In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Higher Education Faculty Characteristics and Trends in the United States and Europe

  • Introduction
  • Books and Handbooks
  • National and International Reports
  • Journals
  • Trends of Higher Education Faculty Characteristics in Europe

Education Higher Education Faculty Characteristics and Trends in the United States and Europe
Liudvika Leišytė, Nadine Zeeman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0223


The characteristics of higher education faculty described in the literature include gender, disciplinary affiliation, institutional affiliation, type of contract, and rank. This bibliography will focus on the literature characterizing the faculty in these categories. Specific attention will be paid to the faculty situation in the United States and in Europe, including country cases within Europe. The concentration on the United States and Europe provides interesting insights, as the characteristics of faculty are influenced by the higher education governance model in place. On both sides of the Atlantic, the governance arrangements and working conditions differ to some extent, and this determines the types of faculty positions and their characteristics. In the United States the higher education system is characterized by a departmental model, whereas in most European countries a chair model can be observed in academia. Both employment contracts and the division of labor are influenced by the higher education governance system in place. Faculty employment contracts can take various forms and be permanent or temporary. In the US system, tenure-track faculty positions have been common, where tenure is achieved based on performance within the same institution. In European systems traditionally, faculty and especially professors have been civil servants and had to win an open competition to get the position. Further, variations of contracts appear, as faculty can either have a part-time or full-time position. Faculty are involved in teaching and research, and more recently in service and knowledge commercialization. These employment contracts and faculty activities have changed over time due to changes in higher education governance systems, including the increasing massification, marketization, and privatization of higher education. Studying higher education faculty change over time, we observe a number of trends. An increasing percentage of faculty in the United States are on non-tenure-track appointments with teaching-only responsibilities. In Europe, precarious faculty positions are also on the rise across a number of higher education systems. Overall, a diversification of faculty roles and activities, as well as intensification of work, can be observed.

Books and Handbooks

A number of comprehensive books and handbooks in higher education studies have been produced since 2000 on the topic of higher education faculty characteristics and trends. We selected ten books and handbooks because of their research credentials and the professional reputations of their authors and editors. Scholars interested in a detailed literature overview of academic work and academic careers in the United States and in Europe will find the handbook Smart and Paulsen 2012 helpful. It includes two chapters that address changing faculty characteristics. The chapter on academic work focuses on faculty autonomy, productivity, and identity in Europe and the United States. The chapter on academic careers provides a comprehensive account on the sociology of academic careers. A further comprehensive comparative account of academic careers globally is offered by Finkelstein and Jones 2019. Currie, et al. 2003 also provides a comparative perspective of faculty characteristics in the United States and Europe and focuses inter alia on the aspect of permanent employment. Academics who want more insights about the faculty characteristics and trends in the United States are advised to consult Schuster and Finkelstein 2006, which describes changes in the structure of American faculty. Enders and De Weert 2009 and Fumasoli, et al. 2015 provide interesting insights on trends in higher education faculty in different, largely European, countries, by examining the developments that changed the academic profession, especially looking at what changes in governance meant for the key roles of teaching and research. To retrieve the academics’ perception on the changing academic profession, the edited book Teichler, et al. 2013, based on the global Changing Academic Profession Project results, provides helpful insights in terms of changes faculty themselves perceive in their profession. Further, researchers interested in academic identities and changes in faculty roles can find focused country studies in Amaral, et al. 2008 and Leišytė and Wilkesmann 2016. Finally, Baldwin and Chronister 2001 provides an insightful account on the tenure-track system and its changes in the United States.

  • Amaral, A., I. Bleiklie, and C. Musselin, eds. 2008. From governance to identity: A Festschrift for Mary Henkel. Higher Education Dynamics 24. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Science & Business Media.

    This book contributes to understanding how research in higher education has developed. It includes chapters related to the governance of higher education and the changing identity of higher education institutions.

  • Baldwin, R. G., and J. L. Chronister. 2001. Teaching without tenure: Policies and practices for a new era. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    The aim of this book is to provide an overview of who non-tenure-track faculty are, what role they play in higher education, and the policies that control the terms and conditions of their employment within the US higher education system.

  • Currie, J., R. DeAngelis, H. De Boer, J. Huisman, and C. Lacotte. 2003. Globalizing practices and university responses: European and Anglo-American differences. Greenwood Studies in Higher Education. Westport, CT: Praeger.

    The objective of this book is to understand the effects of globalizing practices (e.g., managerialism and employment flexibility) on universities in Europe and the United States.

  • Enders, J., and E. de Weert, eds. 2009. The changing face of academic life: Analytical and comparative perspectives. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    This book provides a thorough overview of recent structural developments that alter the traditional characteristics of the academic profession. These developments include massification, marketization, internationalization, and globalization, and how these effect on academic life.

  • Finkelstein, M. J., and G. Jones, eds. 2019. Professorial pathways: Academic careers in a global perspective. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Univ. Press.

    The book provides a set of case studies from across Europe, Asia, North American, and South America on changing academic careers in the context of changing academic markets. The authors discuss how academic careers vary in fundamentally different contexts.

  • Fumasoli, T., G. Goastellec, and B. M. Kehm, eds. 2015. Academic work and careers in Europe: Trends, challenges, perspectives. The Changing Academy—The Changing Academic Profession in International Comparative Perspective 12. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

    Based on interviews with academic staff, this book examines the perceptions of academic staff about the changes in academic careers and academic work over the recent years in eight European countries.

  • Leišytė, L., and U. Wilkesmann, eds. 2016. Organizing academic work: Teaching, learning and identities. London: Routledge.

    This book brings together literature on teaching and learning in higher education and organizational change in higher education. It especially focuses on the role of academics in initiating changes in teaching and learning and presents the shifts in academic identities that take place due to organizational changes. It provides evidence from Europe, the United States, Asia, and Australia.

  • Schuster, J. H., and M. J. Finkelstein. 2006. The American faculty: The restructuring of academic work and careers. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    This book describes the transformation of the American faculty in the context of a changing knowledge-based economy, privatization and market forces, and new information technologies in higher education in the United States. This study draws on rich empirical material collected in the auspices of the Changing Academic Profession Project and is one of the most comprehensive accounts on the topic in the United States.

  • Smart, J. C., and M. Paulsen, eds. 2012. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Vol. 27. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    This handbook series provides literature reviews on a diverse range of topics on higher education. Volume 27 includes two chapters that provide a comprehensive review of research findings related to academic work and academic careers in the United States and Europe.

  • Teichler, U., A. Arimoto, and W. K. Cummings, eds. 2013. The changing academic profession. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    This book presents the important results of an international comparatives study on the changing academic profession, providing comparative insights on faculty working conditions across many countries based on academic perceptions of their activities and roles. The findings show that policy and governance trends in higher education affect the academic profession in various countries, albeit to different extents in different places.

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