Vol. 4. No. 4 F-1 December 2000
Return to Table of Contents Return to Main Page

***TESL-EJ Forum***

On the Status of Adjunct Teachers Around the World

At the college and university level in the United States there are many ESL instructors who are referred to as "Part-time Faculty" or "Adjuncts." However, this term is used to refer not only to those who may be teaching less than a full-time workload at their institution, but to any and all instructors who, however many hours they are teaching (and it may at times be *more* than a full-time workload), have

  1. less job security,
  2. fewer (if any) benefits (such as paid vacation, health care, pension, and sick leave), and/or
  3. a lower pay rate.

Most often the hiring of part-time instructors is done by the institution to save money, not because it is educationally sound nor because the "part-time" instructors themselves wish to have this particular status. Most frequently, it is detrimental not only to the instructors themselves but to their students and to their programs and institutions.

The prevalence of this problem is such that Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a professional organization with with approximately 16,000 members in 140 countries, passed the following resolution in August 2000:

"Be it resolved that: TESOL advocate that institutions and programs that provide ESOL instruction make a concerted effort to ensure equitable treatment of part-time faculty.

"Be it further resolved that when institutions and programs that provide ESOL instruction employ part-time faculty, the faculty:

  1. be provided with adequate working conditions, salary, health benefits and pensions in fair proportion or parity with those available to full-time instructors;
  2. be accorded a full-range of professional responsibilities, including participation in determining program policies and planning courses, and that they be appropriately compensated for these responsibilities;
  3. receive financial support for conferences and for other opportunities of professional growth and development;
  4. and receive full professional status and are recognized with respectable rank, job security, orientation, review, promotion, professional development, and other privileges accorded to full-time instructors.

"And be it further resolved that: TESOL will communicate its position on appropriate compensation of part-time faculty to TESOL members, TESOL affiliates, organizations such as the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, and local, national, and international agencies that oversee educational policies, through the use of news media, publications, Web sites and other appropriate means.


"ESOL part-time faculty are vital contributors to the instructional mission of every major university and college. ESOL part-time faculty teach courses that meet the most fundamental requirement of their students in pursuit of their educational goals. The courses they teach are deemed to be necessary conditions for ESOL students to become successfully educated by the institution. These institutions of higher education publicly profess to be committed to the development and maintenance of sound academic programs, [-1-] distinguished faculty, institutional diversity, and an open and stimulating environment for learning, teaching, research, and service to the public. These institutions also actively seek an international student body, encouraging attendance of scholars and students from throughout the world in order to establish and promote themselves as institutionally diverse.

"Although ESOL part-time faculty make valuable contributions to their universities and colleges, they do not accrue credit toward nor are eligible for tenure at universities and colleges and remain excluded professionally from the faculty assembly. Although many part-time instructors have academic credentials and professional experience equal to those of full-time instructors, the conditions under which these part-time instructors are employed define them as non-professionals. As a result, the academic quality, ESOL instructor's morale, productivity, and professional development are detrimentally affected by the inappropriate working conditions of part-time instructors. The overuse of part-time faculty particularly found in ESOL programs that serve these institutions has become an egregious abuse. These institutions frequently and excessively employ faculty in part-time positions for ESOL programs as a cost-saving device by compensating with low hourly wages that do not cover office or class preparation time; eliminating health and pension benefits; and excluding part-time ESOL faculty from professional opportunities, services and benefits typically afforded to full-time faculty. In addition, the overuse of part-time instructors on hourly pay, without health benefits and without teacher substitution rights creates a public health concern when illness occurs. Furthermore, serious issues of academic freedom are spawned when institutions rely exclusively on part-time faculty who are without job security and grievance rights."

An on-going problem in the United States, this type of employment situation appears to be paralleled in a number of other countries, though not all. What follows is a series of comments, insights, and reports on countries other than the United States. The list of countries is far from complete, as the information in this column was dependent on contributors volunteering information. Further, these comments and data are based on the personal experience of instructors, and information on any one country may consist of extracts from several contributors. As not every correspondent is still teaching in the country, some information may possibly be out-of-date. Further comments, corrections, or explanations concerning these or other countries is welcomed by the editor of this column.

Thanks (in alphabetical order) to Kate Baldus, Christiane Bongartz, Cristin Boyd, Christine Wright Burgoyne, Zelis Çoban, Meltem Coskuner, Wendy Desmonde, Shahla Garayeva, Melinda Gleeson, Sören Johnson, Kathi Kitao, Connie Miller, Amy Minett, Holly Holder Sanchez, Thomas Simmons, Bill Snyder and Roberta Wedge for their contributions.

