrangements that provide security to part-time faculty ameliorate the problems inherent in an unstable work force.

Institutions which habitually employ many part-time and “temporary” full-time faculty members should calculate how many full-time faculty equivalents they routinely need and begin converting their non-tenure-track positions to full-time tenure-track lines. Whenever possible, the regular academic instruction of students should be the responsibility of faculty members who are responsible for the curriculum and participate in the governance of the institution, and to whom the institution is willing to make the commitment of tenure.

In order to address the growing use of non-tenure-track faculty, the AAUP calls on institutions to work toward achieving the following goals:

  1. Institutions should limit reliance on non-tenure-track faculty. We recommend as guidelines that institutions limit the use of special appointments and part-time non-tenure-track faculty to no more than 15 percent of the total instruction within the institution, and no more than 25 percent of the total instruction within any given department.
  2. In circumstances in which an institution has legitimate needs for a specialized class of faculty in part-time or fractional-time positions, the institution should have policies that provide for their long-term contract stability and for tenure.

The consolidation of non-tenure-track faculty, full and part time, into full-time tenure-track positions requires a long-term commitment of institutional dollars, but failure to make such a commitment will perpetuate the steady erosion of the quality of education in our colleges and universities. Institutions that fail to preserve and advance the quality of education, especially undergraduate education, undermine public confidence in higher education. Accreditation agencies should also regard the growing use of non-tenure-track faculty as a sign of weakness in the health of academic programs. An immediate commitment to equitable professional treatment of non-tenure-track faculty combined with a reduced reliance on part-time faculty is necessary to halt the deleterious effects on the profession that this report identifies.

The alarming extent to which many colleges and universities rely on non-tenure-track faculty means that even institutions which make an immediate commitment to curtail their use of part-time faculty may face an extended period of transition. Institutions should develop plans for a period of transition that project a timetable and numbers for consolidating part-time assignments into full-time tenure-track lines.

Institutions may also need to assess more carefully the cost efficiency of part-time faculty members when their status is subject to change from semester to semester. Institutions face “the growing cost of unemployment benefits for part-time faculty who file and receive these benefits when their services are no longer needed.”16 Nance and Culverhouse found that “at a few urban institutions the money being paid out in unemployment benefits is beginning to approach the total money being paid in compensation for part-time faculty who are teaching. Part-time faculty members have to be employed for only one quarter to be eligible for unemployment checks for up to twenty-six weeks of the rest of the year.” Many institutions are likely to be better served economically by long-term appointments that reduce frequent turnover in their faculty.

Reasonable assurance of continued employment, following successful completion of a probationary period, makes the profession more attractive to men and women of ability and provides for a better-qualified professoriate. Above all, security of employment for qualified faculty safeguards the academic freedom essential to the integrity of teaching and scholarship. The best way to achieve these protections in institutions that rely heavily on part-time faculty is to combine part-time non-tenure-track positions to form full-time tenure-track positions.

To the limited extent that part-time positions cannot be replaced with full-time ones because of the need for part-time expertise or because of unexpected fluctuations in enrollment or funding, the institution should provide continued employment to those remaining part-time faculty found qualified for recurrent appointment. Such assurance may include lengthening the term of appointment and the notice required for nonreappointment, and offering continuing part-time appointments. Such continuing appointments would protect part-time faculty members except from demonstrable declines in enrollment and funding that necessitated reductions in courses and sections offered, and would help to stabilize the faculty, protect academic freedom, and enhance the status of those who work part time.

Professional Standards

Many non-tenure-track faculty, especially those who work part time, express uncertainty about what rights and privileges they are due as faculty members. The AAUP seeks to ensure academic freedom and professional protection for all faculty whether full or part time, tenured or nontenured. To that end we offer the following additional recommendations in an effort to set minimum standards designed to protect the professional standing of all faculty:

  1. All appointments, including part-time appointments, should have a description of the specific professional duties required. Complex institutions may require multiple models of faculty appointments consistent with the diverse contributions appropriate to the institution’s needs.
  2. The performance of faculty members on renewable term appointments, full time and part time, should be regularly evaluated with established criteria appropriate to their positions. Failure to evaluate professional appointments diminishes the institution and the professional standing of the faculty. Evaluation of performance provides essential information for sound and fair institutional decisions regarding compensation, promotion, and tenure. Each institution should define the credentials and the quality of scholarship it requires of faculty members in different academic positions and then should make appointments and decisions regarding compensation and advancement based on the criteria specific to the position. Institutions faced with emergency appointments sometimes employ faculty members whose qualifications fall short of those normally required for tenure-track appointments. In general, institutions should avoid appointing, and should certainly not reappoint, faculty members whose qualifications or performance are so far below the prevailing institutional standard as to make tenure eligibility an impossibility. Any lesser standard shortchanges the students and erodes support for academic standards in the institution and the wider community.
  3. Decisions on compensation, promotion, and tenure should be based on the specified duties of the position. Faculty members appointed to teach entry-level courses should have the opportunity to enhance their professional status and receive rewards based on performance of their defined responsibilities and should not be held to expectations which may prevail for other positions.
  4. Compensation for part-time employment should be the corresponding fraction for a full-time position having qualitatively similar responsibilities and qualifications. Compensation should include such essential fringe benefits as health insurance, life insurance, and retirement contributions.
  5. Timely notice of nonreappointment should be extended to all faculty regardless of length of service. The AAUP’s 1980 report on part-time faculty recommends that part-time faculty “who have been employed for six or more terms, or consecutively for three or more terms,” should receive at least a full term’s notice of nonreappointment. Although it may be impossible to give a full term of notice to faculty members employed for less than three terms, we recommend that every effort be made to notify faculty at the earliest possible opportunity, but in no case later than four weeks prior to the commencement of the next term. Similarly, all faculty members should have reasonable advance notice of course assignments to allow adequate preparation.
  6. Institutions should provide the conditions necessary to perform assigned duties in a professional manner, including such things as appropriate office space and necessary supplies, support services, and equipment.
  7. Non-tenure-track faculty should be included in the departmental and institutional structures of faculty governance.
  8. Part-time faculty should be given fair consideration when part-time positions are converted to full-time positions. The evidence suggests that part-time employment often works as a disadvantage on the job market when applicants are considered for full-time tenure-track positions. Departments should be as scrupulous to avoid this type of discrimination as they are required to be in avoiding other forms of discrimination.

