Academic careers survey helps focus pre–tenure faculty support

The results of a recently released faculty job satisfaction survey are giving the University an additional tool to help it pinpoint ways to support the career development of pre–tenure faculty.

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and supported by member institutions, conducted its survey among 127 institutions between 2006 and 2009.

UChicago was among 32 institutions named an exemplar and earned that ranking in three benchmark dimensions: the overall nature of work, the nature of work as it relates to research and the nature of work as it relates to teaching.

Pre–tenure faculty were asked to rate their experiences on a 5–point scale on eight dimensions: tenure practices, clarity of institutional expectations of tenure, nature of work overall, nature of work as it deals with research and nature of work as it deals with teaching. The survey also asked the faculty members about their experiences with their institution’s work and home policies; climate, culture and collegiality; and their global satisfaction.

According to the COACHE survey data, UChicago faculty members were less satisfied than those at peer institutions with “access to formal and informal mentoring and the reasonableness and clarity of tenure criteria and process.”

Mary Harvey, Associate Provost for Program Development, noted that UChicago has made strides in both areas as it continues to make more improvements. We now ensure that tenure track assistant professors receive a letter at the time of their reappointment to a second term, which discusses their progress to date and University and departmental expectations for tenure, and suggests where professors might focus their efforts to strengthen their tenure prospects.

A number of departments also have formalized a mentoring plan for junior faculty, and the University’s Women's Leadership Council plans to provide informal mentorship opportunities to interested women.

“These are not concerns of which we were unaware, but the COACHE information has helped to focus our attention on these issues and to spark discussion with deans and chairs,” said Harvey.

In order to qualify as an “exemplar,” a college or university needed benchmark scores that placed it at the very top of institutions in its classification. The overall nature of work dimension looked at questions such as the number of hours faculty members worked, the amount of services available from clerical and teaching and computing services. The nature of work regarding research looked at topics such as the amount of time available to conduct research, travel funds and assistance in obtaining grants. The nature of work regarding teaching looked at such areas as the level of courses faculty teach, the number of courses, and the number and quality of students.

For more information about the study of pre–tenure faculty, visit