Karen Stanley
Editor, TESL-EJ Forum [-2-]

Presented in alphabetical order:


Below are the conditions for ESL teachers in higher education and in private colleges catering to adult overseas students and/or migrant students. In Australia we use the following terms.

Permanent Teachers (very few positions like this are available nowadays - acceptable pay and conditions. However, generally the pay scale is below that of primary and high school teachers.)

Contract Teachers ( for a specified period of employment - anywhere from 3 months to 3 years - most frequently probably 12 months - they may be full or part time. While employed they generally get the same pay and some of the conditions of permanent staff.)

Casual Teachers (usually have regular hours (full or part time) but may be dismissed without notice as student numbers fluctuate).

Permanent staff may be reluctant to leave their jobs because there are so few other jobs to go to that offer the same conditions. Generally CONTRACT staff are fairly safe in their jobs unless there are major shakeups - like a huge drop in students numbers. Casual Staff - and most staff are casual - get poor pay for the most part and can't use their job to get housing or other loans. It's a very sad situation. Pay rates differ greatly between the different insitutions. The range of pay seems to vary between $25 AUD per hour and $50 AUD per hour. My friend recently lost his job after his contract expired. He has a house mortgage and so needed income quickly. He took the first job that came up (casual). He is getting paid less per hour than I was when I was a first year teacher 15 years ago!

Some people stay in Casual employment for years. That means that they are not in a position to live like an adult and take out loans. They have no financial credibility because their employment may cease tomorrow. This may suit some who are not the breadwinner in their family, but for others it is very difficult.

Another factor related to pay and conditions is the hours that are considered full time. This seems to vary from 18 hrs face to face per week in some institutions through to 25 hrs face to face per week in others. The latter leaves little time for lesson preparation.

In Australia we are competing with colleges in England, Ireland, America, NZ etc. and all seem to be undercutting each other. This inevitably means apalling wages for teachers.

The only way to remedy the situation is for all teachers to boycott jobs at colleges that pay less than an agreed amount. But of course, when the wolf is at the door, teachers will take what they can get.

So, yes, at present in Australia, teachers are certainly being exploited. Conditions are worse now than they were a few years ago. [-3-]


In Azerbaijan, there are also part-timers, called in Russian "po-chasovnik" (or "temporary hourly"). I don't have a term for full-timers. The hourly workers cannot receive as many hours as full time workers (240 per term versus 500 per term) and are paid less per hour than the full-timers. They also are the first dismissed when there are not enough students.


I lived and worked in Bangladesh last year and there there was also a distinction between full and part time teachers and part time meant the same things as [in the US]. Both groups were referred to in the same way that we [in the US] do..."full-" and "part-timers."


In Chile, I was able to get a full time contract with minimal benefits. I could pay into a better health insurance policy. However, a work visa is EXTREMELY rare for English instructors in institutes and virtually impossible at the U level with a Fullbright.

In Chile, you could work as many hours as they had if you were "illegal" and willing. As a contracted employee, I worked about 35 hours a weeks (with about 20 contact hours) and was paid for prep time.

I did not hear the issue of full-time versus part-time come up during my time there.


In some of the Middle East - places like Egypt - they have the disparity between "local hires" and "foreign hires." They don't go by the fact that you are a foreigner or a local person, but by whether they hired you within the country or not. For example, at the American University in Cairo, if you are living in Cairo already for whatever reason, you will probably be considered a "local hire." You would receive the same salary as a foreign hire, but no housing, no tickets, no health care, no vacation or sick pay...none of the perks that you normally get overseas. Rents for foreigners are quite high and could end up taking the majority of your salary. Survival may depend on giving additional private lessons. Fortunately you can make a lot of money doing private lessons in Cairo once you have the contacts. But, that means that you really need to have more than one job to live just as happens in ESL in the US.

I don't believe this situation occurs all over the Middle East. Most places you couldn't get "local hire" jobs unless you were there as the spouse of a person who had a job of some sort, and presumably the benefits that went with that contract. Then it would be more similar to the situation in the US - part-timers - salaries with no benefits. Actually in the Emirates, the HCT (and presumably the Zayed U) system gave the local hire teachers exactly the same benefits as foreign hires. But, when they hired "spouses" of men who were also on Emirates government contracts, they did not allow people to "double-dip" from the system. (but you can't really argue with that...). I know people who used the HCT benefits and their husbands in private industry were able to take cash in lieu from their employers. All in all, the Gulf countries seem to be very equitable as relates to this problem for the most part. [-4-]


In Germany, at the university level, professorships are always tenured - one becomes a lifetime state employee. But there aren't really that many professorial posts, and there have been lots of cuts in personnel. So a lot of the teaching is done by lecturers etc. who are on temporary contracts. While they may receive full-time salary and benefits, or receive pro-rated salary and benefits if they are not teaching full-time, the tricky thing about those is that they can't get renewed easily, because the employee might then sue the university for permanent employment. In other words, they don't renew these contracts. There are also no assistant professorships - so at the assistant level an instructor hopes for temporary contracts and a shot at the rare professorial post. Don't know what becomes of those that don't succeed - often lifetime part-timers moving from one job to the next, I suppose.


