Inside Higher Ed Releases New Survey Results

Information Community News

For those seeking to assess potential long-term impact of the pandemic on higher education in the U.S., it was newsworthy in April that InsideHigherEd published their 2021 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers.  For those who have not seen the full 70-page narrative, IHE offered a taste of their high level findings in an article published on their site. The survey was conducted throughout February and March of 2021, with participation from 183 provosts and chief academic officers (CAO) serving at public and private non-profit institutions.

As a 50,000-foot-view, the findings are that the academic health of most public and private non-profit institutions is good. Specifically, the report notes that “most provosts indicate that the “academic health” of their institution is at least good (87 percent), with none reporting that it is failing.” 

Among other high level findings in that report were the following:

  • Institutions will likely offer more hybrid and online courses after the pandemic than they did before. Three in four provosts indicate that this will be the case for their institution after the pandemic. Given that, few report that their institution is considering partnering with an outside provider to conduct online courses (7 percent).

  • Institutions generally offer a variety of professional development to their faculty members. While most already offer professional development in areas like teaching with technology (97 percent) and active teaching techniques (90 percent), there is room for growth when it comes to professional development regarding measuring the effectiveness of digital tools. (46 percent).

  • Though provosts believe that a liberal arts education is essential, they also indicate that it is in decline. While ninety-three agree that a liberal arts education is central to undergraduate studies, 73 percent say that they expect to see the number of liberal arts colleges decline significantly over the next five years. Additionally, most say that liberal arts education is not well understood in the U.S. (92 percent). 

  • Competing opinions exist when it comes to decisions around academic funding. Though most agree that a high-quality undergraduate education requires healthy departments in fields like English (84 percent), they also note that politicians and board members are prioritizing STEM and professional programs over general education (72 percent). Furthermore, only 28 percent believe that there will be major allocations of funds to arts and science programs in the next budget year.

There were other findings pertaining to the academic reward system (T&P) and the balance between teaching and research activities that may potentially have significance for those stakeholders serving this community.

  • While 43% report that their institutions should have adjusted tenure expectations, only 40% report that their institution actually did so. (pg. 14)

  • Two thirds of those questioned felt that tenure remains important and tenable at their institutions. Where cuts in faculty were made, those cuts were more apt to be made at the private nonprofits and to those in adjunct faculty roles. (Page 34)

  • At most institutions where faculty cuts were made, provosts indicate that the humanities were not disproportionately affected by those cuts (86%). However, where such cuts were made, the humanities were more affected by such cuts at private institutions than at public institutions. (pages 20-21)

  • Provosts continue to agree that teaching is more important than research in the faculty role. The last iteration of the IHE survey found that 82 percent believed that teaching is more important than research, whereas this year’s findings showed 80 percent of provosts agreeing.

  • Significantly more private institutions (33 percent) have considered better recognition for teaching roles as compared to public institutions (16 percent). 

  • How much more important teaching may be is still in question. In 2020, 62% of those questioned reported that they found teaching to be much more important than research, though only 45 percent indicated that to be the case this year. Offsetting that, in 2020 5% reported that research was more important than teaching, with that percentage fall by 3 points in 2021. (pg 65)

The full text of the report may be downloaded from InsideHigherEd by registering here; there is no cost associated with that access.