The Contingency Movement: A Longitudinal Analysis of Changing Employment Patterns in U.S. Higher Education

James C. Hearn
University of Georgia

Mary C. Milan
University of Georgia

T. Austin Lacy
Research for Action

September 2012 | Issue #105

The faculty labor force in U.S. colleges and universities is increasingly off the tenure track and, often, working at less than full time. Aggregated data on this phenomenon mask significant differences in institutional commitments to these contingent forms of faculty employment. This report employs comprehensive institutional data for the years 1988 to 2008 to examine the roots of institutional variations in contingent employment. This analysis suggests that for-profit institutions have led the charge into contingent hiring from the late 1980s but in recent years private institutions have made strong and growing commitments to contingency. A number of significant time and sector interactions suggest that the incorporation of non-tenure line and part-time faculty has taken distinctive paths and moved at different speeds in diverse postsecondary sectors. The findings suggest some significant implications for shared governance and the academy.

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