In Hungary, there are various titles (seemingly based on level of education and years of teaching experience) representing different types of full-time positions. These positions vary in the number of teaching hours required and the pay rate.

There are also such people called "Hour-Givers" who, as the title suggests, are paid on an hourly basis and who have no extra benefits or perks (remembering of course that the health care system here is socialized and all teachers are officially off in the summer). There aren't that many additional benefits (occasional bonuses, transportation discounts, meal tickets and the like). I believe that these people would be the only ones who fall under the category of "part-time employees."

Simply put, from what I've seen the disparity grows exponentially according to one's title. That is, the lower you are on the scale, the more your workload and the lower your pay.


Israel is similar to the US, but at least there's national health insurance, so that's not an issue if you're an Israeli citizen. However, if you are not an Israeli citizen, you can teach in Israel, but you have to buy your own health insurance, and that is expensive. I don't know if the % difference between "part-timers" and FT faculty is as awful as it is in the US. When I left, there was an increasing move towards not granting "tekken" [permanent appointments with benefits] to EFL instructors.

...[P]rivate language schools pay the worst. The colleges, universities, and open university (sort of like university extension divisions in the US) have widely varying pay rates and methods, and variation occurs between departments. These variations, for someone with an MA in TESOL, ranged (when the shekel ranged from 2.3-2.7 NIS/USD and rents are based on the USD equivalent, not a fixed shekel amount) from about 45 NIS/hour to about 6500 NIS for a 45-hour course (15 weeks, 3hrs/week) including writing and grading exams and some form of proctoring. You also get your travel expenses paid for faculty positions, and a miniscule allowance for telephone. There is no paid vacation, even for state holidays, and if there's a strike, you're not paid for those class hours/holidays unless you show up anyway and then write a letter to Officialdom certifying that you did, indeed, work. Similarly, if you're ill, you're not paid if you're an hourly. If you're on a salary, you can make up the hours somehow and you need to have a note from the doctor. [-5-]

...As for job security, it's as bad as in the States (i.e., none) and a reason I left Israel and returned to the States...Like the US, there is a "we may cancel if the course does not meet enrollment requirements" clause -- though in one of these cases, they neglected to put in this clause and I didn't receive a shekel in compensation for my prep time and turning down other work. I did as much running around in Israel as I did in the US.


Traditionally, there are two categories of teachers at Japanese universities -- full-time teachers or faculty members and part-time teachers. Full-time teachers have tenure as soon as they are hired. Part-time teachers are hired from year to year. The general understanding is that they will continue to work at the same school as long as they wish, but that is not binding, and if the curriculum is changed or student enrollment drops, they may lose their jobs or their hours may be cut. (This has not been much of a problem in the past, though with the decreasing number of 18-year-olds and changes that many universities are making in their curricula, it is becoming an issue.) In general, the number of courses they may teach at a particular university is limited to three or four, but in some cases the limit is six (which is generally the same number of courses a full-time faculty member teaches). They are paid according to the number of courses they teach, usually on a 12-month basis. (National universities, however, usually pay a higher amount per course, based on the actual number of classes taught in each term.) (Full-time teachers are paid a monthly salary, with additional pay for being on certain committees or doing other extra work.) Full-time teachers are much better paid than part-time teachers. It is common for part-time teachers to teach at three, four or five different universities.

Part-time teachers also generally do not have benefits such as health insurance. Paid vacation is not really an issue, since the university schedule is about six months of the year. I don't know what the usual situation is for sick leave. At my university, if a part-time teacher is sick for more than one or two weeks, we either hire someone to take the classes temporarily or the full-time teachers fill in. If a teacher is too ill to return for the rest of the semester, they are usually replaced. I imagine that is the general situation for most universities here.

Superimposed on the basic system is a distinction between Japanese teachers and foreign teachers. Some universities hire teachers with no distinction between Japanese and foreigners. However, it is probably more common to make a distinction for teachers hired on a full-time basis. The most common way of doing this is to hire foreigners on a contract basis. This may be a one-year contract that is renewable a limited number of times (usually once or twice) or a two-year or three-year contract. In any case, contract teachers usually teach more classes than regular full-time teachers, but they don't have non-academic duties such as committees and aren't necessarily expected to publish. Contract teachers are usually paid on the same basis as full-time teachers, with the same benefits, but they are not permanent employees.


