A recent survey conducted by Interfolio and Hanover Research of over 600 faculty members from higher education institutions across the country provides a revealing snapshot of faculty’s feelings regarding their workloads, career journeys, and faculty technology. As part of a three-part series looking at the survey results, this blog article details survey insights into faculty career journeys.

Your faculty may be exhausted by their heavy workloads during the pandemic and anxious about their career paths, but there’s good news.

You can give them significant time back to re-invest in the work that is most meaningful to them  with one step. 

This step can complement larger systematic changes that you are tackling, such as how to reflect COVID challenges in reviews and promotions, how to prioritize equity and inclusion among your faculty and institution, and more.

The transformation your institution can take now is adopting a faculty information system. And with a modular approach, you can prioritize the most pressing needs of your faculty, and build from there. With a technology purpose built for faculty and shared governance, you will achieve immediate — and long-term — benefits for your faculty and institution.

Why Your Faculty Want Faculty Technology

Most faculty (81%) believe that a faculty information and workflow technology designed specifically for faculty would be very helpful in their career success – according to our survey of over 600 faculty members in higher education.

That means that if you implement or expand faculty management technology at your institution, you can give your faculty some peace of mind about their careers, which would be especially welcome given the pandemic disruptions to their careers.

Technology that is purpose-built for the faculty lifecycle is reassuring to faculty for a number of reasons.

First, these software solutions save time, replacing administrative busywork faculty must carry out with efficient, digital processes. In contrast to home-grown systems in which faculty have to hunt for files across different sites or folders, a faculty information system gives faculty a centralized location from which they can view and comment on files. With the time such a system saves, faculty can focus on the things that are most important to their careers, whether that is research, student support, or creative projects.

While there may be additional steps institutions must take to further improve faculty work-life balance, preventing wasted time is an important first step.

Second, a faculty information platform promotes transparency in faculty review, promotion, and tenure. In particular, such a platform makes advancement requirements clear to faculty and their review committees while also documenting each review, creating a record for the future.

When you enable faculty to clearly see the path they need to take for career success, you eliminate some of the stress inherent in these important career milestones. That is, faculty can focus on preparing their work for presentation in the review process, rather than stressing about obtaining files on a shared drive or who to send those files or even what actual files are needed for a particular review. 

Likewise, when faculty know that all reviews are documented, they have reassurance that there is a strong check in place against inappropriate, unethical, or illegal decisions.

How Faculty Technology Supports Equity Goals

Another benefit of faculty technology is that it helps you pursue your goals for a diverse faculty and equitable hiring and retention practices.

Achieving equity in your faculty is not just a mandate if you’re to live your institutional values; it’s good business.

How so? Research shows that female students and students of color feel better supported when there are same-gender and same-race faculty at their institution. Given that 59.5% of U.S. college students are women, if you want the majority of your students to feel supported, you need more female faculty.

Likewise, you can’t effectively attract and support students of color if you’re not hiring and promoting faculty members of color.

A Faculty Information System facilitates the attraction and retention of female and underrepresented faculty in several ways:

  • Its documentation of hiring and promotion processes signals that your institution values transparency and guards against inequitable practices; that signal is likely to attract diverse faculty.
  • Its data-collection capabilities during hiring and review enable institutions to assess their progress in hiring and retaining diverse faculty and to identify needed improvements.
  • Its faculty-activity-reporting function enables faculty to easily capture a full range of their work, including service and activities relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In turn, this visibility allows the institution to more fully recognize where time is — or is not — being spent.

Of course, faculty technology alone can’t lead to a diverse faculty that is representative of either the student body or the wider community. Institutions must also be willing to recognize and reward DEI and student-support activities.

Likewise, institutions must equitably address the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on female and underrepresented faculty.

But faculty technology can make follow-through on these institutional choices easier.

White Paper: Rebuilding Higher Education

If you’d like to learn more about how institutions are pursuing these reforms, we recommend the white paper The Time is Now: Rebuilding Higher Education: How Faculty Affairs Professionals Can Lead their Institutions to Future Success.

A recent survey conducted by Interfolio and Hanover Research of over 600 faculty members from higher education institutions across the country provides a revealing snapshot of faculty’s feelings regarding their workloads, career journeys, and faculty technology. As part of a three-part series looking at the survey results, this blog article details survey insights into faculty career journeys.

