A new year begins—and so do annual discussions of budget and faculty needs in preparation for another academic year for many schools around the world.
In a recent post, my colleague Colin Nelson took a look at the most recent five years of faculty data from the annual AACSB Business School Questionnaire to examine the common narrative of declining numbers of full-time faculty in comparison to part-time and adjunct faculty members. By examining the FTE (full-time equivalency) compared to the overall full-time faculty report for the last five years at 544 schools, Colin was able to illustrate that, while there has been a slight decline in the proportion of full-time faculty compared the FTE of part-time faculty, there does not seem to be an overall downward trend in the data from our Business School Questionnaire. So, if the difference doesn’t seem to stem from full-time vs. part-time faculty, what else might be contributing to the perception that schools are focusing less on their full-time faculty?
To take a look from a different perspective, we examined our most recent data from the annual AACSB Salary Survey. This survey only collects data for full-time faculty, but it breaks down those data by faculty rank, discipline, gender, tenure-track status, and qualification types. Could changes in faculty composition based on faculty rank be part of the perception of the evolving faculty at business schools? To begin answering that question, we created a controlled set of 439 schools that provided data for all of their full-time faculty for each of the past five years, representing a set of data for more than 25,000 full-time faculty members in 2011–12 to more than 27,000 in 2015–16.
Figure 1. Changes in Full-Time Faculty Composition: Percentage by Rank
Source: AACSB Salary Survey, controlled set of 439 schools participating in all listed years.
Interestingly, the data reveal a definite trend toward Instructors as a larger proportion of the overall faculty at AACSB member schools. Over the last five years, Instructors have increased from 15.4 percent of the total faculty to 18.2 percent at a steady pace, but, during the same time period, the percentage of full-time faculty listed as Professors has declined by nearly the same amount (Professors down 2.4 percent; Instructors up 2.8 percent), with Associate Professor and Assistant Professor proportions holding relatively steady and closely converging in the most recent year.
One important thing to note is that the actual count of faculty per rank reveals that the change has been driven by a much larger increase in the number of faculty at the Instructor level than by large decreases at the other faculty ranks. In fact, the number of full-time faculty listed as Professors has only declined by 0.7 percent from 8,307 in 2011–12 to 8,248 in 2015–16, while the number of faculty reported as Instructors has soared by 27 percent from 3,977 in 2011–12 to 5,050 in 2015-16. Even with this impressive growth at the Instructor level, 81.8 percent of full-time faculty at business schools are still at the Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor ranks.
What does it all mean? The growth at the Instructor level is definitely good news for those looking to join business schools at that rank, but it doesn’t look like Instructors will be the most common type of business school faculty anytime soon. These are definitely trends to watch as business schools continue to evolve their faculty mix to find the right balance for providing the best possible environment for their students and colleagues to achieve their goals.