Higher education faculty are rising to the challenge of expanding responsibilities, but more than a quarter are dissatisfied.

Is the Great Resignation coming to higher ed?

Faculty are rising to the challenge of expanding responsibilities, but more than a quarter are dissatisfied--a number that is likely to grow without more support

While many higher education faculty are satisfied in their jobs, they’re calling for more support as they struggle to balance new responsibilities brought on by the pandemic and the dramatic shift in teaching and learning, according to a new survey from edtech provider Cengage.

For its Faces of Faculty study, Cengage surveyed 1,024 faculty members at 581 U.S. colleges and universities (including two- and four-year institutions) to better understand the evolving role of faculty and how to best support them.  

Key findings include:

  • The majority (64 percent) of faculty are happy in their roles, but those who are unhappy are considering leaving. While faculty are showing resilience and adaptability in their roles, 26 percent are dissatisfied, and 70 percent of those not satisfied have considered a career change in the past 6 months.
    • The top driver of dissatisfaction for discontented faculty is “feeling unsupported by their institutions, or under pressure from administration” (29 percent), followed closely by 28 percent who feel they are undervalued or underpaid. 
  • The faculty workday is much different today – managing multiple course modalities and content demands mean more working hours. On average faculty spend 42 percent of their time on teaching and instruction, 31 percent on course preparation, 14 percent on administrative tasks and only 13 percent of time connecting with students. Faculty have little time to focus on the most important and satisfying part of their job – teaching, helping and mentoring students – which 88 percent of faculty say is among the most satisfying components of their work. Multiple priorities compete for their time.
    • Seventy-seven percent say managing multiple course modalities (e.g., online, face-to-face, hybrid) has had a significant impact on their role.  
    • Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) say the need to produce creative content has had a significant impact on their role.  
    • Eighteen percent say they are spending less time teaching (in-person, virtually or hybrid). 
  • Keeping up with constant student communication is a challenge. Sixty-one percent say keeping up with student communication has had a significant impact on their role.
    • Fifty-two percent of faculty are spending more time communicating with students about class content. 

“Almost all faculty say their role as an educator has changed, including how they’re spending their time each day as they manage multiple course modalities, meet new creative content demands and keep up with student communication needs,” said Erin Joyner, Senior Vice President for Product, Cengage.

“Their connection with students – teaching, helping and mentoring them, is the greatest driver of satisfaction for faculty but they are continually pulled away from that because of competing priorities. Our goal with this research is to shine a light on these challenges and the resilience of faculty, and also continue to improve our faculty support so students have a successful learning experience.” 

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione