Where the Adjuncts Are

New research identifies the types of institutions most likely to employ part-time professors.
June 27, 2007

Everyone knows that the share of faculty jobs held by part-timers is on the rise. But the share varies by type of institution -- and new research points to patterns on which institutions are most likely to be relying on adjuncts.

New research from the Cornell Higher Education Research Center suggests links between size, public/private status, and the relative share of part-time students. But in many cases, the research found exceptions to some of the trends. The study is based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics and was conducted by Xiangmin Liu, a Ph.D. student in the School of Industrial and Labor relations at Cornell University, and Liang Zhang, an assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University.

The researchers started off looking at the proportion of part-time faculty by control of institutions and by sector, using the previous Carnegie Classifications. (It is important to note that graduate students who also have teaching responsibilities would not have been counted as part-time instructors, so these figures may overstate the proportion of faculty members who are full time.)

Proportion of Part-Time Faculty, by Sector

Classification Proportion at Publics Proportion at Privates
Doctoral/research I 21.27% 26.31%
Doctoral/research II 29.13% 45.73%
Comprehensive I 34.69% 51.55%
Comprehensive II 35.60% 50.42%
Liberal arts I 31.81% 30.35%
Liberal arts II 36.36% 44.85%

In addition to those trends, the researchers found that the following types of institutions were more likely to rely on part-time faculty members:

  • Institutions that pay full-time faculty members well.
  • Institutions in urban areas.
  • Institutions with relatively small enrollments and large proportions of part-time students.
  • Institutions that rely more on tuition and fees for balancing their budgets.


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