Yet though colleges claim to have an inclusive approach to staff, part-timers had no time to perform significant non-teaching roles.
A study by FENTO, the national training organisation, found only 52 per cent of part-timers attended staff meetings, only 25 per cent offered extra curricular assistance to students, only a quarter undertook staff development, and just 14 per cent were using IT as a teaching aid.
"Given the central importance of these roles, the lack of availability of time for all staff to undertake them and the effects this may have on quality, this must be a cause for concern," says FENTO.
In 1980 there was one part-time lecturer for every seven full-time ones. Now, there are two part-timers for every full-timer.
There are 100,000 part-timers in England and Wales, which represents around two-thirds of the workforce. They teach 50 per cent of the FE curricula.
A government announcement is expected soon on whether teaching qualifications should be made compulsory and whether they should extend to part-time staff.
FENTO surveyed 400 part-time lecturers in 11 colleges. Nearly two-thirds believed they should need teaching qualifications. A further 29 per cent were in favour but raised some reservations - the ndustrialprofessional specialist might not stay if training was a requirement; staff on leisure time, non-assessed courses might not need full qualifications.
Eight per cent said the requirment would be unfair, might encourage them to leave, and that "it is more important to have a practising artist rather than a teaching qualification".
It is unclear how many qualifications are held by part-time staff. The last relevant figures, for 199697, give a statistic of "40 per cent unknown" for part-timers. Of the other 60 per cent, about 57 per cent of part-timers had some form of qualification.
The age profile is skewed towards older groups. Some 68 per cent are over 40 and 33 per cent are over 50. "As several heads of department observed, a very large and ageing part-time workforce, built on a shrinking full-time one, is not a comfortable prospect in the longer term."
Geoff Terry, FENTO's chief executive, said qualifications must be compulsory. "Part-time lecturers play an important part in college life and deserve the right to the same level of professionalism as other staff."
A spokesperson for NATFHE, the lecturers' union, said they supported a qualification for staff, but it would take time and money.
* A functional analysis of the part-time lecturing staff in further education colleges in England and Wales. FENTO, 5th floor, Centre Point, 103 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1DD.