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Universities limit tenured positions

Korean colleges are hiring more professors on nonguaranteed contracts, as government-led college restructuring has been straining budgets, recent data has shown.

According to a survey last week by local media, at least 38.8 percent of newly hired professors this year had nonguaranteed contracts. Considering that few colleges reveal information about their new faculty members’ contracts, the actual number is likely to be much higher.

None of the 32 new professors at Sangmyung University Cheonan Campus, and only one new faculty member of Pai Chai University were on tenure track.

Data revealed by Rep. You Eun-hae of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy showed that the percentage of full-time lecturers who are on nonguaranteed contracts increased from 36 percent in 2010 to 50.8 percent in 2013.

With the government pushing to revamp colleges across the country to reduce the number of students, schools are putting efforts into downsizing. Hiring teachers on nonguaranteed contracts makes it easier to dismiss them if they have to shut down or merge departments.

In Korea, “tenure track” refers to a guaranteed post awarded to professors who have worked at the university for a certain number of years.

The nontenure track professors, however, have to renew their contracts every one or two years, and usually receive lower salaries.

According to Rep. Park In-sook of the Saenuri Party, nonguaranteed professors’ salaries were 49 percent the size of guaranteed professors’ in 2013.

With the government requiring colleges to hire more full-time teachers while advising against raising tuitions, college officials have said they have no choice but to hire nontenure-track professors.

The percentage of full-time faculty members is one of the key criteria in government assessments of colleges. A higher score increases their chance of winning government-led projects.

“Colleges are struggling to get selected in state programs like college specialization projects while facing budget constraints. This appears to be forcing them to hire more nontenured professors,” said Han Cheol-hee, the chief of the National Council of University Academic Affairs Administration,

These professors are often at the bottom of the pecking order in the faculty.

“Those professors cannot join the faculty council within the college, because the other professors won’t accept them as equals,” said an official from a Seoul-based university. These councils directly influence important decisions within colleges such as presidential elections.

By Yoon Min-sik (
Korea Herald Youtube