If you are a faculty member who has been invited to complete a COACHE survey, please visit our faculty-specific FAQ.

General FAQ


Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey


Faculty Retention & Exit Survey


General FAQ

What is COACHE?

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education is a research-practice partnership based in the Harvard Graduate School of Education. COACHE studies the work lives of faculty with a focus on actionable data to support academic administrators. Studies are conducted in partnership with college and university leaders (both faculty and administrative) with an emphasis on using the data collected to improve the academic workplace.

What is a research-practice partnership?

A research-practice partnership (RPP) is an organization that convenes researchers studying a particular problem with practitioners who co-investigate a topic in a way that is methodologically rigorous but also practitioner focused. RPPs are becoming increasingly important in education where the gap between scholarly work and educational professionals can be significant. To learn more about RPPs visit the William T Grant Foundation.

Why does COACHE only study faculty?

Faculty are the heart of every college and university. Their commitment and relationship to their institution is distinctive from other types of employees as well as students. In many cases, they will work at an institution for their entire professional career. Also, because of their shared governance responsibilities, the relationship between faculty and administration can be difficult to manage. In those ways, a typical workplace survey would never fully address the needs of the faculty. COACHE believes this so strongly that as an organization, we have decided not to survey other constituent groups in higher education.

Why should I join COACHE when I can just administer my own survey?

Academic Affairs and Institutional Researchers are being pulled in so many directions that taking the time to develop and execute a robust survey about the faculty workplace could take months of staff and faculty time. COACHE also provides robust comparative data in its reporting and analytics including the option to self-select five peer comparison institutions. Our robust reporting platform provides powerful diagnostics which are intuitive and professional. Most importantly, COACHE continues to work with partners for two years after data collection to interpret results, disseminate the findings, and develop policy solutions.

Can I see a copy of the surveys?

Please write to us at coache@gse.harvard.edu to request a PDF copy of our surveys to review.

What steps do I need to take in order to participate?

To determine if COACHE is right for your institution, we start with a briefing call. We typically encourage representation from the Chief Academic Officer, Institutional Research, and a faculty leader as part of the call. To proceed, please contact us at coache@gse.harvard.edu to arrange a time to speak with a member of our senior leadership team.


Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey

Why should my institution participate in the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey?

Institutions become members of COACHE for a whole host of reasons but here are just a few to consider:

  • To get a better sense of faculty perceptions of the workplace relative to the national labor market.
  • To support the accreditation process
  • As an assessment for an NSF grant
  • As part of a strategic planning process
  • To provide incoming leadership with some sense of faculty dispositions

Is this a climate survey?

Workplace climate studies typically focus on experiences and perceptions of underrepresented groups on campus. Climate surveys can be powerful but COACHE takes a different approach to its work. The Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey assess the academic workplace broadly and then, uses the disaggregation of the results to raise questions about the workplace climate. We find this approach generates a broader level of engagement from the campus both in survey participation and in the work that comes after the results are delivered. Bringing more constituents to the table means that COACHE results can have a greater impact on issues of workplace climate and diversity.

How is the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey different from other workplace surveys?

COACHE’s Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey is distinctive to the work of faculty which allows it to dive deeper into the issues that matter most to faculty. Support for teaching, research and service, shared governance, and appreciation and recognition for work are just some of the topics covered in the instrument. The survey is designed pragmatically. Every question links to practical campus issues.

What policies and practices could better faculty workplace data inform?

As a broad omnibus survey, the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey assess a range of topics. That means the results can inform an entire suite of different and better practices. To see what some of our partners have done with COACHE results, look at our partners page.

Who is eligible to take the survey?

The instrument is designed to assess the experiences of all full-time faculty. Because part-time faculty are an increasingly important area of study, we believe that a distinctive instrument is warranted. Because the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey looks at all ranks, and appointment types, the survey has specific adaptive branching for each population.

What is required to participate?

Your institution will be asked to provide an Excel or SPSS file containing information on the faculty and who are eligible to participate in your institution’s survey. Take note: these data are not merely names and e-mail addresses, but an array of variables that will allow for robust analysis. All information will be transferred using our secure file-sharing portal that meets the standards of protection for “Level 3 High-Risk Confidential Information,” as directed by Harvard University’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects. Once your CAO (or other designee) sends these faculty a message announcing your work with COACHE, our team handles the rest.

