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The academic exodus: the role of institutional support in academics leaving universities and the academy


Recent studies argue that in the next 5 years, the higher education sector will see half to two-thirds of its academic workforce leave the academy due to retirement, career burnout, or job dissatisfaction. This study surveyed over 100 working academics in Australia, North America, and the United Kingdom to determine their aspirations for remaining within, or leaving, the academy. The study found that the professional development and career support available to academics played major roles in their career satisfaction. The study’s significance lies in highlighting the types of support academics most value. The paper also explores what motivates participants’ intentions to remain in, or leave, their current positions, or the academy entirely. This assessment occurs at a time when the literature indicates that a significant period of staff turnover is imminent.
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Professional Development in Education
ISSN: 1941-5257 (Print) 1941-5265 (Online) Journal homepage:
The academic exodus: the role of institutional
support in academics leaving universities and the
Troy A. Heffernan & Amanda Heffernan
To cite this article: Troy A. Heffernan & Amanda Heffernan (2018): The academic exodus: the
role of institutional support in academics leaving universities and the academy, Professional
Development in Education, DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2018.1474491
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Published online: 29 May 2018.
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The academic exodus: the role of institutional support in
academics leaving universities and the academy
Troy A. Heernan
and Amanda Heernan
School of Arts and Communication, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia;
Faculty of
Education, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Recent studies argue that in the next 5 years, the higher education sector
will see half to two-thirds of its academic workforce leave the academy
due to retirement, career burnout, or job dissatisfaction. This study
surveyed over 100 working academics in Australia, North America, and
the United Kingdom to determine their aspirations for remaining within,
or leaving, the academy. The study found that the professional develop-
ment and career support available to academics played major roles in
their career satisfaction. The studys signicance lies in highlighting the
types of support academics most value. The paper also explores what
motivates participantsintentions to remain in, or leave, their current
positions, or the academy entirely. This assessment occurs at a time
when the literature indicates that a signicant period of staturnover
is imminent.
Received 11 December 2017
Accepted 2 May 2018
Academic development;
academic support; career
intention; higher education
Recent literature regarding academic employment has resulted in the prediction of a signicant
workforce turnover. Exact gures are dicult to determine; however, Crimmins et al.(2017)suggest
that 67% of current academics will have left the profession by 2021. Another prediction, indicative of a
similar trend, is that 25% of the current academic workforce intends to retire by 2023, and that another
25% have expressed their intention to leave the profession (Bexley et al.2013). The exact gures may
dier, but nonetheless suggest that a turnover is imminent and will leave a signicant gap of
experienced academics needing to be replaced and trained which will impact on institutions in
terms of loss of institutional knowledge, recruitment expenses, and lost productivity. It also cannot
be ignored that academics changing institutions or leaving the academy due to work satisfaction is
likely to also occur with some cost to the academic in personal, professional, and nancial respects.
The literature has identied multiple reasons why academics are leaving the profession.
Shifting expectations have seen the focus of academic work move to emphasise metricised
research outputs and an increasing pressure to secure research funding (Kenway et al.2005).
The changing nature of academic work has also combined with increasingly precarious employ-
ment conditions in many universities as sessional or casualised employment is a growing
proportion of their academic workforce (Rothengatter and Hil 2013, Ryan et al.2013). This has
evolved at the same time as changing student demographics (Fraser et al.2017) sees students
viewing themselves as consumers who expect a more personalised learning experience which in
turn places increased demands on teaching development, knowledge, and skill (Knott et al.2015).
CONTACT Troy A. Heernan, West Street Toowoomba, Queensland 4350,
AustraliaUniversity of Southern Queensland
© 2018 International Professional Development Association (IPDA)
These changes are occurring at a time when numerous other elements are inuencing the changing
political realities of employment and higher education operations. This paper focuses on academics
who have responded to survey questions exploring what would make academics stay in the profession,
which in this case provided parameters for the analysis and presentation of these data. However, the
many elements that shaped participantsresponses must be acknowledged. For example, rates of
casualisation are increasing at a rapid pace and have been estimated at being between 16% (Byers and
Tani 2014) and 70% (Crimmins 2017) of teaching workforces. Rates vary between countries, uni-
versities, and departments, but researchers have suggested that in modern times, many universities
could not operate without their armyof casual stamembers (Ryan et al.2013, p. 163). Nonetheless,
casual staare not only subjected to insecure and precarious employment when seeking permanent/
tenured employment, the work they are employed to do is most often in teaching positions (with no
research component) at a time when research output and quality is the surest way to gain permanent
employment (Heernan in press,ByersandTani2014, Crimmins 2017).