It's been a few years, but when I taught in the Federated States of Micronesia, we had two types of faculty: Contract people who were brought to the islands as a result of international searches, and "local hires." The contract people received round-trip air transportation for themselves and their families, free housing in the area's best houses or apartments, shipping costs for their furniture and cars, and some of the largest salaries in the country, $13-18,000 U.S., equivalent to that paid to many physicians and attorneys. The "local hires" received a salary at the local rate, between US$1 and $4 per hour, and no other benefits. Even this salary was actually one of the better hourly salaries in the country, where many people worked for less than $1 per hour. Most of the "local hires" were spouses of contract teachers or contract lawyers. [-6-]


Here in the Netherlands, a part time position means you have a contract,and when you have a contract you receive all standard benefits (sick leave, access to national health care, etc.)--this is regardless of hours worked, plus when you've worked more than six months with a contract you have a right to unemployment, etc. But, of course, they want to avoid such expensive "rights", so most ESL (and many N2T, DutchSL) teachers are employed "free lance." This is the equivalent of an American part time position--you get so many hours, end of story--the difference being that you have to be/become an "independent contractor", in other words a one-person company, for the sake of the tax authorities. Suffice it to say, it's just another way of keeping ESL a low-paid profession!


In Poland, with a "volunteer program" I had a full-time position, housing, minimal health insurance coverage and a very low wage (consistent with normal Polish standards at the time).

The issue of full-time versus part-time didn't come up.


For Turkey, in state universities there is an equivalent. People who are full time are "kadrolu" ("on the permanent staff"). They sign a government contract, are assigned a civil service rank, and receive social security. Part-timers are called "sözlesmeli" or "contract workers". They receive no social security, are paid hourly, but may work as many hours as kadrolu workers. A sözlesmeli worker who works as many hours as a kadrolu worker will not receive the same pay. Sözlesmeli workers are hired as needed by department heads, not by the rectorate. They are also the first dismissed. In private universities, all teachers are kadrolu. People can be dismissed at the end of their contract.


I can speak for what I saw in the United Arab Emirates. Almost all well qualified EFL teachers are full-time with excellent benefits. By law, employers there must provide housing for anyone they import from other countries, so the colleges and universities provide high quality housing as part of their employment packages. The only part-timers I ever knew of were truly working part-time to fill in when permanent employees were out sick or to take one course that the colleges couldn't quite cover. More often than not, these people were later picked up as full-time employees if their qualifications were adequate or nearly adequate and could be normalized via distance learning, for example. Is it any wonder that EFL teachers tend to remain there for years? As a general rule, they receive the respect that well educated professionals deserve.


...[T]his is an issue close to my heart. [It's not uncommon for someone, in somewhat more than] five years,...[to] have had four or five contracts. ...[For example, someone] coming off a two-year fixed-term contract (often, misleadingly, *not* covered by the colloquial use of the term "full-time", which is misused to mean "permanent") ...[may] effectively be demoted to the dreaded [Visiting Lecturer or] VL contract...As in , you can visit for 15 years and still not be recognised as a member of the University.

This situation is common in many university EFL departments across Britain. Some undergraduate courses are also taught by VLs, but teaching by graduate students is relatively rare compared to North America. Many private language schools work largely with teachers on short-term contracts (a week, a month, a term, a year). There are honourable exceptions, but by and large these schools are not known for providing good wages or professional working conditions.

...I have not been able to find a generally agreed legal definition of part-time work. Is 20 hours a week part of the time? Or 30? Nationally agreed lecturers' contracts specify 35 hours a week for so-called full-timers. And how many hours does it take to deliver 15 hours of class time, taking into account preparation, corrrection of assignments, administrative duties, teacher liaison, and keeping up with one's professional development? [-7-]

[As in the US, there are generally fewer benefits], although health care is not such an issue in Europe, with the remnants of socialised medicine. Vacation pay is alleged to be figured into the hourly rate paid. We are eligible to be included in the University's pension plan, but fewer VLs take up the option.

...The VL status was originally set up so that, eg , practising lawyers could address a law class for a few lessons once a year. [Instructors in this status] are vastly over-used and abused.

[Terminology]: Full-timers or full-time staff (even when they are on fractional appointments, eg 0.5), permanent staff (even when they aren't, eg on fixed-term contracts), post-holders (my boss is pushing the use of this term as more accurate and less offensive to those not)


part-timers, part-time staff, Visiting Lecturers or VLs

My union is looking into this. See:



Table of Contents Top TESL-EJ Main Page
© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page in the paginated ASCII version of this article, which is the definitive edition. Please use these page numbers when citing this work.