Who on my campus should be responsible?

We believe that working with a team is an effective strategy for deploying the survey and ensuring that the data are put to good use after the results are in your hand. Teams need a variety of skills and capabilities but as a general rule, we encourage teams to include a designee from the CAO Office, Institutional Research Office, and representative from faculty leadership. Other institutions include communications staff as well.

What is the timeline for participating?

Survey administration begins in February each year, but preparations begin in the fall. Typically, the survey closes in April and reports are delivered in the summer.

When do I see the results, and in what format?

Results are delivered in two formats. A summary PDF report looks at high level results and global questions. A full digital report disaggregates results by race, gender, rank, tenure status, and discipline.

How much does the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey cost?

The base fee for participating depends on institutional type. For current pricing, please see the "Cost to Participate" section on the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey webpage. Pricing for state system and consortial engagements yield economies of scale that may result in discounted base fees for member institutions. To receive a quote for your system or consortium, please email us at coache@gse.harvard.edu


Faculty Retention & Exit Survey

What are the reasons why faculty leave?

In a recent flurry of articles, KerryAnn O’Meara and colleagues have challenged some of the commonly-held attitudes of administrators and faculty about the reasons why faculty leave. An institution’s tendency to blame “heaven” (better opportunities) or “hell” (the “writing on the wall”) insulates them from any personal or institutional responsibility for the faculty member’s untimely exit (O’Meara, Lounder & Campbell, 2014). The reasons for such departures are, in fact, nuanced, subject to influence and, perhaps, predictable. They include (in a list compiled from O’Meara’s extensive research, from the TIAA Institute, and from our own interviews with senior academic administrators at a large, public system of higher education):

  • Better opportunity
    • Higher salary, more resources
    • More prestigious department, institution (increasingly international)
    • Administrative appointment (e.g., dean)
    • Position outside academe
    • Additional education or training
  • Location and family
    • Career opportunities for spouse, partner
    • Better policies related to childcare (e.g., tuition remission), parental leave
    • Desirable geographic location
    • To be closer to family
  • Work environment and fit
    • Better campus climate for, e.g., women, URM, GLBTQ faculty
    • Intellectual fit
    • Lack of collegiality in unit
    • Potential for better work-life balance in a different type of position
  • Retirement
    • “Natural” retirement
    • Early retirement, but for another position
    • Negotiated exit for misbehavior
  • Writing on the wall
    • Not well suited to faculty career
    • Poor likelihood of tenure, promotion, contract renewal
  • The reasons actual faculty “leavers” provide for seeking employment elsewhere suggest an institutional culpability due to departmental cultures and processes—factors within the power of faculty and administrators to change.

What is the scale of faculty flight?

There is no national or even state-wide dataset that adequately captures the mobility of faculty from and within the academy. At one large system, however, we found that on an average per campus, per year basis, there are just 12 resignations. Even at the largest campus, only about 20 faculty resign each year. Concerning retirements, we found (on a per campus basis) barely more than 2 retirements per year under the age of 60, and just over 20 retirements over that age.

Not counted in these figures are the successful retention efforts of each campus. One system’s administrators reported retention rates ranging from 75% to 90%. While these estimates may not have included involuntary separations (e.g., tenure denials and negotiated retirements) and others for whom no retention effort was made, still, they suggest a population of retained faculty who could contribute to our understanding of the costs of departure intentions and of the reasons why faculty seek to leave their institutions.

What are the implications of faculty flight for universities?

Our interviews and subsequent meetings with one public system’s vice provosts and AVPs revealed local, state, and national contexts for their interest in gathering faculty departure and retention data. Most described the importance of these data in terms of the costs of even a single faculty member’s departure (see Kaminski & Geisler, 2012). These costs are often expressed in terms of (a) investment in the search, hiring, and development of the faculty member; and (b) the contributions that person makes to the institution, now no longer to be realized.

