A popular narrative in higher education today involves the rise of part-time and/or adjunct faculty as an increasingly significant proportion of the total faculty composition. The reasons behind, and implications of, such a trend are many and varied, but no one appears to question the fact that it is happening. Anecdotally, many business schools appear to buy into the idea, but what do the data say?
Figure 1. Five-Year Trends in Faculty Types as Proportions of Total Full-time Equivalent (FTE) Faculty
In the annual BSQ, we ask our member schools to report the numbers of full-time faculty, as well as the full-time equivalency (or FTE) of their part-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). Although there is a very slight decline in the overall percentage of full-time faculty as a component of the total FTE faculty for the schools in the last year, the level of change in the full-time component has not been terribly significant over the past five years, proportionally speaking. Even when we look on a per-school basis, the mean FTE of part-time faculty as a percentage of total FTE faculty for the entire controlled set has moved less than a percentage point during that period.
Now, it is true that in terms of absolute numbers, part-time faculty and GTAs have been increasing much faster over this time period than their full-time counterparts (20.7 percent versus 5.6 percent increases, respectively). I should also note here that the figures reported for the FTE of part-time faculty on the BSQ are not a form of head count per se, but rather the result of a formula based on the amount of work performed by such faculty.
In the years to come, it will be interesting to see whether the data presented here will align more closely with the popular narrative. For now, however, it does not appear that full-time faculty at business schools are yet being replaced wholesale by part-time or adjunct counterparts.