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The Shrinking World of Tenure

From VOA Learning English, welcome to Education News in Special English. At American colleges and universities, the number of positions that offer the job security of tenure has been shrinking for years.

Tenure is meant to give professors greater freedom to teach, write or study subjects that might not be popular or politically correct. But critics say tenure can keep schools from dismissing unproductive faculty members or problem employees. Another complaint is that it can restrict the ability to make changes in programs or make the best use of limited budgets. The number of tenured positions at U.S. colleges and universities has been decreasing since the 1970s.

John Curtis is the Director of Research and Public Policy at the American Association of University Professors. He says that only about 25 percent of faculty members have tenure or are in a position that might lead to tenure. The association says that at least 85 percent of faculty members should have tenure or be able to seek it. It says this will protect independent thought and freedom of speech. But a recent survey found that many colleges and universities plan to employ fewer tenured professors.

The study was done by the Gallup organization and the online publication Inside Higher Ed. The survey asked more than 1,000 college and university officials about their hiring plans. The results suggest that tenured positions might continue to decrease. More than 58 percent of chief academic officers at U.S. public universities agreed that future generations of faculty should not expect tenure. More than 53 percent of private school officials agreed.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 07Feb2013)