Does Having Part-time Faculty Undermine the Capabilities of Students?

Abstract

There has been an increase in demand for part-time faculty members during the past couple of years. This increased demand can be attributed to the financial aspect and flexibility of working conditions. Due to a decrease in subsidy and subsequent increase in the number of students, educational institutions have resorted to cost-cutting methods; employing part-time faculty members is one of them. By employing part-time faculty members, educational institutions also get the flexibility to adjust the progress of the curriculum.

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The educational institutions might be benefitting from such employment but the ultimate losers might be the students who have to be content with a substandard education. There is a need to modify the norms pertaining to the employment of part-time faculty members in a manner such that only the candidates having the requisite qualification and experience are appointed.

Problem Statement/Research Questions

Several reasons have been associated with the problems faced due to the appointment of part-time faculty in educational institutions. If such reasons are categorized, we get four main topics to ponder upon. Firstly, the importance or status of the part-time faculty, secondly their exploitation, thirdly their job satisfaction, and lastly the educational problems faced by institutions due to them (Pankin & Weiss, 2011). The main concern of this proposal is to assess whether appointing part-time faculty undermines the capabilities of students or not and then come up with recommendations based on the research findings. This particular problem is linked to all the above-mentioned topics and needs a thorough discussion.

The research questions for this study are as under:

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of appointing part-time faculty in educational institutions in Saudi Arabia?
  2. Does having part-time faculty undermine the capabilities of students in Saudi Arabia?
  3. Why has the employment of part-time faculty increased over the years in Saudi Arabia?
  4. Are the educational institutions legally bound to hire part-time faculty members in Saudi Arabia?
  5. Is the educational qualification of part-time faculty members commensurate with the required standards in Saudi Arabia?

Hypothesis

  1. Having part-time faculty undermines the capabilities of students in Saudi Arabia.
  2. The prevailing norms of educational institutions tend to exploit the part-time faculty members in Saudi Arabia.
  3. The part-time faculty members are not given their due status in Saudi Arabia.
  4. The standard of education is being compromised by the appointment of part-time faculty in Saudi Arabia.
  5. In order to impress their students, part-time faculty members tend to give better grades even to the under-performing students in Saudi Arabia.
  6. Educational institutions have legal binding to hire part-time faculty members in Saudi Arabia.

Significance

The topic of this research is of great significance due to the fact that in spite of the awareness about the problems being faced due to the part-time faculty, educational institutions have not learned a lesson and are still employing them in greater numbers. Over the years, the concept of part-time faculty has gained popularity and educational institutions are employing part-timers to a greater extent as compared to previous years. The percentage of part-time faculty members is increasing with each academic year. From 22 percent in 1970, it increased to 43 percent in 1998 (Baldwin, n.d., para. 2). The following table depicts some interesting figures pertaining to the teaching staff at various universities in Saudi Arabia:

Figures pertaining to the teaching staff at various universities in Saudi Arabia

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In some countries, the figures are astounding, for example, in Latin America, 70% of the faculty members are part-timers (Guttenplan, 2012). This particular issue has become of greater significance in higher education, where two-third of the faculty members are part-timers (Costanzo et al., 2007).

It is also amazing to notice that the part-timers do not have the requisite qualification to teach the students of higher education; but even then, the educational institutions employ them. According to the results of a survey conducted by James Monks, at least 44% of the faculty members are part-timers. A striking revelation that the survey results made was that among these part-timers, only 27% had the requisite qualification such as a doctorate. On the contrary, almost 67% of the full-timers had the requisite qualification (Monks, 2009). The survey also revealed that almost half of the part-timers had another job that was full-time. A point to ponder upon is that when a person is already working full-time (elsewhere) how can he/she devote time and energy to another job and that too when the job relates to education.

There are various reasons for this augmentation in the employment of part-time faculty members. Some of the important ones include a decrease in the subsidies pertaining to higher education, the full-time faculty members being old, and the saturation of qualified people in various fields (Baldwin, n.d., para. 5).

Over the years, the subsidies being given to the educational institutions (by state and Federal governments) have decreased substantially. However, the number of students has increased over the years and as such, the educational institutions, in an endeavor to minimize their costs, prefer hiring part-time faculty (Naquin, 2001). The plus point with the part-timers is that they don’t demand much (probably due to their urgent needs) but that is altogether a different topic.

It’s okay to have part-time faculty but educational institutions should ensure that the ultimate motive of providing quality education is not defeated. On the contrary, it has been observed that employing part-time faculty has a negative impact on the students. This happens due to the fact that the part-time faculty members don’t have full academic support and are not even members of any committees (that evaluate the performance). Such part-time faculty members are evaluated by the students and the management considers such evaluations authentic. Due to their lower wages and less academic freedom, such part-timers have a tendency to avoid extra burdens on themselves.

