Rethinking Faculty Models/Roles: An Emerging Consensus about Future Directions for the Professoriate

Executive Summary
Full Report

Today, some 70% of faculty at U.S. institutions hold full- or part-time nontenure-track positions, and a return to the days of a largely tenure-track faculty is highly unlikely. What’s less clear is what future faculty models should look like.


The TIAA Institute commissioned a survey of hundreds of higher education stakeholders to gain their views on new faculty models. The results indicate substantial areas of agreement among faculty, administrators and others on many of the proposals listed in the survey, as well as concerns about the feasibility of some changes. Pessimistic views about feasibility, however, may be due more to stereotypes and external pressures than to campus realities.

Key Insights

  • Stakeholders largely agree on the need for more full-time faculty, having a scholarly element in all faculty roles, fostering more faculty collaboration, differentiating roles based on teaching and research, and developing a broader view of scholarship.
  • Most stakeholders also agree on the need to maintain and restore professionalism in the faculty role, which concerns such issues as protecting academic freedom, career advancement, equitable pay, professional development and shared governance.
  • Despite interest in some proposals – such as creativity contracts, more flexible faculty roles and the creation of consortial hiring arrangements – some stakeholder groups questioned the feasibility of implementation.
  • A few hot button issues remain controversial, including phasing out tenure and aligning faculty work with departmental and institutional needs.

Only 30% of faculty hold tenure-track positions—a proportion not likely to change.


The survey was administered through national higher education associations in February and March 2015. More than 1,500 higher education stakeholders participated, including tenure and nontenure-track faculty, deans, provosts and accreditors.


Adrianna J. Kezar

University of Southern California

Elizabeth Holcombe
Daniel Maxey
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