Despite the fact that teachers in higher education are much more productive than those of past decades, the general secretary of the American Association of University Professors says "academia is diluting the quality of education."
Ernst Benjamin told Utah State University administrators and faculty recently that the teacher-student ratio in 1984 was 17.2 students per faculty member.He said that ratio was between 10.2 and 10.8 in the 1940s and 1950s, and at an all-time low of 8.4 students in the 1960s.
"While some teachers take satisfaction from this new productivity, it has come at the expense of huge introductory classes, lost contact with full-time tenured professors and use of more and more part-time teachers," Benjamin said.
He said the need for students to work while going to school has had an increasing effect on education, with the average student now taking six years to earn a degree instead of four.
"We are diluting the quality of education with part-time teachers and part-time instructors," he said.
He also said ongoing threats to the financial security of institutions and faculty members is causing negative shifts in research, with professors taking on more commercial or applied research at the expense of basic, creative efforts.
"A less-secure faculty will take on more research in order to publish voluminously at the expense of class preparation and student interaction," Benjamin said.
He also said he had advice for USU professors when asked by the governor how they can improve productivity.
"Just say you gave at the office," he said.