Friday, August 21, 2009

The UC Need for Lecturers

Using the most comprehensive and recent data on courses taught in the UC system (, we can gain a better understanding of how dependent the UC is on non-tenured faculty for undergraduate education. According to the standard UC course counting method, which has since been revised, we find four main groups of faculty: 1) Regular Rank, 2) Visitors and Adjuncts, 3) Lecturers, and 4) Senate Lecturers.

Looking at the number of senate faculty in 2004-05, there were 6,161 fte teaching an average of 4.9 primary courses a year (semester campuses are adjusted to fit this structure). In the 30,088 senate classes, there was a total of 1,126,183 students, and if you multiply the number of students by the number of credit hours, you get 4,253,811, which translates into 690 credit units per faculty fte.

If we now look at the lecturers, we find that during the same time period, there were 1,439 fte who taught a total of 13,335 primary courses with 543,371 enrollments. The average number of classes taught per lecturer fte was 9.3 (which is above the contractual limit). Lecturers taught 2,050,570 credit hours for an average of 1,425 credit hours per lecturer fte. This final number is shocking when you figure that the senate average is less than half, which means lecturers teach on average much larger classes with higher unit credits.

The other two categories of faculty are much smaller. For instance, there were only 105 fte Senate lecturers and 298 visiting and adjunct FTE. The lecturers with security of employment taught 860 courses and the adjuncts and visitors combined taught 1,216 courses.

The first thing we should notice is that graduate students are not listed in these groupings, which is amazing since graduate students teach thousands of classes in the UC system. Either the university is just not reporting on the classes graduate student teach, or UC is giving credit to other people for the courses taught by graduate students. In fact, we know that senate faculty are often listed as the teachers of record for courses that are taught by graduate students, and this says nothing about the thousands of course sections taught by graduate students. It is also unclear who falls under the category of Visitors and Adjuncts because non-tenure-track faculty who are primarily instructors are supposed to be in the lecturer's unit. While there are some true visiting faculty, in the past, we found that many visiting faculty were visiting from nowhere and that they should actually be called lecturers.

According to this same report, senate faculty teach 48% of the undergraduate courses, while lecturers teach 28%. However, a more important statistic should be the number of students multiplied by the number of credit units. We do not have these figures, but we can determine that since half of the courses taught by senate faculty are graduate courses, and only 7% of the courses taught by lecturers are graduate courses that lecturers are teaching more than 50% of the total undergraduate student credit hours, and this statistic does not take into account all of the graduate courses that are being credited to senate faculty.

The use of lecturers and graduate student instructors in the UC system is a hidden secret that needs to be exposed. Essentially, by not accounting for graduate student instructors, the UC has been misreporting its classroom activity to the state and the federal government. Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse because in an effort to give credit for non-primary classes, the UC has decided to count in the new course counting method, all of the individual and independent studies that were not considered courses in the past. While faculty should get credit for this work, the new way of counting these courses distorts all of the UC statistics.


  1. Interesting numbers. So when dozens of lecturers are laid off, the university will either have to assign their courses to tenure track faculty (ha!) or to graduate students (there won't be nearly enough)--or they will have to require fewer courses for graduation.

  2. Lecturers really are the only ones doing the teaching in the UCs. From personal experience, research professors are simply awful in lecture as they rush through their classes and appear completely indifferent to their students outside of the classroom. Graduate students are also rather unreliable as some passionately assist in their courses while others drudge through the 50 minute discussions. Lecturers seem to be the only ones who are concerned with student success and aquisition of knowledge.

  3. Being an Art student, I can't really say who are the best lecturers, but having multiple studio courses, I rely a lot on both my professor and the t.a. (graduate student). I suppose it has to do with the small size of the studio course, but in my experience I have had t.a.'s that I trusted more than the professor.


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