A Scoping Review of the Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Literature

Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Management, Economics and Finance

Year: 2023



A Scoping Review of the Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Literature

Otmar E. Varela, PhD




Non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) are now the majority of instructors in higher education worldwide. To illustrate, the 2022 U.S. American Associate of University Professors report indicates that 61.5 percent of faculty hold contingent employment (non-tenure track), where 20.4 percent are part time and 41.5 percent are full time. Studies in other latitudes similarly report that NTTF constitute the major academic labor force in institutions of higher education (e.g., Italy, Gruning & De Angelis, 2021; Australia, Flecknoe, Choate, Davis, et al., 2017). This reality contrasts with research that addresses academic careers. A search in three databases (Web of Science, ERIC, and PsycInfo) using queries associated with “academic careers” (e.g., academic careers, professor careers), returned 7,616 articles. We used a binary coding (yes/no) to identify articles that sample NTTF. Only 44 articles or 0.58 percent of existing publications examine such positions. This study constitutes a much-needed review of the NTTF literature. We map the existing research by weaving together its fragments and presenting a comprehensive view of the field. We place special attention to three areas– experiences of NTTF, career success of NTTF, and the feminization of the NTTF field – that have been the target of most studies. The review also highlights areas of inquiry in need of urgent attention as well as the implications of our review for policy design in higher education.

keywords: academic careers, contingent employment, instructors