The challenges of the evolving nature of academic work and the increasingly precarious nature
of employment in the academy can combine to make a dicult environment for academics to
navigate, regardless of their career stage. Beginning and early-career academics identied these
challenges as a source of confusion and stress (Sutherland and Taylor 2011, Kensington-Miller
2017), but more established academics have also described diculties in meeting the demands of
the current academic working climate (Kinman 2014). Subsequently, this studysndings further
investigate how and why a perceived lack of career support featured as a prominent reason for
academics to leave the academy, but also intention to leave their current universities.
Given the negative consequences of losing experienced academic sta,itisimportantforinstitu-
tions to be seeking ways to improve their academicscareer development and support to increase the
numbers of those who intend to stay in their positions long-term. This study thus focuses on
identifying how career development and support could inuence academicsintentions of staying
at an institution, or within the profession. It outlines the approaches that inuenced participants
intention to remain at a university, or in the wider profession. This paper subsequently draws upon
data exploring academicsperspectives on the way their institution hassupported and developed their
career, with an emphasis on their resulting job satisfaction and intention to stay at (or leave) their
current institution, or the profession itself. The paper holds implications for academics in its
exploration of the variety of forms of career support and development that were identied by
participants. For university administrators and department leaders, the paper highlights possible
methods of fostering and supporting academicscareers by showing what participants felt would
increase the likelihood of remaining in their current faculties, or the academy at all, at a time when
researchers are predicting an oncoming academic exodus.
Literature review
Asignicant body of scholarship exists in relation to academic development and careers. For the
purposes of informing this study, the researchers reviewed the literature with a view towards themes
of institutional support and development of academics, and towards an understanding of academics
perceptions and experiences in this area. This literature informed the study and highlighted the gaps
in scholarship that exist surrounding academic views on career development, and the repercussions
of receiving dierently valued development and support for academics at dierent institutions.
Academic development for dierent career stages and dierent needs
A key theme that occurred within the literature included the importance of contextualising the
development academics need to carry out their duties. These needs can be dierent according to
career stages, disciplines, or self-identied areas requiring further development (Harland and
Staniforth 2008).
The literature suggests that tailoring development and support for academics at dierent career
stages is a key consideration for eective practice (Buyl 2017). For example, research indicates that
academics at the beginning of their careers might require more breaking indevelopment (Poole
and Bornholt 1998, p.104) that may focus on developing understandings of the expectations on
academics (Fowler 2017), as well as the basic skills required to teach and supervise eectively.
Academics who are later in their careers, however, might require skills such as leadership
development as career progression requires them to take on more leadership duties, which
Thomson (2015) highlights as one of the few targeted eorts for mid-career researchers. The
importance of tailoring support and development towards career phases and contexts is empha-
sised by Gale (2011) in an exploration of early-career academic identities. Similarly, Simmons
(2011) notes the deeply complex nature of academic roles and the subsequent importance of
contextualised development and support.
The type of support or development oered to academics is also evident in the literature. There
is potential for a disconnect between what can be seen as an emphasis on requirements for an
academic to conduct research which is considered a higher-status activity than teaching
(Åkerlind 2011, Smith and Smith 2012)with much of the literature devoted to development
and support in developing teaching skills. Themes emerged from the literature with Åkerlind
(2005) suggesting that much of the emphasis on development and institutional support comes in
the area of teaching and learning, with expectations implicit that an academic will bring already-
developed research skills with them. However, McKay and Monk (2017) refute this suggestion and
declare that a PhD does not eectively prepare an academic for the full range of research-related
expectations they will have to meet; a nding shared by Pedrosa-de-Jesus et al.(2017) interviews
with beginning academics. These issues all present challenges for academics keen to see their skills
in research and teaching increase (Crimmins et al.2017). The literature thus suggests that
contextualised and responsive development and support for academics is likely to be most
eective in meeting their needs (Gale 2011, Simmons 2011).
Another key theme of the literature regarding academic development is in being responsive not
only to the needs of academics, but to the changing nature of academic work and expectations.
