The Job Security Rankings

AAUP releases colleges' percentages of faculty working full and part time, on and off the tenure track.
December 11, 2006

More than 62 percent of all faculty members are off the tenure track, including nearly 30 percent of those with full-time positions, according to an analysis released today by the American Association of University Professors.

The study -- based on federal data -- comes with institution-specific numbers on 2,600 colleges, revealing the exact breakdowns on full- and part-time professors, on and off the tenure track. AAUP leaders hope that the data will spur discussions on campuses nationwide about the use of part-timers and the need to create more full-time, tenure-track positions.

The institution-specific data draw attention to the way some sectors of higher education -- most notably for-profit universities -- rely almost exclusively on non-tenured faculty members. Numerous for-profit institutions -- such as the University of Phoenix Online -- did not report a single faculty member on the tenure track. But the institution-specific data also show wide variation among similar institutions with regard to the use of non-tenure-track faculty members. At Stanford University, for example, only 8.5 percent of all faculty members and only 6.4 percent of full-time faculty members are off the tenure track. At Harvard University, those figures are 56.6 percent and 45.4 percent, respectively.

The AAUP data are based on individual instructors, not class hours, in fall 2005, so they are an indicator, but not a direct reflection, of who is in front of a given classroom. On campuses where tenure-track faculty members teach three or more courses a semester, for example, and many of the part-timers teach only one course, the percentages from AAUP may overstate the role of part-timers. Of course, on campuses where senior faculty members don't teach much, and each part timer is teaching multiple sections, the opposite could be true.

"The real objective is to bring the discussion about the use of contingent faculty to a more concrete level," said John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy for the AAUP. While there have been plenty of national reports, he said, professors and others have not been able to document the full impact of the national trends on individual campuses. "We think new discussions can and will take place," once people realize how few faculty members have real job security, he said.

Many part-time professors are great instructors, Curtis said, but much of the quality of higher education depends on more than what takes place in a classroom. "Who are the people who are going to be around to make decisions about the curriculum? Who is going to be there as students progress through their educational experience? Who is around to form the faculty as a collective at  an institution" when such large percentages are off the tenure track? he asked.

Given the AAUP's historic role as a champion of academic freedom, the issue of faculty job status is crucial, Curtis said. "Our first and foremost concern is the academic freedom concern," he said. "When people are worried about where their next job is going to come from, and when that becomes a constant situation, they really don't have academic freedom."

The AAUP's new study arrives at a time of increased attention to the issues raised by a reliance on part-timers. The American Federation of Teachers is starting a new campaign to seek state legislation that would add to the pay and benefits of part-timers while requiring that greater percentages of classes be taught by professors in tenure-track positions. And the Modern Language Association -- after studying reports that faculty members in English and foreign languages were having greater difficulty earning tenure -- released a report on Thursday stating that those who come up for tenure are, on average, earning it, but that larger and larger percentages are never coming up for tenure.

While the AAUP data are from a point in time, national data from the U.S. Education Department show the growth in non-tenure-track positions.

Changes in Faculty Status, 1975-2003

Faculty status 1975 1989 2003
Full-time tenured 36.5% 33.1% 24.1%
Full-time, tenure-track 20.3% 13.7 11.0%
Full-time, non-tenure-track 13.0% 16.9% 18.7%
Part-time 30.2% 36.4% 46.3%

The AAUP also analyzed more recent data, providing breakdowns by sectors. Within the for-profit sector -- the fastest growing in higher education -- the jobs are definitely off the tenure track. More than 90 percent of faculty positions are part time, and of the 4,245 faculty jobs that are full time, only 13 of those holding the jobs have tenure -- and no one is on the tenure track.

Among the striking figures across sectors are those for full-time faculty members who do not have tenure or the chance to earn tenure. The traditional image of the typical part-timer dashing from campus to campus is being adjusted as more people teach a full load of courses at one place without any chance of earning tenure.