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As such, they prefer fewer writing assignments to students. Moreover, since their evaluation is done by the students they always want to be in their good books. Even if a student is not performing well, they give him/her good grades so that they can have a good evaluation (Miller, 2001). In such a situation, one can easily presume the standard of education.

Another issue is the mentality of the part-time faculty members. It should be understood that a person works well only if he/she is given due importance. In the case of part-time faculty members, the situation is different. It is acceptable that the demand of part-timers has increased over the years but unfortunately, their status has not changed; they are still receiving a step-brotherly treatment (DiGiovanni, 2008).

Since the part-time faculty members are not permanently employed at one place, they keep on shifting as per their needs and preferences. As such, they gain a lot of experience as far as dealing with students from different cultures is concerned. Owing to this feature, they gain expertise to deal with students in a perfect manner. But one should understand that simply dealing with the students doesn’t guarantee better education. Part-time faculty members have become an important part of any educational institution and as such, it has become imperative to ascertain the credentials and the knowledge of part-time faculty members (Palmer, 2007).

Objectives

The objectives of this research are manifold that includes the following:

  1. This research aims at identifying the advantages and disadvantages of appointing part-time faculty in educational institutions in Saudi Arabia.
  2. This research aims at establishing that having part-time faculty undermines the capabilities of students in Saudi Arabia.
  3. This research aims at establishing that the employment of part-time faculty increased over the years in Saudi Arabia.
  4. This research aims at establishing whether educational institutions are legally bound to hire part-time faculty members in Saudi Arabia.
  5. This research aims at assessing the educational qualification of part-time faculty members in Saudi Arabia and to ascertain whether it is commensurate with the required standards of the country or not.

Related terminology

  • Academic year: Academic year is the period during which students are imparted education pertaining to a certain level. All schools, colleges, and universities have academic years. The start and end (months) of an academic year are different in different parts of the world. Some academic institutions divide their academic years into semesters.
  • Doctorate: Doctorate is a degree in Ph.D. This is considered to be an advanced program that requires three years of education in the related field after the completion of a master’s degree. Achievers of a doctorate degree (after having done research in a specific area) are considered to be experts in their respective subjects.
  • Full-time faculty: Full-time faculty consists of teaching professionals who are permanent employees of an educational institution. Such professionals are assigned key jobs, for example, department heads are appointed amongst such professionals. Such faculty members are appointed to the academic committees as well. Full-time faculty members are entitled to avail tenure system.
  • Part-time faculty: Part-time faculty consists of teaching professionals who are not employed on a permanent basis. Such professionals are not assigned to any specific department and/or are not given any specific portfolio. These professionals are given responsibility for a specific subject only. The part-time faculty members are not entitled to avail the tenure system.
  • Required standards: The required standards are the educational standards set by the government for various levels of education. In order to get certification or license from the government, it is imperative for any educational institution (within the country) to adhere to the specified standards of education.
  • Requisite qualification: Requisite qualification is the qualification required by organizations (here, the educational institutions) for a candidate to qualify for a specific job.
  • Subsidy: Subsidy, in the academic field, is the funding provided by the state and Federal governments to educational institutions. Recent years have witnessed a decrease in the subsidies being given to educational institutions.

Time and location scope

Considering the problems of employing part-time faculty, the Supreme Education Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has specific and strict guidelines for such employments. The guidelines are more relevant for higher studies. The appointments of such faculty members are to be made according to their qualifications and experience in relevant areas (Supreme Education Council, 2009). Considering the importance given to part-time faculty by the country’s Supreme Education Council, the researcher proposes to conduct the study in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It will be the endeavor of the researcher to consolidate the research work in some reputed universities so that the required number of responses can be achieved.

The proposed time required for this study is three months. During the initial preparation for the research, the researcher will need to submit a proposal of the research to his instructor. During the preparation of such a proposal, the researcher will refer to various authentic sources and gather appropriate and significant information pertaining to the topic. The most significant literature will be shortlisted. Two questionnaires will be prepared – for the part-timers and the students.

The part-timers and students will be approached with a request to participate in the survey. Once the proposal is approved, the researcher will start writing the research paper. Meanwhile, the survey will also be conducted. All the shortlisted literature will be studied thoroughly and important information will be incorporated in the research paper. Once the research paper is completed, the same will be submitted to the instructor for comments and approval.

Suggested research methodology

The research will use qualitative as well as quantitative research methods to arrive at a suitable conclusion. Initially, two sets of questionnaires will be prepared; one for the students and the other for the part-time faculty members. A reputed university in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be identified from where the survey will be conducted. Students and part-time faculty members will be contacted and requested to take part in the survey. The target of this survey will be to persuade at least 200 students and 50 part-time faculty members to answer the questionnaire. It is expected that all the contacted persons will not be willing to participate in the survey.