There is consensus within the literature that the nature of academia has changed signicantly in
recent years (Gibbs 2016). Increasing expectations for research productivity and outputs has
resulted in an increased sense of pressure to produce research to be placed in increasingly
higher-prestige publications due to the culture of measurement that is rife in academia (Ball
2012). This requires development and support for academics not only in relation to undertaking
the research itself, but also in relation to research strategy (Gibbs 2016).
At the same time, changing student demographics (Fraser et al.2017) and changing expecta-
tions of teaching, uptake of teaching technology (Rienties et al.2013), and the emphasis placed on
student evaluations (Stewart 2015) mean that teaching also requires a signicant amount of
attention for academic developers. Nonetheless, while research has suggested that teaching
remains a lower-status activity for academics than research (Åkerlind 2011, Smith and Smith
2012), there is a large amount of focus in the literature on successful or eective approaches to
developing academicsteaching skills.
Practices in development and support for academics
A subset of the development literature focuses on explorations of current practices in developing or
supporting academics, through formal and informal programmes or approaches. This section of the
literature provides a brief overview to position participantsresponses among the common approaches
being implemented by universities. In framing participantsresponses, it is important toalso consider
the eect of casualisation and the often precarious nature of the university workforce on systemic
investment in the developmentof academics. There are clear trends that the number of academics who
are employed on a sessional (casual) or contract basis is increasing (Heernan,inpress;Rothengatter
and Hil. 2013,Ryanet al.2013). When this is coupled with the growing trend of funding cuts to higher
education in many regions (Wilson and Holligan 2013, Beattie and Thiele 2016), it is possible to
deduce that the most common approach to supporting and investing in academicscareer selected to
as being indicative development would be low-cost methods. This subset of the literature explored the
specicinitiativessome of which could be categorised as low-cost methods undertaken by
universities in both formal and informal approaches to academic development and support. The
signicant size of this body of literature and the diverse approaches taken by universities in supporting
and developing their academics make it dicult to capture in the connes of this literature review.
However, key themes emerge on the types of support that are being researched and reported upon.
Some studies in this set of literature shared more informal or organically developed partnerships and
strategies such as mentoring relationships or conversations (Donnelly and McSweeney 2011,Thomson
2015) that were not part of an institutionally directed approach. These opportunities have included
engagement via twitter chats, online networking, and online resources (Ferguson and Wheat 2015,
McPherson et al.2015). Nonetheless, a majority of studies in this area tended to critically analyse or
promote the eectiveness of programmes the researchers had either developed and led, or had partici-
pated in at an institutional or broader level. These studies explored a multitude of dierent ways of
supporting academics, including formal and informal mentoring programmes (Fowler 2017), the
development of communities of practice (Jawitz 2007), institutionally driven collaborations (Weaver
et al.2013), or formal learning opportunities and programmes that sometimes resulted in qualications.
Many of these initiatives are reective of what participants have experienced regarding the
types of development or support being made available to them by their institutions. What is
nonetheless telling about participantsviews regarding these initiatives or lack thereof, is that over
40% of respondents suggested they feel unsupported in their work. This forms part of the basis of
the ndings for this paper and, subsequently, the exploration of these responses can inform
academic developers and higher education policymakers hoping to provide support that will lower
the growing rate of staattrition.
The study
This paper is drawn from data collected from a study regarding the factors that shape academics
career motivations. The study was undertaken through an online survey which was rst promoted
through the researcherspersonal and professional networks before snowball sampling via social
media resulted in 109 suitable participants (working academics) from Australia, North America, and
the United Kingdom completing the survey. These locations were selected for analysis as they
represent areas often used for comparative and complimentary analyses for education policy and
practice, and due to the existing studies that have identied similar working experiences for academics
who have partaken in academic migration (Potts 2004,Tremblayet al.2014, Teichler 2015). The
survey consisted of 20 questions with the rst 7 being short answer questions to establish the
participantsdemographics. The nal 13 questions were mid-length answer questions (participants
had up to 300 words per question toprovide their answers) and it was these questions that investigated
participantsexperiences with career support, development, and intention to stay at, or leave, their
institution or the profession entirely.
