The AAUP has taken a look at the latest data on the faculty workforce. We looked at overall trends and broke out data on tenure-track faculty, full-time non-tenure-track faculty, part-time faculty, and graduate student instructors at different types of institutions.
At its best, the tenure system is a big tent, designed to unite a diverse faculty within a system of common professional values, standards, rights, and responsibilities. Tenure protects academic freedom by insulating faculty from the whims and biases of administrators, legislators, and donors, and provides the security that enables faculty to speak truth to power and contribute to the common good through teaching, research, and service activities.
But increasingly, US colleges and universities are hiring faculty outside the tenure system, into less secure positions that generally lack adequate institutional support and are often very poorly compensated. As you can see in the chart below, at all US institutions combined, the percentage of instructional positions that is off the tenure track amounted to 73 percent in 2016, the latest year for which data are available.
While faculty members in contingent positions are often highly qualified and dedicated teachers, they are not given adequate institutional support. And by definition, contingent faculty lack protections for academic freedom.
The trend toward increased contingency among faculty is troubling and it is why AAUP remains an advocate for tenure and the protections it provides, while also working on many levels to improve conditions for faculty working in contingent positions. To dive deeper into the data, read our full report here.