Survey: Provosts not afraid of adjunct unionization, will keep relying on non-tenured faculty

Many say economic downturn still affecting their schools

A survey of provosts shows that many will continue to rely on adjunct faculty as they continue to deal with hardships stemming from the Great Recession.

For the 2015 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers by Inside Higher Ed, editors in conjunction with Gallup collected responses from 624 provosts and officials of equivalent positions. Answers were anonymous, but grouped by institution to allow sector-by-sector analysis.

Results found that although the economy as a whole may be improving nationally, within the higher education industry those gains come for only a few states.

Overall, more provosts at private institutions than at public ones expressed positive feelings about their schools' economic status:

  • 38% of provosts at private schools agreed the economic downturn is "effectively over" at their school, but only 25% of those at public schools did.
  • 47% of provosts at private schools but just 35% at public ones said their schools' financial status had improved over the past year.
  • 24% of public institution provosts predict they will trim their academic program offerings by the end of this school year, compared with just 18% from private institutions.

States increase higher ed funding, but barely

Partially because of these financial worries, many institutions are relying on adjunct professors in an effort to trim costs, and provosts largely reported that they expect this trend will continue. Just one-third said they expected to see a change in the use of adjunct professors—but of those, twice as many say they expect to rely more on adjuncts, not less. 

As use of non-tenured faculty expands, more are adjuncts beginning to organize. The survey found that, as in past years, administrators remain skeptical of higher education unions' ability to help their members in areas such as job security.

However, those in at public institutions were more likely than their private counterparts to say unions will make a difference for their members (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 1/22).

The takeaway: Provosts expect they will keep relying on adjuncts—despite the unionization movement—as their institutions continue to deal with effects from the economic downturn.


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