One-third of your faculty feel underappreciated, and 93% of them perceive troubling obstacles to tenure and promotion, according to a recent survey Interfolio conducted of over 600 faculty members ranging from adjuncts to full-time professors.

Reacting to these results, faculty affairs professionals Interfolio interviewed expressed that higher education must act to improve faculty work-life balance.

How exactly colleges and universities should change faculty career journeys remains unclear, but one thing is certain: 

If institutions want to stop the Great Resignation of faculty that has begun, they must embrace the Great Reset and, like other businesses, fundamentally rethink faculty careers.

Faculty Survey Identifies Key Tenure and Promotion Obstacles 

Only seven percent of faculty we surveyed feel there are no obstacles to achieving tenure and promotion. 

When asked to identify up to five obstacles to achieving tenure, promotions, and/or salary increases, the most common obstacle respondents chose was remote work and online teaching, with balancing work and personal responsibilities not far behind.

Roughly one-third of respondents also feel lack of mentorship or career guidance is one of their greatest obstacles. You can see the full list of identified obstacles below:

Considered together, these survey results suggest faculty perceive many significant obstacles to advancement in their careers.

Our survey also asked those faculty that feel underappreciated to identify the specific impact they’re making that they feel may go underappreciated in career advancement conversations.

The top two impacts that may go underappreciated, both of which were selected by 54% of the respondents, were diversity, equity, and inclusion work and creative productions. 45% of faculty chose student mentorship as an impact that may go underappreciated.  

Another sobering finding from the survey was that only 37% of the respondents agree that their institution is good at retaining underrepresented faculty.

Faculty Affairs Administrators Recognize Need for Change

In response to these survey results, several faculty affairs administrators we spoke to elaborated on how their institutions are working to address obstacles to faculty promotion and tenure.

At New York University (NYU), faculty were able to include a COVID impact statement in their reviews for promotion, and NYU also granted all tenure-track faculty a one-year tenure COVID-related clock extension, unless the faculty member requested to stay on the original tenure clock.

NYU faculty are also asking for additional guidance and transparency on the “trajectory to get to tenure,” says Charlton Mcllwain, Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development at NYU.

The exact trajectory to obtain tenure isn’t the only thing that is unclear on campuses. Other institutions are wondering how to improve faculty work-life balance.

“The pandemic brought to life the fact that our work-life balance was untenable to start with,” observes Laura Robbins, Associate Dean, Office of Faculty Information, at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. “And now what people are craving is something that should have been available the whole time: a better work-life balance. So, as a country and as an institution, we have to ask: ‘Are we going to change the way we do business and our measure of success?’”

NYU is also wondering how to enable better work-life balance for its scholars, Mcllwain says:  

“When I go to our early-career faculty and say, ‘It’s imperative for you to find work-life balance,’ it’s great for me to say that, but the ultimate response is, ‘Okay, well, what are you going to do to help me make sure I can actually make that a reality?’ And I think that’s going to be a challenge for us moving forward.”

NYU is also exploring how it can give greater weight in the tenure and promotion review process to teaching and activities relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Likewise, at JHUSOM, “there is a conversation taking place among the departments and within the administration about needing to rethink and reweigh review criteria,” says Robbins.

As part of efforts to modify their tenure and promotion reviews, these institutions are also taking steps to capture the full diversity of faculty activities, so that these activities can be recognized and rewarded during the review process.

“It’s critical to have a structure that captures what faculty are doing so that institutions can recognize faculty’s contributions. That’s one of the reasons we adopted the Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting module — to help us meet that challenge,” says Mcllwain.

In addition to better capturing faculty activities, institutions need to fundamentally change their review and promotion practices and policies, argues Rob Nelson, Executive Director for Academic Technology & Planning at the University of Pennsylvania

“It’s easier in some ways to launch a new initiative to recognize faculty than it is to change the structures that have been in place for a while, but we have to do the hard work of updating our tenure and promotion review practices and requirements to better reflect new institutional priorities,” says Nelson.

White Paper: Rebuilding Higher Education

If you’d like to learn more about how institutions are pursuing these reforms, we recommend the white paper The Time is Now: Rebuilding Higher Education: How Faculty Affairs Professionals Can Lead their Institutions to Future Success.