The researchers acknowledge the issues by using data gained from online means such as potential low
response rates and demographic breadth of participants, but used this method due to the benets
outlined by Kosinski (2015) and Kosinski et al.(2015). These researchers determined that social media
recruiting combined with snowball sampling can achieve a cohort and diversity of participants who
would otherwise be dicult to recruit without signicanttimeandfundsavailabletoconductthestudy.
In the case of this study, the researchers believe they recruited a breadth of participants from locations
and disciplinary areas that they would not have achieved using only professional contacts, and the use of
online surveys resulted in more than 82,000 words of raw data.
These data were then analysed through Braun and Clarkes(2006) method of thematic analysis. The
key themes within the literature provided a point of comparison with the studys empirical material with
an emphasis on academicscareer development and perceptions of institutional support. The data
analysis process saw the researchers scan the responses for phrases that related to career development
and support, and then they rened these themes through subsequent rounds of analysis and coding. The
key themes that emerged from the data form the basis for the following analysis, while the quotations
used within the ndings have been selected as being indicative of an average response to survey questions
unless otherwise stated.
Survey wide statistics
Participants were rst asked to demonstrate either positive or negative perspectives on how their
institution supports and develops their career, see Table 1.
Participants were also asked to identify whether they intended to change universities, and if
they hoped to leave academia, or had considered doing so. These responses were categorised into
those who did and did not feel supported by their institution, see Tables 2 and 3.
Tables 2 and 3show that across the wider survey dierences exist between those satised, and
otherwise, with the support supplied by their institutions. However, as the coming analysis shows,
the reasons behind participantsintent to change institutions or leave academia varies depending
on their view of the amount and quality of development and support their institution provided.
Findings below are presented in key themes as identied through the coding and analysis process.
They just provide support
Over 9% of participants indicated that their institution supported their development but gave
basic yesor noanswers, see Table 4. In an open-ended survey, short answers are sometimes to
be expected. However, context around the short answers could still be gauged by the participants
answers to other survey questions.
Of the participants who were satised with their institutions support, participant #45sresponse
represents an average view of the cohort as they declared that the development they received was of a high
quality, but was only available in a limited capacity at the moment. Participant #112 declared that they
received good support and that itisthebestplaceIhaveworkedsofar. Participant #112sresponse
Table 1. Results regarding institutional support question.
Does your institution support your career? Participants (%)
Yes 57.9
No 42.1
Table 2. Do you intend to change universities?
Scenario Yes (%) No (%)
Satised with support 48 52
Unsatised with support 66 34
Table 3. Do you intend to leave academia?
Scenario Yes (%) No (%)
Satised with support 52 48
Unsatised with support 78 22
nonetheless raises a crucial point, in that their measure of support was partly based on their work history
and experiences. This scenario highlights the issue that much like participants dening support
dierently (as seen in Table 4 and later sections), their assessment of what constitutes good support is
also subjective. For example, participant #183 said they received little support to develop their career, but
this did not matter to them as their focus was on the fact that their institution facilitates access to
resources, especially libraries and online research. These services mattered most to participant #183
because without it, itwouldbenearlyimpossibletodomywork. This demonstrates the diversity in what
participants valued as important.
Professional Development/mentoring/career support
Over 10% of survey respondents identied general professional development [PD], mentoring
programmes, or career advice as being the attributes they valued most, but these areas were valued
for dierent reasons. Participant #87 was satised with their universitysPaid professional
development, workshops each study period and paid online learning course for teaching with
technology. However, participant #99 had a dierent approach and stated that
My university requires a set number of hours spent in training programs, which can include modules on
aspects of teaching and research. The training program is still new, though, and has a lot of kinks that still
need ironing out.
Participant #99 was thus not completely satised with their institutions PD, but they acknowl-
edged the eort and improvement of the support the university was trying to supply.
Mentoring by more senior stawas also valued with the responses focusing on reaching the next
step on the academic ladder, a trait best demonstrated by participant #77 who said that they had been
allocated mentors to support progression from Lecturer to SL [senior lecturer]. The most enthusiastic
comments nonetheless came from participants who believed their universities provided clear require-
ments to achieve promotion. Participant #50 subsequently stated that their institution provided a
transparent promotion procedure which makes it clear what needs to be achieved in order to go to the
next level, while participant #184 wrote that their university monitor[s] your career very well. Every
year I have a meeting with the director to evaluate how my career is developing and which next steps
to undertake [to gain promotion]. The supported participants subsequently clearly appreciated the
career assistance and clear requirements that must be met to gain promotion. For university admin-
istrators, one could subsequently suggest that emphasising the transparency of their promotion
requirements could be interpreted by many of their academics as providing valued support via
promotion opportunities.
