Top Academic Workplaces 2005-06

January 23, 2007

While the majority of junior faculty at America’s colleges and universities are satisfied at work, some institutions are doing extraordinarily well in this area. The survey, administered by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) in 2005, determined that some colleges and universities are “exemplary” on certain key dimensions of faculty work life.

“While all COACHE participants are committed to a more fulfilling and productive work life for new faculty, the exemplars deserve special mention because they are already succeeding,” said Richard Chait, professor of higher education and co-director of COACHE at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “If they can sustain an earned reputation as a great place for junior faculty to work, they will enjoy a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining the next generation of faculty.”

In order to qualify as an “exemplar,” a college or university needed scores that were notably higher than similar institutions.  Five universities (Auburn, Brown, Ohio State, Stanford, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and one college (Davidson) achieved exemplary status in four of seven categories. Two universities (Dartmouth and the University of Virginia) and two colleges (Goucher and Kenyon) were outstanding in three categories. Two universities (Harvard and University of Kansas) and four colleges (Denison, Hamilton, Macalester, Wabash) were exemplary in two categories. 

The survey considered the following categories in assessment:

  • tenure, clarity and fairness
  • nature of work: workload,  research and teaching environment, quality of students
  • effectiveness of key policies (e.g., mentoring, childcare, and leaves)
  • compensation
  • work and family balance
  • collegiality
  • overall satisfaction.

Beyond the institutions named exemplar, the survey gave insight into overall job satisfaction at America’s colleges and universities. The average score of nearly 5,000 faculty at 42 schools was 3.92 on a 5.00 point scale.  The survey also indicated some differences in satisfaction based on gender, race, and institution. For instance, women were less satisfied than men (3.89 v. 3.94), faculty of color were less satisfied than white faculty (3.84 v. 3.94), and university faculty were less satisfied than college faculty (3.90 v. 4.15).


Based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and supported by the Ford Foundation, COACHE is committed to gathering the peer diagnostic and comparative data academic administrators need to recruit, retain, and develop the cohort most critical to the long-term future of their institutions.

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