The education media have recently highlighted the plight of part-time lecturers within higher education. We have seen several examples of individual academics who are working in one or more university ddepartments, one or more universities, or a combination of both. Because of the financial difficulties of the education market (being felt throughout all levels of the education system) on university deepartments, the part-time lecturer/tutor is becoming a more visible part of university life. The hunt for a full-time lectureship within academia is increasingly becoming more difficult. With this seemiingly becoming the norm for academics of all ages in the late 1990s, this article will attempt to address some of the issues which concern and affect part-time lecturers and tutors.
The advantages of being a part-time lecturer / tutor I would suggest are threefold. Firstly it offers a gateway into academia for lecturers of all ages; secondly, it provides an element of freedom and iindependence from internal departmental politics and thirdly, it enables academics the opportunity to be flexible i.e. being able to teach in different departments and universities.
However, the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. A part time lecturer has minimal contact with colleagues and hardly any job security. The part-time 'contract' so to speak is a verbal rather thann a written one. The money involved is perhaps the most obvious and contentious issue. The most important issue, I feel, regards lecturer / student contact time. At one level, I believe it makes a big ddifference to a student to be able to see and talk to his/her lecturer or tutor within the university. At a more significant level, I believe part-time lecturers / tutors e.g. an individual on campus foor one or two days per week, will have minimal contact time through office hours which is to the detriment of both teacher and student.
There is also a major issue here concerning part-time staff identity. One of the reasons why academics of all ages become part-time is because it gives the individual a sense of belonging. Have you everr thought about going to an academic conference, giving a paper and not actually be affiliated to a university? However, is identity or this sense of belonging enough as we approach the twenty-first cenntury for part-time lecturers / tutors? Somebody recently suggested to me that many departments are running on 'good will' with individuals giving up their time for no payment to become involved in variious activities or taking on extra responsibilities. Is it enough to suggest that part time lecturing and tutoring is simply a consequence of the education market of the 1990s?
I would therefore suggest that the NPC needs to further address, discuss and campaign for more education rights regarding the position of part-time lecturers and tutors for the simple reason that more ppostgraduates are facing up to the challenge and problems associated with moving into academia as part-time staff. The question to pose which affects not just part time lecturers / tutors but universitiies and most importantly students is, how long will this goodwill last?