Thursday, November 6, 2008

Effects of Part Time Faculty on Quality Education

A number of institutions of higher learning now work with part time faculty members. This has to do with a number of reasons. In the US, I believe, some of those reasons are tied to the payroll because part time faculty members are not entitled to the benefits that full time members receive. This is also true of a number of colleges in India, where college managements follow a similar practice, which is at best described as abominable in nature.

Part timers are unwilling and unable to devote more time to the students outside the classroom and it is pretty evident that in courses, where there is a high concentration of part time faculty, such problems are bound to exist. Part timers are usually paid by the hour, which is akin to daily wages in the realm of higher educations. As they are paid only to teach classes, it is certainly unjust to expect them to devote more time to students outside the class. The most important work with the students happens not just inside the classroom but outside as well. The students need their teachers in a formal education set-up for a number of reasons. However, in a situation, where a course curriculum is largely taught only by part time faculty, the course may be termed a regular course but it is no different from the distance education mode.

Interestingly, if an institution keeps part timers only to save on employee costs, the full timers tend to feel insecure and they too tend to devote less time to their students. In that situation, the full timers would only do what is necessary for them to keep their jobs intact and not do anything outside the box. However, it is this outside-the-box work, which is quite often contributory to student success.

In this scenario, it would also be unfair to blame the part timers because the academic administrators normally do not treat the part timers pretty well. They are given bad time slots and are given all sorts of duties that no one else wants to do. There is growing evidence that administrators misbehave with part timers as well. There isn't much that a part timer could do because if s/he were to complain to higher authorities about harassment at work or unfair working conditions, they might lose their jobs immediately or they might not find themselves considered for full time tenured positions.