The Public Good, Productivity and Faculty Work: Individual Effort and Social Value
Time devoted to producing measurable products that reflect a return on public investment often becomes the most salient factor in assessments of academic productivity and efficiency.
As the academic workforce becomes increasingly part time, contingent, and unbundled, American higher education puts the quality of student experience and education at risk by failing to recognize faculty’s voluntary contributions to the public good. This oversight persists even as vast new data sources provide more information about how faculty spend their time. Economic models and their measures—if not developed with a full appreciation of the nature of faculty work and the public purposes of education—may accelerate the move toward a fractured academic workforce because what “counts” no longer depends on faculty discretion but, instead, on contracted work for discrete tasks, such as teaching a specific course or attaining a measurable research result.
This paper is one of five in the TIAA Institute Higher Education Series: Understanding Academic Productivity. The TIAA Institute undertook this initiative in support of the National Association of College and University Business Officers’ Economic Models Project, which aims to provide colleges and universities with knowledge, ideas and tools to advance the difficult structural, cultural and political changes required for moving to more sustainable economic models.