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Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research recently released the 2024 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers. The findings, which dive into responses from 331 provosts from across the country, highlight how academic leaders are feeling about a variety of topics at this point in time. Here’s a glimpse at what provosts shared about what they’re currently experiencing. 

Faculty and Staff Retention Challenges 

Turnover and retention are proving to be a challenge for the majority of academic leaders, with 35% of provosts seeing faculty turnover rates that are higher than usual. Adding to the challenge, 30% of provosts report retirement rates that are higher than usual.  

In addition, 60% of provosts say that recruiting faculty is more challenging now than it was prior to the pandemic. In an effort to combat this issue, 39% say their institution is doing more now than it was before the pandemic to retain and engage faculty members. And about three-quarters of provosts (74%) noted that their institution surveys faculty, staff, and administrators to assess their job satisfaction. 

Academic Leaders’ Thoughts on Tenure  

The overwhelming majority (83%) of provosts feel that tenure is important to the overall health of their institution, with 50% deeming the practice to be very or extremely important. When it comes to viability, 62% of provosts believe that tenure is very or extremely viable within their institution.  

However, provosts are notably split when it comes to the idea of supporting long-term faculty contracts over the existing tenure system we see in higher education today. Overall, 54% of provosts favor making the change to contracts while 46% oppose the idea. Digging into the demographics, there are striking differences seen when considering the type of institution, the age of the respondent, and the region where the respondent lives.  

For example, provosts at private doctoral and master’s institutions are especially likely to favor long-term contracts (67%), while provosts at public doctoral institutions are the least likely to favor the idea over the current tenure system (41%). Contracts are also more highly favored by provosts aged 40–49 (60%) and 50–59 (57%) than they are by provosts aged 60–69 (46%). Provosts in the Northeast region are also more likely to favor long-term contracts (62%) than their counterparts in the South (45%).   

Teaching Versus Research: What’s More Important? 

When it comes to the role of faculty, provosts have differing views about the importance of teaching and research when it comes to their institution versus higher education as a whole. In fact, 80% of provosts feel that teaching is more important than research at their own institution. Just 15% say they believe teaching and research are equally important at their institution, while the remaining 5% say research is more important.  

In contrast, 44% of provosts say teaching and research are equally important across higher education as a whole—not just at their own institution. Upon taking a closer look at the demographics, those at public doctoral and private master’s or doctoral institutions are more likely to say that research matters as much as teaching.  

A Closer Look at Provost Job Satisfaction 

Overall, the vast majority of provosts surveyed (87%) agree or strongly agree that they are glad they pursued administrative work in higher education, with relative consistency across demographics. Gay and lesbian respondents are somewhat less likely (78%) to agree that they’re glad they pursued this work than their heterosexual counterparts (87%), and respondents aged 60–69 are somewhat more likely (94%) to agree than those who are 50–59 and 40–49 (82% for both groups).  

While it’s encouraging to see how many provosts are glad they pursued the role, these individuals have a tough road ahead. In particular, issues with retention, recruitment, workloads, and equity will require extra consideration in the coming years as academic leaders continue to face heightened pressures in these areas. Do you have the tools you need to address these challenges? 

Access the full report now to learn more about these findings from Inside Higher Ed and Hanover Research.