Higher education has experienced some significant changes over the past few years including a highly competitive landscape, use of new technology, managing COVID protocols and guiding students to resources that ensure their success. With prior research highlighting the changes in the workforce and poor working conditions of part-time faculty, this study aims to explore full-time perceptions of several employment-related variables to determine how these significant workplace changes have impacted them.
A mixed-methods approach is used. This includes a questionnaire being sent out via e-mail to faculty at a medium-sized, public, regional university located in the USA. This was sent through two separate listservs: full-time faculty listserv and part-time faculty listserv. The questionnaire included quantitative and qualitative questions. A one-way ANOVA was used to detect significant differences between the two groups of interest for the quantitative components. The qualitative portions of the questionnaire provided deeper insights into employee perceptions of their workplace.
This research uncovers some alarming trends for full-time faculty within higher education. Across several different employment variables, full-time faculty perceptions are significantly worse than part-time faculty. This includes work–family conflict, pay perceptions, compensation opportunities, online teaching experiences, overwhelming work activities, technology provided, travel funding provided, perceived satisfaction of a faculty advocate and perceived benefits of a faculty advocate. Qualitative and quantitative results support these findings and provide additional clarification as to why they have these negative workplace perceptions.
A convenience sample was used, where data was only gathered from one university. Future research could replicate finding with more universities varying in their make-up and location to determine if these results hold across the USA and internationally. Some measures did not use established scales in the literature, and some were single-item measures. Future research could replicate findings using established scales with multi-item measures to provide more confidence the results produced that are reliable and valid.
These results suggest alarming concerns for higher education institutions regarding their full-time faculty. Human resource managers and administrators at universities should respond to “the alarm” from this research and internal employee satisfaction surveys they have conducted with their employees. Changes should be made at higher education institutions to improve employee workplace perceptions in hopes of retaining valuable employees and improving worker morale to increase productivity. The recent workplace changes and challenges for full-time faculty are negatively impacting their workplace perceptions.
As a result of full-time faculty having significantly worse perceptions across all measured employment variables than their part-time colleagues, who already had poor perceptions, the authors may see more “good” employees leaving the industry for other more lucrative options. Others may become “dead wood” in the university and engage in “quite quitting” resulting in less productivity. With the tenure process protecting professors, this may result in universities being “stuck” with many unmotivated professors and hurt the quality of educational services provided. Some professors may even act out negatively toward the university. This could damage the quality of education provided at universities and perceptions of higher education by society.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study comparing full-time and part-time faculty workplace perceptions across several variables. After previous study has highlighted the poor work conditions and perceptions of part-time faculty, this study adds to the discussion showing that significant changes in the workplace have resulted in full-time faculty now perceiving their employment to be significantly worse than their part-time colleagues. This can have significant short-term and long-term ramifications for the industry that will make it more difficult for universities to attract talented individuals to choose a career in education and retaining their best workers based on current employment perceptions.
Blair, J.R., Jones, L., Manning, M., McGlown, J., Streetman, C. and Walz, C. (2024), "Ring the alarm: modifications to higher education negatively impacting full-time faculty", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 37-52. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-01-2023-0024
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