Inside Higher Ed Releases its 2020 Survey of Chief Academic Officers

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As a featured sponsor of this survey, Watermark is pleased to partner with Inside Higher Ed in support of continued insight into the state of academic affairs at institutions across the U.S., from the perspective of senior leadership

NEW YORK— January 27, 2020 –Watermark, a pioneer in educational intelligence, is pleased to support the 2020 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, conducted by Gallup and answered by 597 provosts or chief academic officers, and released in conjunction with the Association of American Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. Watermark welcomes the opportunity to support research and initiatives that shed light on key issues in higher education.

This year’s survey includes compelling sentiments on recruiting and retaining faculty, criteria around program review, the effectiveness of providing quality undergraduate education, as well as policies to thwart sexual harassment. The survey results find provosts and chief academic officers expressing more confidence on some issues, even as significant worries remain.

Among the key findings:

  • Eighty-seven percent of provosts characterize their institution’s academic health as “excellent” or “good.”
  • Nearly all provosts say that their college is effective in providing a quality undergraduate education, but only 57 percent said that their institutions were “very effective.” In addition, when asked about elements of providing a quality undergraduate education, many provosts were ambivalent about how their institutions are doing.
  • Seventy-three percent of surveyed provosts indicated that their institution makes effective use of data used to measure student outcomes, with the majority agreeing that the growth of assessment systems has improved the quality of teaching and learning at their college.
  • Eighty-one percent of provosts agree or strongly agree that tenure remains important and viable at their institutions. That is a record high figure, but 77 percent of the provosts said that their institution relies significantly on non-tenure-track faculty for instruction — and they don’t see that changing.
  • Only 22 percent of provosts believe their institution is very effective at recruiting and retaining talented faculty members, the lowest results to date in the nine years Inside Higher Ed has conducted this survey.
  • More than eight in 10 provosts believe that the concept of a liberal arts education is not understood in the United States — even though 87 percent believe that liberal arts education is crucial to undergraduate education.
  • Provosts are divided on whether counting the number of students majoring in a field is an appropriate criterion for deciding whether to eliminate a department. Last year, they were more inclined to disagree.
  • Three-quarters of provosts are concerned about the trend of shutting down departments, now prevalent in higher education.
  • Provosts are much more likely to expect that STEM programs and professional or pre-professional programs will receive major allocation of funds at their institution in the coming year than to think arts and sciences programs will.
  • Seventy-two percent of provosts strongly agree or agree that higher education has tolerated sexual harassment by faculty members for too long, but only 15 percent believe the same about their own institution.

The results of the survey and other studies indicate that while institutions and the sector as a whole may not be good storytellers, individual colleges and universities have many good stories to share. Watermark is honored to have the opportunity to support efforts to better tell those stories.

Inside Higher Ed’s editor, Scott Jaschik led a discussion on the survey findings last week at the AAC&U Annual meeting. For those interested in learning more, IHE will host a free webcast on February 25.  A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.


Victoria Guzzo
Senior Director of Corporate Communications