Funding and time
Over 38% of participants who felt supported by their universities believed their institution was
helping develop their careers by providing them with research time or funding that they could use
to assist in attending conferences or travelling for data collection. The provision of funding was
Table 4. Perspectives on career development and support.
Participant response %
Does support (little elaboration) 9.2
Oers PD and mentoring 10.5
They provide funding 22.4
They provide research time 15.8
Does not support (little elaboration) 14.5
Youre on your own 6.6
Just teach and publish 11.8
They pretend to support you 9.2
routinely seen as something that enabled participantscareers to develop such as by participant #4
who stated that their university has been very supportive of me as I prepared for my next
fellowship application, providing travel and training funding as well as PhD scholarships to allow
me to build a team. Participant #171 similarly declared that
I have received internal funding to build my own lab. I will apply for a reduced teaching load (and probably
get it). They [the faculty] have many opportunities to connect with people and generally are happy to take
on my ideas.
Participants #4 and #171 demonstrate the extreme cases of academics feeling supported by
funding opportunities. On a smaller scale, participant #98 noted that grant opportunities for
seed fundingwere available and that they received nancial reward for publication, really
positive collegial environment in my particular department and programme, while numerous
other participants indicated receiving nancial support for conference travel and reduced teaching
The notion that academics felt supported by their universities due to the provision of time to
research was based strongly around the recurring phrase in the data of publish or perish, but the
amount of time and freedom academics possessed varied widely. At the pinnacle of research
freedom was participants like #121 who had a full-time research position and support for writing
grants, nding research partners, writing, funds for conference attendance and teaching support
through training and other programmes. Midway through the scale of research time were those
such as participant #1 who stated that their institution provided a sound workload approach
(currently anyway) with a secure 40% for research, while participant #43 described themselves as
having a heavy teaching load, but research freedom rather than other administrative duties
outside of the lecture hall.
Much like those who valued funding, however, some participants saw research time as being an
appreciated service, but not active support of their career. For example, participant #132 noted
that they received Very little [support] in material terms, but I do have a lot of time to write.
Furthermore, participant #24 had worked at three universities in their career that included what
they referred to as smaller regional and major research-based institutions. However, #24 stated
that despite the rhetoric, promoting research that each institution espoused, it was only the
research-intensive universities that are very encouraging of research, in practice rather than
Theresjust no support
Nearly 60% of participants believed their institution supported and developed their careers, yet
over 40% of academics felt they were not supported, see Table 1. Some dissatised academics
simply stated that they were not supported (as was discussed earlier), though others went into
more detail. Participant #66 stated that their institution Originally was quite good funded PhD;
money for conferences. All recently cut, which demonstrates how funding cuts can diminish
available resources, but also reduce academic morale . Others were more accepting that their
institution was an unlikely place to oer quality support and development, such as participant
#101 who wrote that My institution is mediocre. Always has been. This could be seen as a sign
that their university provided the support-level they expected, and #101 also did not expect the
situation to improve.
Youre on your own
A common notion was also that academics felt abandoned and as if the only career development they
received was their own responsibility. On the surface, this reason closely mimics that of the earlier
discussed issue of academics believing their institution does not support them, but participantsreasoning
shows slightly augmented thinking. Participant #41 wrote frankly of the support their institution
provided Ha! It doesnt! You work it out yourself, which demonstrates the lack of support they feel
they are oered. The comment was also in line with participant #84sconclusionthatIt doesnt. I need to
seek out learning opportunities and do any research, writing and scholarship activities on my own time.
Some responses indicated that their institutions were making some eort, such as participant #124s
statement that my university does have some good wider programs for ECRs [early career researchers],
but they nonetheless generally feel pretty unsupported and like I will have to do all of my career
progression myself.Anal suggestion that arose came from participants such as #174 who rst noted
that I support and develop myself, before going on to conclude that I think the universities are happy to
capitalise on that. Participant #174s analysis indicates that they believe their university is satised to
spare the time and expense of providing career development and support as most academics nd
methods with which to support themselves.
