Document Type

Occasional Paper

Publication Date

Fall 1990


In the last two years, the national media and higher education publications have begun warning of faculty shortages. In the fall of 1989 Edward Fiske and Elizabeth Fowler wrote in the New York Times that colleges and universities would be facing major faculty shortages in the humanities and social sciences (Fiske 1989; Fowler 1989). A few months earlier, Joseph Berger (1989) warned in the New York Times that the "Slowing Pace to Doctorates Spurs Worry on Filling Jobs." The Chronicle of Higher Education has been running a series of articles on various aspects of the faculty labor market --concerning the extent of anticipated shortages and how colleges and universities are coping with them (Mooney 1989a; Mooney 1989b; Blum 1989), the pros and cons of academic careers ("The Pros and Cons..." 1989), and the "lost generation" of scholars (Heller 1990).

These articles present the overall picture, with some attention to differences among the disciplines. None identifies how different types of institutions will experience changes in the supply and demand for faculty. This paper focuses especially on the implications of changes in the faculty labor market for comprehensive universities, four-year primarily undergraduate universities that are neither research universities nor liberal arts colleges (Harcleroad and Ostar 1987; Youn, Finnegan, and Gamson forthcoming). It draws on several national studies to present statistics on anticipated faculty supply and demand for higher education as a whole and then disaggregates these statistics for comprehensive institutions. Next, the paper presents preliminary results from a field study of how several comprehensive universities in New England have been handling faculty recruitment and retention. It concludes with a number of implications of these findings for future institutional responses to changes in the faculty labor market.


Working Paper #2


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