Results of MU academic career survey give snapshot of faculty satisfaction

Friday, August 1, 2014 | 7:18 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Pre-tenure and non-tenure track faculty at MU are more satisfied with the university as a place to work than tenured faculty, according to a new survey.

The satisfaction rate is 78 percent for pre-tenure faculty, 68 percent for non-tenure track faculty and 64 percent for tenured faculty.

The results, released Wednesday, are from the first Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education survey conducted at MU in late 2012 and early 2013. It focused on full-time faculty, including both tenure-stream and non-tenure track members.

Results of the survey can be found here.

The survey showed that self-identified faculty of color are less satisfied working for MU than white faculty, 57 percent versus 70 percent. Sixty-one percent of faculty of color, the term used in the survey, would choose to work at MU again.

In terms of race, the survey results divided the faculty into two categories: white and faculty of color. The results also broke down the faculty by gender and ranking.

The survey also showed that 65 percent of tenured faculty would choose to work at MU again, 75 percent of pre-tenure faculty and 72 percent of non-tenure track faculty.

The survey had an overall 51 percent response rate among MU faculty, or 894 members.

Non-tenure track faculty had the lowest response rate at 44 percent, and pre-tenure faculty had the highest at 56 percent. The MU School of Law had the lowest response rate among schools and colleges at 39 percent, but the Sinclair School of Nursing had the highest at 82 percent.

Much of the survey results showed MU in comparison with the results of faculty surveys at five peer institutions: Indiana and Purdue universities and the universities of California, Kansas and North Carolina.

In that context, the survey also found:

  • MU has strengths — the language used in the survey — in time spent on research and teaching, support for engaging undergraduates in research and tenure reasonableness.
  • MU has weaknesses in the quality of graduate students, laboratory and research space, child care and mentoring of associate and pre-tenure faculty.
  • Differences in mentoring, promotion and senior leadership across demographic groups varied more at the school and college levels compared with the overall university.
  • Male and female faculty members were similarly satisfied with MU as a place to work (66 percent and 70 percent) and would choose to be employed at MU again (69 percent and 68 percent.) However, female faculty members are 7 percent less satisfied with their departments.
  • Tenure clarity and policies were perceived differently among colleges, showing the need for more effective communication between deans and faculty leaders.

For all faculty, promotion, mentoring and professional development were identified as areas of special concern for the university.

Committee recommendations

Results of the survey were reviewed by a faculty committee appointed by Interim Provost Ken Dean. The Faculty Satisfaction Committee made recommendations to the campus community to improve faculty satisfaction and engagement at a Faculty Council presentation on June 5.

The committee recommended that a dean's report be made by each college containing comparison data showing how that college ranks with others at MU. It recommended that the report identify strengths and weaknesses.

The committee also recommended that a general report showing the variation among colleges be made and distributed on a broad spectrum through the MU Faculty Council. The committee also suggested that specific items from the survey be shown to individuals and committees responsible for those areas. All colleges will begin to work on these recommendations this school year.

Survey background

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education survey, which was administered through Harvard Graduate School of Education, is a research initiative that gathers data to make the recruitment and management of faculty talent more effective.

The survey was founded in 2002 with aide from the Ford Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies. The 2012 survey involved 81 participating institutions nationwide, and for the first time, an additional module for non-tenure track was available, which MU opted to do.

Comparisons with the peer schools occurred only for tenure-stream faculty because not all institutions elected to involve non-tenure faculty.

MU plans to administer the survey again in 2016 to determine the progress of its improvement efforts over the next two years.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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Ellis Smith August 1, 2014 | 11:17 p.m.

Question: Is a 51% response rate to this survey considered to be sufficient?

It might be more than a little interesting if we were able to know the sentiments of the non-responding 49%.

Was this survey conducted at all four campuses of University of Missouri System or only at the MU campus? Using the System's own published data those other three campuses, combined, have more than 51% of the System's current students.

(Report Comment)
Elizabeth Brixey August 4, 2014 | 10:51 a.m.

Mr. Smith, sorry for the delay in responding to your questions.

Is 51 percent sufficient? I don't know that, and I certainly take your point. Here's what reporter Ryan Collins told me: MU's response rate was slightly above average for all institutions involved in the survey; the average response rate was 50 percent. MU's selected peers had an average response rate of 47 percent.

I am almost certain the COACHE survey was done only at MU in the system, but I am double-checking that.


Elizabeth Brixey
Education editor

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 4, 2014 | 12:45 p.m.

Elizabeth Brixey:

Thank you; no problem at all concerning time for your reply.

Having a reference point for percentages of replies from some other institutions is useful; you might want to include that for any similar published polls involving either more than one institution OR for any polls conducted WITHIN UM System.

As one of our regular commenters has correctly pointed out on several occasions, without some specific reference point percentages lose much of their meaning. That's covered when teaching statistics and statistical evaluation.

I ASSUMED that only MU was involved, but wanted verification. What does the Missourian think would be the result should this same poll be administered to the other three campuses of UM System, those three that combined have more than half the System's students? I suspect there could be some differences and maybe even a surprise or two. :)

(Report Comment)

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