Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Postsecondary Humanities Faculty
 
Traditional versus Nontraditional Humanities Faculty

In recent decades, the growing role of “nontraditional” (i.e., part-time or nontenure track) faculty in the operation of universities and colleges has been a topic of considerable comment and debate among observers of higher education. The National Study of Postsecondary Faculty tracked the decline in the proportion of full-time humanities faculty employed at colleges and universities (and the corresponding increase in the proportion of part-time faculty) from the late 1980s until the study was suspended indefinitely by its sponsor, the National Center for Education Statistics, after the 2004 round of the study.

Findings and Trends

  • From 1988 to 2004 the proportion of humanities faculty characterized as full-time by their institutions declined (Indicator III-11a). As was the case in most other fields (the exception was business), the greatest decrease in the percentage of full-time faculty in the humanities occurred from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Thereafter, a more modest decline ensued, followed by a slight increase, so that by 2004 just over half (53%) of all humanities faculty were employed full time. This proportion was considerably smaller than that found in engineering and the various scientific fields.
  • In 2004, only education, business, and the fine arts had a smaller share of faculty teaching full-time than the humanities.
  • For some part-time faculty, their employment status was desirable, permitting them to keep a foot in the academic world while making contributions elsewhere. This, however, was more the case in 1999 than in 2004, when the percentage of part-time faculty who preferred part-time employment had declined in all fields—and by 12 percentage points or 19% in the humanities (Indicator III-11b). By 2004, only in the fine arts did a smaller proportion of part-time faculty indicate a preference for their current status.
III-11a: Full-Time Faculty as a Percentage of All Postsecondary Faculty, by Primary Teaching Field, 1988–2004
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Study of Postsecondary Faculty; data accessed and analyzed via NCES’s online Data Analysis System at http://nces.ed.gov/das/.
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III-11b: Percentage of Part-Time Postsecondary Faculty Who Prefer Part-Time Employment to Full-Time, 1994 and 2004*

* The items dealing with desire for part-time work in the 1999 and 2004 surveys were not identical. The estimate for 1999 is the percentage of people who indicated that they worked part-time because they preferred part-time employment to full-time. The 2004 estimate is the number of part-time faculty who responded “not preferred” to a question that asked whether they preferred to work full time. The assumption made here is that these individuals preferred to work part-time, although another possibility is that a certain number of respondents had neutral preferences for employment status.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Study of Postsecondary Faculty; data accessed and analyzed via NCES’s online Data Analysis System at http://nces.ed.gov/das/.

About this DataRelated Indicators
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