As such, at least 250 proposed students and 75 proposed part-time faculty members will be contacted so that the expected number of participants is achieved. A suitable male-female ratio will also be maintained in selecting the respondents. The researcher will also ensure that the selected students are from different levels and courses. This will enable us to have a wide understanding of the topic. Questionnaires for both surveys are included in appendix 1. The collected data will be reviewed for an appropriate outcome.

In addition to the online research and the questionnaires, the researcher will also assess the performance of the part-time faculty members. The researcher proposes to perform such an assessment by interviewing the concerned people such as the students, the part-time faculty members and the management. The researcher will also seek to look at the evaluation reports that have been made by the part-time faculty members. Such evaluation reports will be judged whether they are correct or not. The judgment will be possible by talking to the students whose evaluation reports have been considered.

The participants will be assured of complete ethical consideration while dealing with the privacy aspect of the provided information. The study would keep its passionate attention on two ethical issues that are a representation of truth as well as the confidentiality of the respondent group as a standard norm of qualitative research. The truth alignment would assist the researcher to avoid any bias and the confidentiality would strengthen the freedom of expression by the respondents regarding the current scenario and the impact of employing part-time faculty.

Data Analysis: Since the outcome of the survey will be of great significance for the research, it will be the endeavor of the researcher to ensure a high level of accuracy. Moreover, it is understood that some of the respondents might not be well informed about the topic and its significance. As such, more emphasis will be put on the answers of well-informed respondents. All the answers will be thoroughly discussed, analyzed, and represented graphically using Microsoft excel.

Conceptual framework

Following is the conceptual framework of this research:

Conceptual framework

References

Baldwin, R. (n.d.). Part-time faculty members – Reasons for growth of part-time faculty, who are the part-time faculty? Web.

Costanzo, R., Drury, D., Arcilla, A., Thompson, C., Smith, M., Wilk, V. (2007). Part-time faculty: A look at data and issues. NEA Higher Education Research Center, 11(3), 1-11.

DiGiovanni, N. (2008). Adjunct and part-time faculty issues. Web.

Guttenplan, D. (2012). How much is a professor worth? Web.

Miller, R. (2001). Use of part-time faculty in higher education: numbers and impact. Web.

Monks, J. (2009). Who are the part-time faculty? Web.

Naquin, D. (2001). The increasing reliance on part-time faculty: A problem with legal implications. Virginia Community College System, 6(1), 1-9.

Palmer, S. (2007). Critical thinking dispositions of part-time faculty members teaching at the college level. Ann Arbor, USA: ProQuest.

Pankin, R., & Weiss, C. (2011). Part-time faculty in higher education: A selected annotated bibliography. Web.

Supreme Education Council. (2009). MA program in economics description. Web.

Appendix 1

Questionnaire for the survey – students

  1. Are you willing to participate in this survey?
  2. What do you study?
  3. In which year are you?
  4. What subjects do you have?
  5. Are you a regular attendee at the university?
  6. How many periods do you attend in a day?
  7. How many different teachers teach you?
  8. Are you aware of the terms ‘part-time faculty and ‘full-time faculty?
  9. If yes, how many part-time and full-time faculty members are there in your university?
  10. How many part-time and full-time faculty members teach your class?
  11. Are you aware of the educational qualification of the part-time and full-time faculty members?
  12. According to you, what is the importance of appropriate educational qualifications of the teachers?
  13. According to you, how many times, in an academic year, are you taught by new teachers?
  14. Are these new teachers part-time or full-time faculty members?
  15. How well do you bond with your teachers?
  16. Do you feel that the change of teachers during an academic year hampers your education?
  17. Are you satisfied with the quality of education being imparted to you by the part-time faculty members?
  18. Do you feel that your university is compromising the standard of education by appointing part-time faculty?
  19. Are you aware of the reasons why your university appoints part-time faculty members?
  20. Would you like to give any suggestions on the appointment of part-time faculty?

Questionnaire for a survey – part-time faculty members

  1. Are you willing to participate in this survey?
  2. Are you a part-time faculty member? Proceed further if the answer is yes, otherwise decline the participant.
  3. What is your qualification?
  4. Since how many years have you been in the teaching profession?
  5. Do you frequently change the institution where you teach?
  6. Do you feel that you are being given your true worth?
  7. How many part-time faculty members are there in your institution?
  8. How many full-time faculty members are there in your institutions?
  9. What, according to you, are the requirements for being appointed as a part-time faculty member?
  10. If given a chance, would you be interested in becoming a full-time faculty member?
  11. Please specify the reasons for both affirmative and negative answers.
  12. Do you feel that you are giving your best while imparting education?
  13. How often do you conduct evaluations of students?
  14. Do you practice favoritism while evaluating the students’ performance?
  15. Is it true that your performance is evaluated by your students?
  16. How much compensation do you get for your services?
  17. Do you feel that the compensation that you get is appropriate?
  18. If not, please specify the reasons.
  19. Are you aware of the compensation being paid to the full-time faculty members?
  20. Do you feel that the management is being partial in its approach to the part-time faculty?
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