Faculty Status by Sector, Fall 2005

Sector % of Full-Time Faculty Who Are Non-Tenure-Track % of Faculty Working Part Time % of All Faculty Off Tenure Track
--Public 25.2% 23.5% 42.8%
--Private 27.9% 37.0% 54.6%
--For-profit 100% 97.1% 100%
--Total 26.4% 29.5% 48.2%
Master's institutions      
--Public 20.0% 37.2% 49.8%
--Private 31.8% 52.1% 67.3%
--For-profit 100% 93.0% 100%
--Total 24.3% 48.6% 61.0%
--Public 19.7% 40.2% 51.9%
--Private 28.9% 33.2% 52.5%
--For-profit 98.2% 84.6% 99.7%
--Total 28.7% 37.1% 55.1%
Community colleges      
--Public 40.6% 65.6% 79.6%
--Private 83.0% 55.9% 92.5%
--For-profit 99.9% 59.0% 99.9%
--Total 41.6% 65.6% 79.9%
All colleges      
--Public 28.4% 46.1% 61.4%
--Private 30.0% 42.2% 59.5%
--For-profit 99.7% 90.1% 100%
--Total 29.4% 47.0% 62.6%

Activists for part-timers praised the AAUP effort -- and especially the campus statistics. "This is the kind of information that is disturbing and that people really don't want to hear," said Marcia Newfield, vice president for part-time personnel of the Professional Staff Congress, the AFT unit that represents faculty members at the City University of New York (10,000 of them part-timers).

"You cannot be fully a part of the discipline when you are running around from school to school, and you can't make a decent living," she added. Newfield, who has taught English as a contingent faculty member for 18 years and currently works at Borough of Manhattan Community College, said that she hoped the information would increase pressure to create more full-time slots.

Marc Bousquet, a professor of English at Santa Clara University and a member of the AAUP's National Council, said that he thinks "most people will be struck by the magnitude of the problem," and that higher education now uses "a proletarianized, industrialized work force."

While there are a variety of ways campuses can use the information the AAUP is releasing, Bousquet said that a few approaches make the most sense. He said that faculty leaders need to start providing this data to accreditors, who he said have largely ignored the issue, but may have a tougher time doing so when the information is presented. He also said that he hoped this information would encourage more adjunct faculty members to unionize. In the last year, adjunct unions have started or won key contracts at several universities, most notably at New School University, where a pact was hailed for providing job security of the sort part-timers usually can't achieve.

For real progress to take place, Bousquet said, a shift in attitudes is necessary -- and that's why all the new data are important. "I think that nearly all contingent faculty have in their hearts believed that the tenure-stream faculty will be woken up and they will solve the problem. But the contingent faculty need to realize that they need to be agents of change -- they are the faculty," he said.

Some part-time faculty members have worried that a shift to full-time positions would end up costing them their jobs. Bousquet, who has written extensively on labor hierarchies in academe, said he understood that fear. But he added that there was relatively little evidence because it was so rare for colleges to shift positions from part-time to full-time. What there is plenty of evidence for, he said, is the lack of job security for adjuncts.

For many part-timers, "all it takes is one student complaint about being worked too hard" and the adjunct is not hired again, Bousquet said. Colleges don't only save money by relying on part-timers, but they avoid giving due process to those they don't want to hire again, he added.

The AAUP figures also include a category showing the percentage of instructors who are either contingent faculty or graduate students, and those figures are quite high at institutions with large graduate programs. While those figures are also based on reports filed by the colleges with the Education Department, it appears that colleges used different definitions of which graduate students to include, so comparisons may not be precise.

While the AAUP report is designed to focus on those institutions with high percentages of faculty members off the tenure track, other institutions stand out by contrast. Among research and doctoral universities, for example, there are 12 institutions where the proportion of such professors is less than 20 percent, including two without any faculty members off the tenure track. The list includes several religious institutions, some with relatively small graduate programs, but this group also includes some leading research universities.

Research/Doctoral Institutions With Lowest Percentage of Contingent Faculty Members

Institution % of Faculty Off Tenure Track
Immaculata U. 0.0%
Trevecca Nazarene U. 0.0%
Georgia Southern U. 4.0%
Clark U. 6.6%
South Carolina State U. 7.9%
Trinity International U. 8.0%
Stanford U. 8.5%
U. of Pennsylvania 16.1%
Clarkson U. 18.1%
U. of Massachusetts at Boston 18.7%
Fordham U. 19.3%
Widener U. 19.4%

Another 15 doctoral/research universities reported hiring only faculty members off the tenure track. This group included a number of prominent for-profit universities and several freestanding graduate institutions:

  • Alliant International University
  • Antioch University New England Graduate College
  • Argosy University -- Orange County campus
  • Argosy University -- Sarasota campus
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • California Institute of Integral Studies
  • Capella University
  • Fielding Graduate University
  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • Northcentral University
  • Pacifica Graduate Institute
  • Union Institute and University
  • University of Phoenix Online
  • Walden University
  • Wilmington College


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