Colleges cut costs with professors on contract

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Colleges cut costs with professors on contract


Mr. Kim landed a teaching job last year at a university in Gyeonggi after earning his doctorate, and then returning to Korea in 2011. His parents were happiest about the news, though Kim was far from it.

“I’m not the kind of professor my parents think I am,” Kim said during a recent meet-up with friends. “Thinking about what could come later is so frustrating.”

His responsibility at the college is to lecture, and he must renew his contract for the position every two years.

“The authority I have and wages I earn are only about half that of an assistant professor,” Kim said.

In return for giving lectures for 15 hours per week, he earns about 32 million won ($29,604) annually.

That’s just 60 percent of an assistant professor’s yearly income at the same school.

Kim added that he has not been called in to join faculty meetings, and he shares an office with another contracted professor.

The number of professors like Kim is increasing at colleges nationwide. And these positions are full-time but non-permanent, accounting now for more than 50 percent of newly employed full-time teaching jobs.

Konkuk University in Seoul employed 26 contracted professors out of 49 new hires this year.

Similarly, at Kookmin University in Seoul, nine of the 12 professors hired last semester had contract status and were only responsible for giving lectures.

Contracted professors make much less than assistant professors. According to data released by Saenuri Rep. Park In-sook, the average annual income for contracted professors working at 71 private universities nationwide in 2013 is 36 million won - less than half of that of assistant professors.

Data also shows that 21 percent of schools surveyed offer those employees less than 30 million won annually.

“Since Yonsei University introduced a system to employ contracted professors in 2003, other schools followed suit,” said Baek Jeong-ha, a member of the Korean Council for University Education.

University officials conduct an evaluation every one or two years to decide whether to renew the contract - another stressor for contracted lecturers. The assessment by the faculty takes up the largest portion of the evaluation.

To raise their research status, some colleges also take into account how many thesis papers a contracted professor publishes during the contract period.

Another contract professor, also surnamed Kim, said one of his colleagues failed to have his contract renewed because the faculty gave him low marks on his assessment after he failed to satisfy the demands of the head of the department.

Some observers blame the government’s college evaluation standards, however, which they argue has influenced the increase in non-permanent positions.

The Ministry of Education looks at the percentage of full-time positions at each school in its records to determine funding and reforms for universities deemed poorly managed.

For its determination, the government considers how many full-time lecturers are employed compared with the number of students, though whether those teachers are on a contract is considered irrelevant.

“To raise the percentage, it’s more efficient to hire two contract workers instead of one regular professor,” a local university official said.

That’s a concern for part-time lecturers, too.

Daegu University, for instance, neglected to assign any lectures to its 50 part-time employees this semester. Instead, they employed 30 contracted professors.

Many experts have also expressed concern that increasing the number of professors in non-permanent positions is detrimental in bolstering a university’s academic reputation.

“The reason why universities in the United States and Europe keep a tenure system is because giving professors a stable status means they can realistically make contributions to improve the school’s academic programs and educational quality,” said Bae Sang-hoon, an education professor at Sungkyunkwan University.


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