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Job Opportunities Improve for Language and Literature Doctorates

Job Opportunities Improve for Language and Literature Doctorates

A report released at the 120th Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association late last month shows that faculty positions advertised in the MLA’s Job Information List (JIL) are expected to increase about 10 percent in 2004-2005. But after three years when the number of positions departments advertised in the JIL’s October and December issues dropped by almost 600, the increase so far this year still leaves the number of jobs announced through December some 20 percent below the recent peak in 2000.

“We are encouraged that new Ph.D.s apparently have more opportunities this year to start their academic careers,” says MLA executive director Rosemary G. Feal. “But in a period when enrollments in language courses continue to rise, institutions are relying too heavily on part-time instructors to teach language and writing courses that are fundamental to students’ college experience.”

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education and released in November 2004, in fall 2002 faculty members holding full-time tenured or tenure-track appointments make up only 37 percent of the faculty. Faculty members holding part-time appointments make up 44 percent of the faculty. The remaining 19 percent of faculty members hold full-time non-tenure track appointments. Across all academic fields the proportion of the faculty holding full-time academic appointments of all types has fallen more than 15 percent since 1975, while the proportion occupying part-time positions has increased by 27 percent. These figures are based on four- and two-year degree-granting institutions (excluding medical schools) that participate in the student loan and grant programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. These changes have occurred despite the fact that student enrollments in colleges and universities are at an all-time high.

“Those who are hired to teach part-time are often highly qualified and are effective in the classroom,” says Feal. “When institutions rely too heavily on part-time instructors, however, departments’ ability to deliver quality education is compromised.”

As in previous years, hundreds of new Ph.D. recipients were expected to be interviewing for jobs in English or foreign languages at the MLA convention held in Philadelphia this year. Most new doctorates are seeking full-time, tenure-track positions, but only about half are likely to receive them, even though college enrollments, especially in foreign languages, are up (Source: MLA survey Foreign Language Enrollments in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2002. Copies are available upon request.) Last year’s JIL contained a total of 2,349 listings from more than 1,300 departments. The majority of listings were for positions located in the United States, plus 42 from Canada and 25 outside of the United States and Canada. According to the MLA, between September 2003 to July 2004, departments of English advertised 1,541 positions, 139 (8 percent) fewer than the previous academic year (2002-2003). Jobs in foreign languages fell by 82 (6 percent) from 1,367 in 2002-2003 to 1,285 in 2003-2004. So far this year, English departments have advertised 1,064 positions and other modern languages departments have advertised 725 positions.

Since its inception in 1975-1976, the JIL has offered a reasonable gauge of full-time academic career opportunities at professional rank  and in four-year colleges and universities.

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