A recent survey conducted by Interfolio and Hanover Research of over 600 faculty members from higher education institutions across the country provides a revealing snapshot of faculty’s feelings regarding their workloads, career journeys, and faculty technology. As part of a three-part series looking at the survey results, this blog article details insights into faculty workload. 

Over the last three years, the workload on college and university faculty has increased significantly, according to a survey of over 600 faculty members from mostly public institutions across a range of sizes.

If you’re a faculty affairs professional or college administrator, this finding likely isn’t a surprise. Chances are you’ve witnessed firsthand all the additional hard work your faculty have carried out as your institution shifted to online learning and as faculty increased their support of students during the challenges of the pandemic.

But you may not know the details of faculty feelings’ on their new roles – or how you might be able to help faculty navigate their changed circumstances.

Faculty Survey Captures How Faculty Wish Their Roles Would Change

86% of respondents agreed that they wish they had more time to spend on things that are important to them.

In addition, 78% of respondents reported that their workload has increased over the last three years.

Survey respondents attributed the majority of the workload increase to a significant uptick in remote teaching and student support during the pandemic.

Although 86% of the respondents wish they had more time for the things that are important to them, the increased focus on students is not unwelcome to most faculty.

In fact, 51% of respondents agreed that if they had more free time, they would spend it on student-related activities compared to 19% who would devote additional free time to research, creative productions, or other field-related work.

Nor has the increased workload caused the survey respondents to disengage from their work (in contrast to what some faculty observers assert). The majority of our survey respondents (87%) reported being highly engaged in their daily work.

Faculty Affairs Professionals Echo Survey Findings and Share Positive Developments

Although the overwhelming majority of our survey respondents indicated feeling engaged with their work, that doesn’t mean they are happy about the state of affairs, according to several faculty affairs professionals Interfolio interviewed on a recent webinar.

“While we’re not seeing an exodus of faculty, it’s harder to do their jobs, and they’re less satisfied with the jobs that they’re doing,” says Laura Robbins, Associate Dean, Office of Faculty Information at John Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM).

“At our medical school, COVID has caused us to reassign personnel, such as reassigning surgeons to internal medicine, so they’re not operating; they’re not honing their craft,” adds Robbins. “They’re not leaving the institution — they’re just unhappy.”

Likewise, at New York University (NYU), the continuing disruption of COVID-19 is “causing a lot of anxiety as faculty struggle to do all the things that they came to the institution to do, particularly research,” says Charlton Mcllwain, Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development.

However, at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), some faculty have welcomed the departure from business as usual.

“In our professional doctorate and master’s programs, there’s a lot of interest in moving those programs online after the faculty experienced online teaching. In fact, we have one master’s program that just abruptly pivoted online,” says Rob Nelson, Executive Director for Academic Technology & Planning at Penn.

Nelson also reports that the survey’s finding of faculty enthusiasm for more student-related activities aligns with his observations about Penn faculty, particularly the increased faculty interest at Penn in mentoring more students.

“There’s been a lot of discussion over the last five years among our faculty about the quality and quantity of mentorship, and a lot of that discussion is related to our diversity and equity initiatives and how we can be more impactful on those students and increase the pipeline of diverse students,” Nelson says.

Similarly, at NYU, as a result of COVID-19, faculty are more focused on learning strategies to promote student success. And at JHUSOM there is increased faculty attention on student’s mental health.

How can faculty affairs help faculty with their workload changes? 

While there may be no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing faculty workloads, the faculty affairs professional we spoke to recommend two actions all institutions can take in response to faculty workload changes: encourage faculty to document their activities — and make it easy. 

“Tell your faculty to take the time to document what they’ve been doing and how they’re spending their time,” Robbins advises, “because that’s going to be important information in the short term as well as the long term, and they don’t want to rely on their memory for that.”

And just as important is making it easier for faculty to record their activity information.

“It’s critical to have a structure that captures what faculty are doing so that institutions can recognize faculty’s contributions. That’s one of the reasons we adopted the Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting module — to help us meet that challenge,” says Mcllwain.

White Paper: Rebuilding Higher Education

If you’re interested to learn more about how institutions are navigating these challenges, we recommend our white paper, The Time is Now: Rebuilding Higher Education: How Faculty Affairs Professionals Can Lead their Institutions to Future Success.