Prue Gonzalez,* School of Environmental Sciences, and Phillip Ebbs, School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Sessional academic staff are employed in a number of academic roles, from lecturing to field trips to course improvement. What distinguishes them from other academic staff is that they are employed on a short-term, contract basis, much like adjunct faculty in the United States. Today they are a dominant feature of the global higher education workforce whose contributions over the past 20 years have been significant.
It is conservatively estimated that sessional academics deliver more than 40% of university teaching in Australia, where the authors live and teach. While the higher education sector’s reliance upon these staff is expected to increase, our knowledge and understanding of these staff is poor. This compromises the development of policies, strategies and programs designed to engage, support and improve the high quality contributions of the sessional academic workforce over a sustained period. A more informed approach to sessional academic engagement, support and quality improvement is an essential component to operating effectively in a modern higher education sector. This paper reviews the challenges associated with the effective and sustainable engagement of the Australian sessional academic workforce.