Friday, March 11, 2011

four months?

Dr. Hodges, in his recent post about the influx of foreign faculty into South Korean universities, quotes an article by David McNeill of The Chronicle for Higher Education, in which McNeill claims that foreign faculty who come to Korea to teach tend to leave as quickly as they come, departing the peninsula within, on average, four months. Jeff expresses surprise at this figure, and I'm just as surprised. Is life in Korea really that horrible for foreign faculty? I know the paperwork can be a bitch; one Korean professor who had lived most of his adult life in the States bemoaned the mountain of forms that Seoul National University made him fill out when he transitioned to a post on the SNU faculty. But I'm sure he lasted more than four months in his new position.

Did anyone else believe the foreign faculty turnover rate could be that high? That truly is an astounding figure. Anyway, be sure to read the rest of Jeff's post, which is about much more than turnover rates.



Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks again, Kevin. I get most of my visitors from your links, or so I suspect.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Anonymous said...

Remember, they probably are using the arithmetic mean, so people who come, stay a week, get overwhelmed by culture shock, and leave, are shortening the average. Put them together with those who stay a year, and you might get an average of 4 months. This is a case where the mode might be the more informative average to use.

(Sorry, this tweaked the math nerd in me.)


Kevin Kim said...


I don't have enough blog traffic to account for all your visitors, but... you're welcome, anyway. Heh.


Interesting insight. In my new job, I'm going to have to become a math nerd, so feel free to keep the insights coming!


Charles said...

HUFS has one of the largest foreign faculty populations in Korea (I'm guessing it's the largest, but I don't have any statistics to back that up). I know the turnover rate here is relatively high, but an average of four months seems quite low.

Like Addofio says, those who come, stay for one week, get overwhelmed, and then leave, do indeed throw off the average. But there must be a ton of them for the average to end up being four months.

My school (the GSIT at HUFS) may be an outlier, but it's my immediate environment and what I can speak to best. The Korean-English department has three foreign professors. I've been here the longest, at three years, another professor has been here two years, and the newest professor has been here a year. That's six years, or 312 weeks, for the three of us with an average of 104 weeks, or two years. Just to offset our time here, you would need at least 17 one-weekers to bring the average down to around four months. And I'm not even taking into account the fact that our newest professor taught elsewhere in Korea for several years before coming to HUFS. Or the fact that the K-E department is among the "youngest" in the GSIT. THe foreign faculty in the Russian, Spanish, and German departments have been here far longer.

So, just to offset the time of the GSIT foreign faculty, I'm guessing we would need quite a few one-weekers, at least fifty and possibly as many as a hundred. Turnover is higher elsewhere at HUFS, but judging by how frequently people move into and out of my building (faculty housing), the minimum turnover time is generally a year. If we had that many one-weekers, the school would be in crisis mode.

My guess is that the "four months" figure is skewed by flawed sampling. I will admit that the rush to hire foreign professors is going to lead to a higher turnover rate, though--in the past only those of us crazy enough to want to teach here did so, but now people being hired from abroad may not know exactly what they're getting into.

Anyway, I have no statistics of my own to back up the idea of skewed figures, nor do I have the time or inclination to conduct my own survey, but four months does seem incredibly low for an average. Perhaps this is a survey of only newly-hired faculty?

(Now that I've typed all this out, it occurs to me that I should have posted this over on Dr. Doom's blog. Is cross-posting comments against internet etiquette?)