Just teach and publish
Nearly 12% of participants who said that their institution did not support their careers did so as
they believed their universities were focused on high teaching loads and publishing pressure
rather than concentrating on career development. Many comments echo participant #116 who
wrote that their university support was subjecting me to an unmanageable workload and the stick
of managerialism with very little carrot. I am a resource to be used more than a colleague to be
valued. Participant #126 similarly saw themselves as a tool of the university and regarding career
support they declared that they received none, they crack the whip hard to make you produce
more publications.
Many participants also acknowledged that their institution encouraged research and publications, but
believed the resources required to enable this simply did not exist. For example, participant #178 stated
that their university is heavily teaching focused and we are encouraged to publish but culturally we are
realistically nearly unable to do this eectively with our workload models and teaching requirements.
Several other participants also identiedthefactthattheywereemployedbysmallerorteaching-based
universities as being the reason why research support did not exist. Participant #100 wrote that they are at
a small university, so formal training and career development are very limited, while participant #167
wrote really the regional university I am at is under signicant pressure from competitors so they struggle
to provide much more than more teaching loads. These comments highlight that though some
participants were not supported and were challenged with unrealistic publishing expectations due to
their teaching workloads, they nonetheless accepted this to be the case as they were not at what they
considered to be research-intensive universities.
They just pretend
Anal group that emerged from the thematic analysis was those academics who felt like their universities
pretendto provide support. This group accounts for over 9% of the surveys total responses. Participant
#180s declaration was typical of the cohort as they suggested that their institution oered Supportive
statements but many processes which impede time for development. Participant #192 took a more
negative approach and declared,
Their [institutions] version of support is to keep increasing expectations; continuously setting the bar
higher. Supposedly, this is motivating. I nd it disrespectful and akin to passive-aggressive behaviours. I
dont think the institution cares about the wellbeing of its academics, and is only interested in our careers in
so far as it benets their bottom-line.
Participant #192s approach demonstrates how an institutionseorts for research excellence can
have results that closely mirror the academicsbeliefs from those universities that push research
but do not have the resources to support the practice and are heavily teaching focused. The notion
of institutions pretending to support their academics nonetheless continued as participant #157
stated that their university talks the talk but [with] little practical assistance. While #142 declared
of their institutions support it doesnt do so in any way that is useful to me, which is a clear
indicator that institutional intention and results do not always meet.
Discussion and consequence of support to career intention
The statements and statistics that stem from participants discussing their career support is put
into a new context when compared with the academicsviews on how institutional support and
career development has impacted on their intention to leave their current institution, or the
academy all together.
When the literature points to a signicant number of academic departures in the next 5 years due to
retirement, career burnout, or job dissatisfaction (Bexleyet al.2013, Crimmins et al.2017), it is crucial
to note that even academics who felt supported by their institutions still felt let down by the current
state of the academy. This feeling of disappointment meant that many supported academics still
sought out better opportunities at dierent universities, or dierent career paths.
The career impact for the 9.2% of participants who generally believed their institution
supported their academic development was that they were 14% less likely to want to change
universities than those who felt unsupported. However, 50% of supported academics still intended
to change universities even if they intended to do so for dierent reasons compared to their
unsupported colleagues. Those who believed they were being supported hoped to change uni-
versities in 100% of cases for personal reasons. For example, a number of participants (approxi-
mately 40%) hoped to move as part of career progression either as part of promotion or to a more
prestigious university. However, many participants followed the trend of #62 who would like to
change location for family reasons, or participants #111 and #112 who stated that they wanted to
move to more desirable lifestyle locations rather than moving for reasons connected to their
development oered. This notion was broadly identied in the literature regarding funding (Wilson
and Holligan 2013, Beattie and Thiele 2016), but this paper identied specicreasonsfromalargedataset
which included those such as participant #2 who stated that their current universityslackoffundswas
impacting on their ability to work. They believed this was because their university is dominated by
manager-fascists who wouldnt understand research if it punched them in the face, and subsequently #2
felt the lack of funds and support was impacting on their ability to stay competitive in the need to conduct
quality research and publish in high ranking journals. Participant #54 also reected the literatures
suggestions (Crimmins et al.2017) with their comment that was typical of those displeased with their
institutions as they stated that My current university is a terrible place to work, and thus they wanted to
move in the hope of being at an institution that would encourage them in building their academic career.
