What does the term mean?
In this website I use the terms 'sessionals' and 'sessional instructors', but in the literature a variety of terms are used to describe university instructors who are not in a tenure-track or permanent position, including:
Concerns about sessional instructors
Some of the major concerns with sessional instructors are itemized below:
Why is this issue important?
The literature suggests that most universities are hiring proportionally more sessional instructors than they have in the past, and that this trend can be partially explained by the financial position that higher education institutions are currently in. Since the number of sessional instructors employed on campuses in Canada is unlikely to decrease in the near future, issues about the employment of sessionals are gaining importance.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that sessional instructors are more likely to teach first and second year courses than advanced undergraduate courses and graduate courses (I will be looking for some statistics to support this claim). Additionally, first and second year courses tend to have a higher enrollment than more advanced courses. Therefore, sessional instructors tend to assume a significant part of the teaching load, especially in faculties and departments that use sessionals extensively. For some beginning students, sessional instructors are their first major point of contact with the institution.
Sessionals and Teaching Quality
Ultimately this issue is critical because it impacts on students' education. There is ongoing debate as to whether or not sessional instructors provide as high a level of teaching quality as permanent instructors; more formal studies need to be done on this issue. Considerations reported in the literature include:
Less opportunities for faculty development and support