In The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers (Johns Hopkins University Press) we documented how the faculty and their careers were being reshaped in fundamental ways. Our most salient finding was documenting the sharp rise of “off track”, contingent faculty appointments. This phenomenon took the form of the rapid escalation of full-time but non-tenurable faculty, as well as the extraordinary growth of part-time (adjunct) faculty.
Higher Education Workforce Trends
The use of non-tenure-track and part-time faculty in U.S. colleges and universities is on the rise, altering the composition of the academic workforce in fundamental ways. This project investigated the “contingency movement” using a variety of analytic approaches, including extensive literature review, quantitative analysis of over two decades of national institutional data, and onsite interviews with contingent and non-contingent faculty at a research university, a private liberal arts college, and a public masters-level institution.
The faculty labor force in U.S. colleges and universities is increasingly off the tenure track and, often, working at less than full time. Aggregated data on this phenomenon mask significant differences in institutional commitments to these contingent forms of faculty employment. This report employs comprehensive institutional data for the years 1988 to 2008 to examine the roots of institutional variations in contingent employment.
Senior faculty fall into three groups—25% who expect to retire by a normal retirement age; 15% who expect to, but would prefer not to, work past normal retirement age; and 60% who would like to and expect to work past normal retirement age. Financial necessity is a major reason for most of those expecting to work past normal retirement age. By contrast, 90% of those expecting and hoping to work to an advanced age cite enjoyment of their work and the fulfillment it provides as a major reason.
This research provides a deeper understanding of the issues facing academic institutions when age-eligible professors do not retire and how those issues can best be addressed.
Conventional wisdom maintains that many faculty remain in their position beyond a normal retirement age and past the point where they are effective professors. While there are older faculty who are poor performers, there are also older faculty who remain effective. Retirement incentive programs may paradoxically create incentives for the latter to leave and for the former to stay. When the goal is motivating the “right” faculty to retire, programs can not be based simply on age and years of service. The issues are more nuanced, so strategies to address it must be nuanced.
The engagement, productivity, and vitality of the faculty are extremely important to the success of academic institutions in fulfilling their missions. This paper presents data from a survey of 1,775 tenured associate and full professors at seven public universities, showing that many are frustrated about leadership turnover and the corresponding shifts in mission, focus, and priorities, and also about salary.
Academic institutions and faculty are pressured today from multiple directions as the federal government demands greater accountability, states cut budgets, tuition payers demand more, granting agencies become more selective and trustees apply more pressure and scrutinize more closely. In this context, this report examines the workplace satisfaction of senior faculty members at seven public research universities. The vitality, productivity and satisfaction of senior faculty is extremely important to colleges and universities in fulfilling their missions and achieving their goals.