New CIC Report Explores Faculty Roles and Composition, Offers Recommendations to Address Discrepancies

7/6/2016 — Washington, DC
​The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) today released a report, Changes in Faculty Composition at Independent Colleges. The report describes a changing academic workforce and details how faculty composition and responsibilities vary by institutional type, program type, and academic discipline. Written by three leading researchers—Christopher Morphew of the University of Iowa, Kelly Ward of Washington State University, and Lisa Wolf-Wendel of the University of Kansas—the report is available as a PDF at

“The report suggests that a flexible academic workforce can help small and mid-sized independent colleges adapt to changing needs without sacrificing high-quality undergraduate instruction or the tradition of shared governance, while recognizing and supporting the contributions of all faculty members to student success,” CIC President Richard Ekman said when announcing the report.

Contingent faculty, defined in the report as full- or part-time faculty members who are not tenured, on the tenure track, or in multi-term contracts, are the majority of the new faculty in higher education today. “It’s regrettable that the percentage of contingent faculty is increasing in most U.S. colleges and universities—both public and private alike. But at CIC colleges and universities, most traditional on-campus undergraduate programs remain staffed by tenure-line or long-term contract faculty members,” said Ekman.

CIC institutions most often use contingent faculty members in adult, professional, and graduate degree programs and to teach in rapidly expanding fields such as the health sciences. Despite common stereotypes, contingent faculty members are not marginalized at most independent colleges and universities.

An important finding of the report is that the professional expectations of contingent faculty members differ significantly from those of tenure-track and long-term contract faculty members. When compared with tenure-track and long-term contract faculty members, contingent faculty members are:
  • Often hired with reduced expectations for advising students, supervising student research, or integrating service learning;
  • Less likely to receive a formal orientation once hired;
  • More likely to devote all of their time to teaching with very little time devoted to research, service to the institution, or faculty governance; and
  • Far less likely to have access to office space, support staff, computers, institutional email accounts, or travel funds for professional development.
One result of these differences is that contingent faculty members may be less engaged with their faculty colleagues or to participate in student learning experiences outside the classroom.

The authors offer several recommendations to address the discrepancies between roles and expectations of different types of faculty appointments. Among the recommendations, the authors suggest that colleges and universities:
  • Clarify the roles all types of faculty members in faculty handbooks;
  • Review the distribution of faculty work periodically;
  • Reexamine faculty hiring and orientation practices;
  • Consider the impact of relying on contingent faculty members on both students and long-term faculty members; and
  • Provide sufficient support for contingent faculty members.
Changes in Faculty Composition at Independent Colleges is the seventh research report in a series of publications resulting from CIC’s Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education. The research for this report was supported by the Lumina Foundation.

The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 765 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on providing services to leaders of independent colleges and universities as well as conferences, seminars, and other programs that help institutions to improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and institutional visibility. CIC conducts the largest annual conferences of college and university presidents and of chief academic officers. CIC also provides support to state fundraising associations that organize programs and generate contributions for private colleges and universities. The Council is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.