The number of lecturers working at the University increased 40 percent over the last five years — a number that far outpaces the 9-percent increase in the number of tenured and tenure-track University faculty over that same period of time.
But Provost Teresa Sullivan says that discrepancy hasn’t hurt the education experience offered by the University, arguing instead that lecturers are often in unique positions
to better teach underclassmen in lower-level classes.
According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, an internal system for keeping University data, the number of University professors — including those who have tenure and those on the tenure track — increased about 9 percent, from 1,263 in 2004 to 1,373 last year. Meanwhile, the number of lecturers increased by about 40 percent, from 546 lecturers in 2004 to 766 in 2009.
IPEDS data only counts faculty members whose primary occupational responsibility is teaching. Individuals with courtesy titles who are unpaid or faculty whose primary appointment is administrative, but still have some teaching responsibilities, are not counted in the data.
Likewise, the University’s Human Resources department has compiled data that shows a similar trend. But, unlike the IPEDS study, the Human Resources data includes all faculty members, regardless of their primary job responsibilities.
The Human Resources study showed a 6.7-percent increase in the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty from 1999 to 2009. Similarly, the data showed a 28.4-percent increase in lecturers over the same time period.
At the same time that the number of lecturers is increasing faster than that of tenured and tenure-track faculty, the number of students enrolled at the University is increasing. The University had 38,103 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in fall 2000. By fall 2009, that number increased by about 9 percent to 41,674 undergraduate and graduate students.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily last week, Sullivan said University officials are committed to maintaining an appropriate student-faculty ratio.
“What we really keep a close eye on is the faculty-student ratio to make sure that as the number of students increase,s the instructional staff is adequate as well,” Sullivan said. “But these data do not indicate to me that we’re substituting one group for the other. If anything we’re hiring more of everything.”
Sullivan said even though there are more lecturers teaching classes, the quality of a student’s education is not suffering. She said lecturers tend to teach many introductory LSA courses, adding that most underclassmen take a class with a lecturer at one point or another. However, she said upperclassmen tend to be in smaller, more discussion-based classes with tenured or tenure-track professors.
Sullivan said most of the time lecturers are more equipped to teach the lower-level classes because they are experts in relatively obscure fields of study or in the case of lecturers for foreign language courses, they are often native speakers.
“Often lecturers are actually pedagogically specialized in that content,” Sullivan said.
Additionally, Sullivan noted that though there have been increases in the number of lecturers and professors, the largest spike has been in the number of clinical faculty.
“The big increase is the clinical faculty. That’s gone from 506 (in 2000) to 1,265 (in 2009),” Sullivan said. “That’s a 250-percent increase. So that’s where our real growth is occurring.”
The majority of clinical faculty members teach in the Medical School but a handful teach in the Law School and in the School of Nursing.
Sullivan said there has been an increase in the clinical staff because there has been an increase in the amount of patients at University hospitals.
“For the clinical faculty, an important issue is how much clinical volume there is over at the hospital,” she said. “Right now, the hospital is doing a lot of business and the hospital has been full almost all year — to the point when the H1N1 was strong there weren’t any rooms over there. As long as we have a lot of clinical business there will be a need for a lot of clinical faculty.”