The Precarious Position of the Part-time University Instructor [OP-ED]

For more than 26 years, I have called Japan home in which most of that time I have worked as a part-time university English instructor at various institutions, settling at three Kansai area schools for the past ten years or so.

Part-time instructors (hijokin koshi) are the workhorses of most university English curricula. We teach the bulk of the required English courses, usually to first- and second-year students.

It has been my experience (and that of others that I've known throughout the years) that we are seen as a necessity, but better left alone.

Often, there is little or no contact with senior staff, or people of authority; little or no coordination, other than perhaps following a vague curriculum outline; and little or no feedback nor accountability. This calls into question the validity and importance of English education itself at the university level.

(However, that is another can of worms not to be opened here.)

The lack of inclusiveness and integration into an education paradigm that could be much more effective than what is being accomplished now may be a reflection of how the larger society looks upon the foreigner living in Japan.

How many times have we been asked, "When are you going home?" because most Japanese have trouble comprehending how anyone would voluntarily leave their homeland to live in another country.

For all these years, I have lived in this country working on one-year renewable contracts.

On some contracts, I am referred to as a "Guest Lecturer".

None of this has ever been a problem in any way, and I have shown up year-after-year doing the best job as I know how.

However, last year, that all changed when Osaka City University, where I've been employed at for twenty years, decided to outsource all the foreign English instructor positions to a language school for what they claimed were money saving measures.

If not for the solidarity of the seventeen or so instructors, and the fine work of the General Union, we all could have been swept away without so much as a second thought.

It was this experience that demonstrated just how precarious the part-time position actually is.


The union is running a series of opinion pieces and is calling for submissions from members. We are looking for opinion pieces that relate to workplace issues. We are hoping to generate discussion within the union and the wider foreign community. Submissions should be around 500-1000 words long and should be submitted as a Word document to union(@)



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