The literature also suggested that academics valued access to mentoring and PD (Donnelly and
McSweeney 2011, Ferguson and Wheat 2015, McPherson et al.2015, Thomson 2015) which this
studysndings supported. However, the data also found that despite 52% of academics who felt
supported still intending to leave academia across the survey, those with PD and mentoring were
28% less likely to consider leaving their academic career. That the aspiration of participants to
leave the academy could be more than halved by providing PD and mentoring must be considered
by university administrators as investments that could decrease the cost, time, and lost produc-
tivity involved in recruiting new academics.
Financial support resulted in widespread appreciation from the participants as the literature
indicated (Crimmins et al.2017), but this study found that some participants were aware that
funding provisions came at the cost of other support with comments echoing participant #74s
statement that they were supported through funding. Not so much through intellectual engage-
ment and support. To build on the literatures suggestions (Crimmins et al.2017), this study
found that regarding nancial opportunities, those who felt supported were 14% more likely to
remain at their current institution than the survey average of academics who felt supported.
Concerning those who felt supported via research time, they were equally as likely as other
supported participants to hope to change institutions, but were 17% more likely to remain in
academia rather than seeking outside employment.
The consequence for the 14.5% of academics who generally felt unsupported by their university was
that they hoped to change universities or move away from academia in very high numbers (78%).
Those who did not feel supported routinely cited poor employment circumstances, a notion common
in the literature for two decades (Poole and Bornholt 1998,Thomson2015). However, this paper
sourced further reasons for their beliefs and identied the consequences to career intention.
Participant #12 wrote a comment typical of those who questioned their universitys development
system when they stated that, They dont [support academics] thats why I would like to change
[universities]. Regarding leaving academia due to job satisfaction, participant #121 declared Iam
applying for a government position this week. That academics who do not feel supported in their
careers are signicantly more likely to want to change universities is an issue that department leaders
must consider if they hope to curb the exodus of academic employees.
From an administrative perspective, the academics who believed they must support themselves
were more likely to aspire to change universities or leave academia than the survey average. This
group of academics in 80% of cases intended to change universities, but in 100% of cases intended
to leave academia as soon as the opportunity presented itself ndings that demonstrate the
urgency of providing academic development to minimise staturnover.
When the literature suggests that a signicant loss of academics with institutional knowledge will
occur in the coming years, it is important for institutions to be seeking ways to improve support
for academics to increase numbers of their workforce who intend to stay in their positions (or at
least faculties) long-term. This study subsequently examined what aspects of career development
academics value most, and what the repercussions of having or not having this support has on
stas intentions to stay at their current university or within the academy at all.
The paper took a broad view of academicsperspectives on the career support they receive
and found that they have varying ideas about what denes developmentand support,and
subsequently they attribute dierent levels of worth and personal gain from dierent types of
career development and support. Despite dierences in views occurring, what cannot be
ignored is that across the survey those who felt their career was supported by their institution
were signicantly less likely to want to change universities or careers than those who did not
feel supported. The paper thus highlights the varying types of support and career development
that may be available to academics at dierent institutions. Academics identied research
support (both in terms of nancial support and supported time to conduct research-related
activities) and access to PD and mentoring as key issues that inuenced their career planning
decisions. For university administrators, the paper illuminates these approaches as possible
starting points to developing better methods to foster and support academicscareers. Taking
these approaches may considerably stem the ow of academic turnover in the coming years at
a time when the literature is predicting signicant academic change via institutional migration,
retirement, and career changes.
Disclosure statement
The authors wish to disclose no nancial benet or interest from this work.
No funding is connected to this paper.
Troy A. Heernan
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... As professional development can take place through a variety of activities such as formal trainings or workshops (e.g., Steinert, 2010), informal learning on the job (e.g., Virolainen, 2007), learning in teams or through learning communities (e.g., Gast et al., 2017), or learning through individual reflection or experimentation (e.g., Clayton and Ash, 2005), this study takes a multi-faceted approach to understanding the link between development activities and university teachers' well-being, in line with Acton and Glasgow (2015) and Onyura et al. (2017). Extant research within and outside of the university context has found that professional development empowers employees by providing both social and institutional support (Tansky and Cohen, 2001;Kraimer et al., 2011;Onyura et al., 2017;Heffernan and Heffernan, 2019). However, little is known to date about how specific teacher professional development activities are related to psychological well-being in the higher education context. ...
