A Modest Bump
The number of open faculty positions in English and foreign languages rose by about 3.8 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in 2011-12, according to figures released by the Modern Language Association.
A total of 1,235 positions in English were posted with the association during the last academic year, compared to 1,190 in 2010-11. For foreign languages, the number rose from 1,095 to 1,128
The numbers, from the MLA’s Job Information List, reflect a slow growth in job opportunities, and are still much smaller than the number of openings in the pre-recession years. Open positions in English in the last academic year were 32.4 percent below the 2007-2008 figure, when the number of advertised jobs was at 1,826. Foreign language openings were about 33 percent below the 2007-2008 level.
Tenure-track hiring rose by 28 positions in English and by 34 positions for foreign languages when compared to the previous academic year. Tenure-track jobs in English made up 69.6 percent of the total job ads, while similar openings in the foreign languages made up 55.3 percent of openings. “Before 2009-10, between 75 percent and 80 percent of ads in English and between 60 and 65 percent of ads in foreign languages were consistently tagged ‘tenure-track,’ ” the report said.
Another trend: These positions tend to be advertised later in the academic year. And that’s because departments are having a harder time getting openings approved, said Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA. “It is stretching out much longer,” she said.
Not all openings in English and the foreign languages are advertised in the association’s list, but the reports (and experts) say that the numbers reflect hiring trends when it comes to languages and even the humanities although the list only includes full-time openings.
“All signs show that we are in a period of an upward trend, but it is way down from our historic highs,” said Feal. She said that the ratio of tenure-track appointments compared to non tenure-track jobs continues to decrease and remains a cause of “distinct concern.”
The actual growth in job openings was less than the projected growth rate of 5 percent. This was primarily due to fewer positions being advertised this summer when compared to the last few years, Feal said. And even with the growth, the competition for these open positions remain at an all-time high because of the large number of academics affected by the weak job market.
Feal said that she was also concerned that the nature of academic positions in the languages seem to be changing, with fewer tenure-track positions offered. “Universities have to invest in the careers and the lives of the people they hire,” Feal said. “Institutions must recommit to giving adequate job security and benefits.” She said that tenure-track faculty should be at the core of the student experience at a university.
Teaching undergraduate students, along with research and teaching students how to conduct research, should be at the heart of a university’s mission, she said.