|▲ Dongguk’s teachers are in hurry to get ready for classes. /Photograph by Yim Se-youn|
Just before the new semester, a number of part-time lecturers at Hongik University have unilaterally received a notice of the termination of their contracts. Since it was close to the beginning of a semester, they faced difficulties in finding new lecturing positions. This is one of the usual hardships a part-time lecturer has to endure. Such unstable and poor conditions of this job have shown no improvement until now. Two years ago, the Ministry of Education announced an amendment to the law on higher education, and this went into effect from January 1st, 2013. This act was made to improve the conditions of part-time lecturers by creating positions called “education exclusive professors” who would also be included as full-time faculty members with the professors, associate professors, and assistant professors. However, such expectations for their guaranteed positions at universities were only a mere fantasy. According to a research conducted by the Ministry of Education in 2013, more than 60 percent of teachers at universities were not full-time teachers, with part-time lecturers making up 41 percent of the number. Given that full-time teachers make up only 38 percent of faculty, schools consisted of more part-time lecturers than the full-time ones. In terms of Dongguk University’s 2014 faculty, there were 545 full-time teachers--professors, associate professors, and assistant professors--and 968 part-time teachers, such as adjunct professors, visiting professors, part-time lecturers, and others. Out of the part-time teachers, there were 550 part-time lecturers. In other words, approximately 64 percent out of 1,513 faculty members were part-time teachers, while part-time lecturers make up 36 percent of the total. Hardships of part-time lecturers Unlike adjunct teachers and invited teachers, part-time lecturers undergo more difficulties. Adjunct professors have their primary jobs, and come to school only to give lectures to students. Visiting professors are the ones school invites, for they are one of the renowned professionals at a particular field of study. However, most of the part-time lecturers consider it as their primary job and as a step to become a full time professor.
1. Insufficient salaries
As part-time lecturers regard their positions as primary job, they sustain their lives with the salaries they get from the school. According to the Ministry of Education in 2013, the average hourly wage of part-time lecturers of overall universities in Korea is 51,000 won. Kwangshin University and Hanzhong University provided only 25,000 won, the lowest, and Kumoh National Institute of Technology granted 75,100 won, the highest. Most private universities offered 45,800 won at average. Given the average salary is approximately 45,000 won for private universities, part-time lecturers have to teach about six classes a semester in order to sustain their lives. By doing so, they earn the monthly payment of about three million won, a similar amount to a new employee with a bachelor’s degree who earns an average of 3,066,000 won as his or her starting monthly payment. Unfortunately, basic income on teaching six lectures for one semester seems implausible, since realistically, getting six is hardly ever possible. Therefore, as part-time lecturers strive to earn money to maintain their living standards, they get less time to do the research and write papers for the appointment to full time professorships. This cycle repeats. A Part-time lecturer “A” who wished to remain anonymous said, “I woke up at 5:00 A.M. to take an airplane for a lecture at local universities, came back to Seoul by taking bus, taxi, and train for other lectures, and arrived home at 3:00 A.M.” Even with such hardships, disregarding economic aspects is impossible because most of the part-time lecturers are in their 30s and 40s with a family to support. For Dongguk University, part-time lecturers get the payment by counting the number of credits and get more when the assigned lecturing hours are longer than the number of credits.
|▲ The part-time lecturer lounge of College of Law, located at the Manhae Hall, consists of a water purifier and a comupter. /Photograph by Yim Se-youn|
2. Poor welfare
Recently, the poor treatment of part-time lecturers has become so controversial that the Ministry of Education has passed the law that introduced “education exclusive professors.” They are required to take charge of nine credits and provided with insurance from the school. This has allowed them to become economically more stable. However, only about one out of ten part-time lecturers is appointed in this position. The majority are still struggling with the poor treatment and conditions they receive from their employers. Dongguk University offers its part-time lecturers access to the library, lounges, and discounts on the parking lot fee. However, some lecturers who use public transportation are dealing with the cost on their own. In terms of lounges, although the school has built lounges, they mostly remain unused because they are often located inside the academic management office of each college. Some lecturers feel uncomfortable staying since some are right next to the office of the dean of that college. Lecturer A insisted, “Most of the part-time lecturers have no place to stay with comfort during the interval between lectures.” In fact, the College of Social Science refused the Post to take photograph of the lounge, saying that it is not clean due to paper work. Dongguk Business School also rejected photographing by saying, “The lounge is not that good. We need to show only good images since even international students are reading the newspaper.” Given that the College of Liberal Art also refused, conditions and environments of most lounges seem poor.
Reasons for poor treatments
Looking at the economic aspects, an increase in the number of part-time lecturers is one of the reasons for the continuing low wages. According to research by Korean Educational Development Institute in 2014, 12,931 people got a doctorate. This is about 1.5 times more than the number from 2008--9,369 people got their doctorates. Professor Song Il-ho of the Department of Economics in Dongguk University said, “The problem is that even with such many highly qualified lecturers, low wages for them are continued because of the increasing number of part-time lecturers.” He then added, “Since the schools have enough or even excessive qualifed lecturers to fill their positions, they do not see the point of increasing the payment.” From a management perspective, schools also have to consider reducing expenses. Such policy is often seen in the local and newly built universities. Professor Song explained that those universities tend to get more “education exclusive professors” than the full-time professors. This is because the Ministry of Education categorizes “education exclusive professors” as full-time professors, despite the fact that they are getting lower payments compared to the full-time ones. Such condition encourages the school to get more of them because the school can both save expenses and increase the official number of professors. This is important as the ratio of students to professors is one of the factors that decides the level of university. Another reason is the inequality in the relationships between the lecturers and the advising professors in the department that they belong to. Most of the part-time lecturers aim to become a full-time professor. In order to become one, they may need recommendation from professors of their department. Such relationships make them even harder to refuse certain inappropriate demands, such as ghostwriting and other trivial requests from the advisors. In fact, there have been several incidents that were disclosed in the news. A professor of Changwon National University, for example, has encountered a suspicion for receiving bribes from part-time lecturers.
What are the solutions?
Although the problem of mistreatment of part-time lecturers is constantly brought up, significant adjustments have not yet taken place. Even though the Ministry created the position called, “education exclusive professors,” only a few out of all part-time lecturers eventually get this position, making it impossible to improve overall condition. Professor Song suggested, “One way to ease the difficulties part-time lecturers face is to increase the number of education exclusive professors.” A more fundamental solution would be increasing the number of appointments for professors. With the constant rise in the number of people with doctor’s degree, it is inevitable that the number of part-time lecturers who are aiming to become professors increase at the same time. Appointing more lecturers to professors can ease the competitions among the lecturers. Last but not least, enough payment should be guaranteed in order for them to better sustain their lives. Despite the fact that they are providing lectures with high quality just as many other professors do, they do not even get sufficient amount of money to maintain their lives and their family. Part-time lecturers take significant roles in universities. Even though there have been efforts to amend the situations, their rights on campus are still very weak. One of the reasons can be a lack of interest of society and students. Part-time lecturer A insisted, “People do not exactly know what we do and what we go through. We hardly have power to speak up because if we do, we may have to quit our job.” Like Lecturer A said, in order to improve the conditions of part-time lecturer, people’s interest is crucial.
Yim Se-youn firstname.lastname@example.org
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