Thursday, December 13, 2012

Robinson: "There has been no significant decline in full-and part-time employment in the humanities between 1999 and 2006."

Granted, the numbers of humanities jobs in academia declined during the recent recession, but according to Chase Robinson's essay in Inside Higher Education, employment prospects for humanities Ph.D.s have begun to recover.  In fact, Robinson argues, "the longstanding oversupply of Ph.D.s is now being mitigated."

I hope Robinson is right.

Here is a taste of his piece:

 Perhaps we should mock students less and apply ourselves more to understanding the broader structural changes in the economy, including how these changes affect the academy. Numbers that show flat (or even slightly improving) job prospects for Ph.D.s in the humanities should not obscure a number of underlying patterns, the most important of which are increased "casualization" and job insecurity. One may justifiably lament that adjunct and full-time, non-tenure-track jobs now constitute about 70 percent of the academic labor force, and that the path to a tenure-track position increasingly takes a detour through short-term employment. But the problems are not unique to higher education, which is a microcosm of the globalizing workplace. The decline in tenure among faculty mirrors the loss of lifelong (or at least long-term) employment in other sectors of the labor force.

What makes higher education distinctive is not so much that labor practices are changing, much less that students have their heads in the sand. It’s that academic employees — the readers and writers who constitute a faculty — are such sharp-eyed observers of those practices and energetic advocates for their profession.