Much has been said (or misstated) about systems of academic tenure in higher education. One of the more popular narratives is that tenure as an established practice is on its way out, for better or for worse. Since AACSB International tracks the numbers of full-time faculty who are tenured, tenure-track, or non-tenure-track in the annual Business School Questionnaire (BSQ), I thought it might be instructive to examine trends over time to see if our data bear out the popular narrative.
Figure 1. Percentages of Full-time Faculty by Tenure Status
As you can see, the proportion of non-tenure-track full-time faculty has indeed been steadily on the rise, primarily (though not entirely) at the expense of the proportion of tenured faculty. While tenured faculty do not appear to be in any danger of losing their majority status yet, it is worth noting that these proportional patterns persist despite a 5 percent overall increase in the absolute number of full-time faculty reported by this controlled set of schools over the past five years. In fact, when looking at absolute numbers, the total numbers of full-time faculty in the tenured and tenure-track categories have each risen by only 1.5 percent over this period, while the number of non-tenure-track faculty has risen by nearly 19 percent.
Figure 2. Percentages of Tenured or Tenure-Track Full-time Faculty, by World Region
Source: Controlled set of 494 business schools that reported tenure status data to the BSQ in all five years. Note: The European version of the BSQ does not ask for tenure data, and there were too few schools in the set from Africa to include in Figure 2.
Looking across world regions, it seems that the trend toward decreasing use of tenured or tenure-track faculty is more pronounced in some regions than in others. The reporting schools from the Middle and Near East even reverse the trend during this period, with growth in the total numbers of tenured or tenure-track faculty, and shrinkage in the number of non-tenure-track faculty. Nevertheless, for all other world regions in which tenure data are collected, growth in the total numbers of non-tenure-track faculty outpaces growth in the numbers of tenured or tenure-track faculty, often significantly.