There aren’t enough young junior-faculty members in the professoriate, and most of them won’t have enough time to rise through the ranks in academe to become a college president, a recent study says.
“Too Many Rungs on the Ladder? Faculty Demographics and the Future of Leadership in Higher Education,” a new report by the American Council on Education, highlights demographic trends that suggest that the traditional career ladder to top administrative jobs in higher education may be in need of repair.
“The current path to a college presidency may not allow [young, permanent junior-faculty members] the opportunity to rise through the ranks in the same way their predecessors did,” said Jacqueline E. King, assistant vice president and director of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis and author of the report, in a written statement. “If this current model — which typically includes stints as a tenured faculty member, department chair, and chief academic officer — is no longer working, higher education must find ways to alter the career ladder so that people can skip rungs and rise to the presidency with fewer years of experience, or become more open to individuals from areas other than academic affairs.”
Among the study’s findings: Only 3 percent of faculty members who are age 34 or younger hold the kinds of positions that typically lead to promotions — tenured or tenure-track jobs at four-year institutions, or full-time jobs at community colleges. And women age 45 or younger in permanent positions make up only 5 percent of the faculty at four-year colleges, and 6 percent of the faculty at community colleges.
Young faculty members have become sparse because students take longer to complete doctoral degrees, postdoctoral appointments are more common, and young academics — particularly women — take time off from their careers to care for young children, the report says. In addition, older faculty members are retiring later because of the faltering economy, further restricting the number of young people coming into the academy.
The report analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2003-4 National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty. —Audrey Williams June