The investment includes search and hiring costs such as advertising, search committee staff, travel for three candidates, relocation, and the start-up package. There may also be costs associated with spousal/partner hiring, especially of dual-academic couples. Once in place, professors generate direct and indirect costs for orientation and training, release time, and teaching and learning support

The contributions include those tracked in research productivity metrics—numbers of journal articles, books, citations, research grants and the total value of those grants—as well as honorific awards from a faculty member’s division, institution, discipline and elsewhere. Such honors might include commendations for teaching, mentorship, and service. Often escaping measurement, but nevertheless important, are the contributions of leadership that professors provide in their departments, on committees, task forces, and the like.

Beyond lost investment and contributions, faculty and administrators describe the problem of departures also as a matter of equity. Do some groups leave for reasons different than—or even as a result of—other groups? Might knowing the answer help us address their concerns? In addition to these concerns is the low morale departments suffer when they lose faculty stars and good colleagues, not to mention the loss of national reputation to academic programs, which might subsequently be ranked lower as a result of the loss.

What activities could better exit and retention data inform?

Many examples of the utility of exit data emerged in our interviews with senior academic administrators at institutions already conducting this work and at those seeking to mount such an effort. Some benefits redound to a system or consortium of universities, while others are realized by individual campuses. Knowledge from analyses of faculty departures has helped or could help by:

  • Suggesting improvements to chair training and development in the handling of faculty intent to leave;
  • Revealing whether or not universities are effectively carrying out their missions;
  • Identifying more quickly than could a single institution any resignation patterns with respect to disciplinary cultures, gender, and URM status;
  • Merging data across campuses to find out if particular competitors in the faculty labor market are offering particular inducements that make a difference in successfully “poaching” one’s faculty;
  • Informing decisions regarding the (re)appointment of chairs, reviews of deans, and allocation of FTEs to departments;
  • Educating deans about the efficacy of “home field advantage” in preemptive retention actions and counteroffers;
  • Giving budget officers the basis for projections about where new hiring opportunities should be made available;
  • Providing fundable propositions for interactions with foundations (e.g., Sloan, NSF ADVANCE);
  • Creating compelling cases to donors in the name of retaining the best and brightest talent, for example, by endowing chairs, funding a school for children of faculty, allowing more teaching on recall, or subsidizing faculty housing.
  • Offering sound research—colored with poignant anecdotes—in support of appropriations requests to the state legislature.

Who is eligible to take the survey?

Faculty who fall under the following two categories are eligible to participate in the Faculty Retention and Exit Survey: faculty who left your institution in the past academic year (not including involuntary departures and retirements); and faculty who received an offer to work elsewhere in the past year, but were retained by your institution.

What is required to participate?

Your institution will be asked to provide an Excel or SPSS file containing information on the faculty and former faculty who are eligible to participate in your institution’s survey. Take note: these data are not merely names and e-mail addresses, but an array of variables that will allow for robust analysis about the real costs and causes of faculty departure. All information will be transferred using our secure file-sharing portal that meets the standards of protection for “Level 3 High-Risk Confidential Information,” as directed by Harvard University’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects. Once your CAO (or other designee) sends these faculty a message announcing your work with COACHE, our analysts handle the rest.

Who on my campus should be responsible?

Two contacts should liaise with COACHE on the planning, data collection, analysis, and reporting processes: the first, an administrator or faculty leader responsible for faculty development, faculty affairs or academic personnel; the second, an institutional research officer or other “honest broker” of sensitive data in the CAO’s office. Together, this team will work with deans, associate deans, and department chairs to get the data COACHE needs about your departures and retentions.

What is the timeline for participating?

After you have signed our research participation agreement, the preparation of the faculty population file may take several weeks (depending on your existing capacity for administrative data about faculty). Our phased survey launch and administration spans two months. Data cleaning, analysis, and reporting—to the extent that reporting in the first year is possible—will take another 12 weeks.

When do I see the results, and in what format?

With so few eligible faculty (pilot institutions averaged 30 records), reliable findings will take time to accrue. You will receive only a brief summary at the end of the first year, but each year, your reports will become richer with disaggregated and comparative results. Initial COACHE analyses will explore the factors compelling faculty to accept the outside offer or stay at their home institution; later, we will report on differences by gender, race/ethnicity, and rank.

How much does the Faculty Retention & Exit Survey cost?

The annual participation fee is $1,500 plus $100 per record in the eligible faculty population file. Participating institutions may add up to 15 custom questions to their survey at a cost of $500 per block of five.