Inside Higher Ed
by Colleen Flaherty
May 18, 2022
The loss of tenure lines is accelerating. So is the erosion of tenure, by extension, according to a new institutional survey of tenure policies by the American Association of University Professors.
The last such survey of college and university tenure practices, in the U.S. Education Department’s National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, was in 2004. At that time, 17 percent of institutions said they’d replaced tenure lines with contingent appointments in the previous five years.
Today, that figure is 54 percent, according to the AAUP survey, which paints a picture of what’s happened since 2004, when the federal government stopped funding the national survey. The AAUP report notes that there are some problems with this comparison, such as that it’s unknown how many institutions added tenure lines over the same period. The group is nevertheless alarmed by the threefold increase in institutions reporting cutting tenure lines and replacing them with tenure-ineligible appointments, and multiple other studies have tracked the long-term shift away from tenured faculty appointments to contingent academic labor. (Based on federal data from 2019 cited by the AAUP, about 10 percent of faculty appointments are tenure track, 27 percent are tenured, 20 percent are full-time contingent and 43 percent are part-time contingent.)