Enrollment for undergraduate students has just started at my university. Perusing the classes for my department though, only a couple of the dozens of classes being offered have an instructor specified. I recall hearing discussion in the past about this, so this isn't new this term.

I want to know if this is a typical thing that universities or individual academic departments do. And if so is there a usual explanation for it?

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    I'd guess it's uncommon, but is done in my department. My loose understanding is it's so rigorous/unpopular instructors don't have so few students their sections don't run. Nov 7, 2019 at 19:37
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    @DanielR.Collins That crossed my mind as being a possible reason. But isn't that unethical? Nov 7, 2019 at 19:43
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    Honestly, it may be unusual and not my preference (I've asked for my name to be visible). I tend to be pretty judgmental, but IMO it doesn't rise to "unethical". Seems roughly equal to cases where only one instructor teaches a required course. Nov 7, 2019 at 19:47
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    Students will only see what they want to see, whatever the "REAL" reason for the inclusion, or not, of the names... Another conspiracy theory...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 7, 2019 at 20:20
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    At my university, often this means they have an instructor lined up but the teaching contract isn't signed yet. I'm on an AY contract, so my fall classes say "Staff" until the week before school starts, because that's when the contract is ready. My spring classes have my name on them from day one because I've already signed the contract.
    – Kathy
    Nov 7, 2019 at 20:34

1 Answer 1


I studied in the United States (bachelor's and PhD). In my school, it was very common practice to list "TBA" (to be announced) for course professors, especially undergraduate courses. Through my years in the university, including becoming a part-time instructor myself as a PhD student, I got to know that it was pretty much always a logistic issue. Even if the department knew which teachers would be teaching the course, as long as they had not finalized the exact teaching assignment of who taught exactly which section of the course at exactly which times, such unfinalized assignments would be listed as "TBA".

In contrast, with graduate courses, there was usually only one section of a course each semester and so the known instructor could readily be listed as soon as it was confirmed.

In my school, students also complained about it. It is easy for students who would like to avoid a teacher with a bad reputation to suspect that the administration was trying to hide this information in order to make sure that the bad teacher got enough students in their class. But based on experience after several years in the same school, I don't think there is any reason to suspect ulterior motives; simple logistics led to this being a repeated practice whenever there are multiple sections of the same course.

(But since often when there are multiple sections taught by the same set of instructors each year, there will sometimes be a "bad teacher" among them; so, students would self-confirm their suspicions that the administration is deliberately trying to frustrate attempts to not choose a bad teacher.)

This is just a personal example, but I think the dynamics are very similar in many other universities.

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