As the number of non-tenure-track faculty appointments grows, the base of the tenure system erodes. The treatment of non-tenure-track faculty appointments is the barometer whereby the general status of the profession may be measured. While the colleague whose performance is undervalued or whose potential is blighted by underemployment bears the personal brunt of the situation, the status of all faculty is undermined by the degree of exploitation the profession allows of its members. Institutions that rely heavily on part-time faculty marginalize the faculty as a whole. Failure to extend to all faculty reasonable professional commitments compromises quality and risks the stability of the profession and the integrity of our standing with the public.


1. The data in this report are from the survey of institutions as part of the 1988 National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics of the Department of Education. The discussion of part-time faculty in this report excludes graduate teaching assistants. Back to text

2. A nationwide survey of part-time faculty sponsored by the AAUP in 1977 provided the data for several landmark studies by Barbara H. and Howard P. Tuckman. The Tuckman studies defined seven groups of part-time faculty, each with different career objectives and conditions. They were “full mooners” (part-time faculty who held a full-time job); “hopeful full-timers” (part-time faculty who held two or more jobs that totaled less than a full-time equivalent); “students” (part-time teachers employed in a different department from the one in which they were pursuing a degree); “homeworkers” (those who chose part-time positions in order to have time for home and child care); “semi-retired” (part time because partly retired); and “part-unknowners” (those who do not fit in any of the above categories). See Tuckman and Tuckman, “Who Are the Part-Timers and What Are Colleges Doing for Them?” Current Issues in Higher Education (1981), for a summary. These categories, though some objected to their labels, were instrumental in recognizing the complexity of a work force that had radically different ways of defining itself. Back to text

3. Academe: Bulletin of the AAUP 72 (July–August 1986): 14a. Back to text

4. Academe 74 (March–April 1988): 16. Total professional earnings of full-time faculty members are about 20 to 22 percent more than their base salary, but many part-time faculty members do not have access to benefits. Back to text

5. The categories of institutions used in the 1988 NSOPF survey include “the 100 leading universities in federal research funds” awarding “substantial numbers of doctorates across many fields”; all other doctoral-granting institutions; comprehensive colleges and universities offering the M.A. degree as the highest degree in liberal arts and professional programs; liberal arts colleges which are “smaller and generally more selective than comprehensive colleges and universities” and offer primarily the bachelor’s degree; and two-year institutions.  Back to text

6. The increase in the number of part-time faculty members and the disproportionate number who are women are similar in Great Britain. Temporary and part-time faculty are now 42 percent of the academic work force. Fifty-three percent of part-time faculty members are female, although only 20 percent of full-time academics are women. The relationship of the growth of part-time and temporary faculty to declining full-time permanent positions is evident in the Universities’ Statistical Records (USR). USR figures show that since 1980 British universities have lost one in ten full-time academic staff. See Amanda Hart and Tom Wilson, “The Politics of Part-Time Staff,” AUT Bulletin 116 (January 1992): 8–9, and Amanda Hart, “The Changing Profile of University Staff,” ibid.,  115 (October 1991): 4–5. The AUT Bulletin is the publication of the Association of University Teachers, which includes members from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Back to text

7. Ana María Turner Lomperis, “Are Women Changing the Nature of the Academic Profession?” Journal of Higher Education 61 (1990): 669. Back to text

8. This may understate the growth in both male and female part-time faculty, since 132 fewer institutions responded in 1985 than in 1975. Back to text

9. The case of the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati seems typical of the pattern. According to Howard Tolley, Jr., “The Medical Center makes five-year renewable faculty appointments in both a ‘Clinical Practice’ and a ‘Research’ track while maintaining a traditional tenure-track system for others” (“‘Qualified’ and Non-Tenurable at U.C.: The AAUP’s Second-Class Members,” Focus 1 [autumn 1990]. Publication of University of Cincinnati AAUP). Back to text

10. The NSOPF selected for its survey medical and life insurance, retirement plans to which the employer made contributions, tuition remission plans, and institutional funds for professional association memberships and travel (p. 199). Only 60 percent of full-time faculty had tuition remission benefits, however, and only 34 percent of full-time faculty could obtain institutional funds for membership in professional associations. Back to text

11. The exceptions are most often found in community college systems, especially in California and Washington. On many of these campuses, the part-time faculty outnumber the full-time faculty in the unit. (See Directory of Faculty Contracts and Bargaining Agents in Institutions of Higher Education 14 [January 1988] for complete listings.) Back to text

12. Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education Standards for Accreditation (Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, 1989), 25. Back to text

13. Letter from Stephen S. Weiner, Executive Director, WASC, to Ernst Benjamin (July 9, 1991). Back to text

14. “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” Regulation 1(b), AAUP, Policy Documents and Reports, 9th ed. (Washington, D.C., 2001), 21. Back to text

15. “The Status of Part-Time Faculty,” ibid., 61. Back to text

16. Guinevera Nance and Renee Culverhouse, “The Hidden Costs of Part-Time Faculty,” Planning for Higher Education 20 (winter 1991–92): 30, 31. Institutions with adverse experience with unemployment benefits must pay higher payroll taxes on all employees. Back to text