Faculty Retention and Exit

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in partnership with the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), a research initiative based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is engaging in a first-of-its-kind national study of faculty departures and retentions.

Why has UMass Amherst decided to participate in this study?

UMass Amherst wants to recruit and retain world class faculty; to do this, we need to understand the reasons and factors that attract our faculty to competing institutions. The COACHE Faculty Retention & Exit Retention Study is designed to help us. COACHE understands that faculty are a unique type of employee whose circumstances require an instrument tailored for them. The instrument and methodology was developed in consultation with researchers, faculty, and academic leaders across the country and has been reviewed and approved by the Harvard Committee on the Use of Human Subjects.

COACHE gives us the opportunity to benchmark ourselves with other institutions. No other research study offers comparative data on this issue. The peer data can help us understand where our strengths in faculty retention lie and where we have more work to do. (For a full list of the universities that have partnered with COACHE since its founding in 2005, visit the COACHE website.)

We see this as an opportunity to shed new light on our institutional practices related to faculty retention. At many institutions, the protocols and policies used to address outside offers are not codified to ensure equitable treatment for everyone. We want to understand whether this is the case at UMass Amherst so that we can take steps to improve the processes we use in retention actions.

Even when faculty move on to new institutions, UMass Amherst cares about their experiences and wants ensure fair and supportive treatment during the transition. We want faculty to recommend UMass Amherst to graduate students and other colleagues. We know we cannot retain everyone, but we can make everyone feel valued and respected.

Who will be invited to participate in the study?

Faculty who, in the past year, received a formal outside offer and shared that with someone at UMass Amherst are included. This is regardless of whether the faculty member (a) accepted the offer and moved on or (b) decided to stay. Also eligible are faculty who (c) received a pre-emptive adjustment to their employment status, like a salary increase or additional graduate student support, that was not part of a counteroffer.

What does the survey ask about?

Grounded in the literature on workplace mobility and the academic labor market, the survey focuses on:

            the search process

            the nature of the outside offer

            the compelling factors to leave and to stay

            the impact of spouses or partners on decision-making

            the counteroffer

            the transition to a new institution (when applicable)

The survey includes adaptive branching so that respondents only see the items related to your experience. The longest branch of the survey takes 20 to 25 minutes to complete; the shortest may take as few as 5 minutes.

If you would like to learn more about what might be learned from the results, I encourage you to review this infographic that summarizes some key findings from the pilot study.

Who from our institution is working with COACHE on this project?

Each campus needs a team to execute this study. The Office of Faculty DevelopmentUniversity Analytics and [BT1] Institutional Research, the Provost’s Office, and the Deans of the colleges and schools have helped compile the data for this study. If you have specific questions about our relationship with COACHE or how we plan to use this data, contact Michelle Budig, Vice Provost for Faculty Development, who can answer specific questions about how UMass Amherst plans to use these results.

When will you receive the results?

Because the numbers of eligible survey participants is quite small, every institution in this study agrees to three years of data collection before receiving results.

Are responses anonymous?

All institutions will receive a anonymous report from COACHE. That report is designed to mask the identity of respondents by not reporting results with fewer than three eligible respondents and by redacting identifying information from open-text comments. UMass Amherst has elected to not receive unit-level data from this survey.