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... Such mobility has been less examined when considering the establishment of permanent residence of such scientific workforce in advanced countries (long-term immigration) as opposed to quick schemes of mobility (i.e., participation in training and short-term educational programs). As the global competition to attract highly educated individuals has intensified, the emergence of phenomena, known as "brain drain" (Durmaz, 2020), "human capital flight" (Popogbe and Oluyemi, 2020), and "academic exodus" (Heffernan and Heffernan, 2020), has dominated the literature. These concepts assume the loss of talented and outstanding professionals who flee from one country or region (developing) instead of another (developed). ...
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This chapter looks at understanding the competitive academic job market, building skillsets, alternative careers, and managing the uncertainty of what comes next.
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College students who interact with professors and peers about academic matters have better college outcomes. Although institutional factors influence engagement, prior scholarship has not systematically examined whether class sizes affect students' academic interactions, nor whether race or first-generation status moderate such effects. We conceptualized academic interactions as forms of social capital that are sensitive to institutional characteristics. We analyzed survey data from a random sample of 346 students enrolled at a public research university linked with institutional data on student class size. We employed logistic regression on six dependent variables capturing academic interactions with professors and peers and controlled for precollege characteristics. Compared to students enrolled in smaller classes, students enrolled in larger classes had significantly fewer interactions with professors about course material and with peers about course-related ideas. Social group also moderated some effects of class size. Class size negatively influenced first-generation (but not continuing generation) students' likelihood of talking to professors or TAs about ideas from class. For discussions about future careers, larger classes had profound negative effects on Black students (for interactions with professors) and Latino students (for interactions with peers), but no effect on other groups. We discuss implications for theory and practice.
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Casual academics form the backbone of learning and teaching practice in higher education in many developed countries and in many respects can be considered the norm around which academic policy and practice might be formed. Yet a narrative inquiry into the lived experience of women casual academics within Australian universities reveals that recruitment and management of casual teaching staff is generally ad hoc, and although they are committed to and enjoy teaching, casual academics rarely engage in professional and career development. Consequently, recommendations to contemporise recruitment and professional development policy for casual academics are made.
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This qualitative interview study investigates how mentoring is used to develop knowledge and skills for early career academics across the academic roles of research, teaching, and service. Results indicate similar amounts of mentoring in research for men and women, more mentoring in teaching for women, and a lack of mentoring in service across gender. Methodological, theoretical, and practical implications for institutions of higher education are discussed, particularly those aimed at addressing inequality for women.
The initial years as an early career academic (ECA) are challenging times as those new to the academy attempt to balance the three aspects of their role: teaching, research and service, while also coming to terms with both overt and hidden expectations. Formal mentoring arrangements for ECAs are threatened by competing demands on time. Additionally, they may not fully support the needs of ECAs as they can be more closely aligned to university needs than those of the ECA. The purpose of this paper is to open conversations about ECAs finding ways to develop agency. We use a reflective inquiry approach to identify and respond to the ideological and hegemonic influences on the experiences of ECAs. We also promote self-sustaining peer support and informal mentoring from more senior staff as complementary forms of professional learning.
In this paper we argue that institutions need to support early career teachers to learn to teach in much the same way that students who are new to higher education are supported: through integrated and intentionally designed transition strategies. We take a published student transition typology and adapt it to identify ways of supporting early career teachers. We argue that strategies within each conception of our adapted typology are necessary to support a diverse cohort of higher education teachers, not only those who begin teaching each year, but those who are in their mid and later careers.
As an emerging field within higher education, academic development remains fragmented, both as a field of theory and practice. In the vibrant, on-going debate about the theoretical foundations and directions of academic development as a nascent field, some relatively wide-ranging claims which have been made seem to be lacking in supporting empirical evidence. With regards to this limitation, this paper contends that more systematic empirical explorations of the knowledge-base of academic development are vital to gain a better understanding of the field. Informed by Bernstein’s social realist frameworks on the structure of academic knowledge, the paper presents an analysis of knowledge recontextualisation processes in two English and two Flemish academic development units, based on semi-structured interviews with 30 academic developers. From the analysis, contrasting patterns of knowledge recontextualisation emerged between the four sites and between the national contexts in particular, pointing towards an increasing epistemological fragmentation.