Examining the Influences on Faculty Departure Intentions: A National Study Using NSOPF-99

Open Access
Zhou, Ying
Graduate Program:
Higher Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 08, 2003
Committee Members:
  • James Fredericks Volkwein, Committee Chair
  • Carol Colbeck, Committee Member
  • George Farkas, Committee Member
  • Francis M Dwyer Jr., Committee Member
  • faculty
  • higher education
  • intent to leave
  • retention
The flow of faculty into and out of higher education and within higher education institutions is a topic of continuing concern to the higher education community. This research focuses on the dynamics of faculty satisfaction and intention to leave as an important institutional outcome and predictor of faculty turnover. It proposes a theoretical model of faculty turnover intentions and tests the model using the latest 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF-99). The study focuses on full-time instructional faculty in research and doctoral institutions. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) is used to identify and model the relationships among the variables associated with intended faculty departure. The study presents three path models, one for all faculty, one for tenured faculty and the last one for non-tenured faculty. The path models visualize the direct and indirect effects of demographic characteristics, institutional characteristics, work experience and satisfaction variables on intention to leave. The top three strongest predictors of faculty departure intentions are seniority, satisfaction with job security, and satisfaction with compensation. Senior faculty are less likely to seek another position than junior faculty. For tenured faculty, satisfaction with compensation is more important than satisfaction with job security; and for non-tenured faculty, vice versa. The total effects of these three variables outweigh the total effects of the rest of the variables in the model. Satisfaction with job autonomy, with resources and perceived institutional decline also have strong direct effects. Faculty¡¯s work experience influences their intentions to leave, both directly and indirectly through its impact on job satisfaction. Teaching and service productivity, rather than research productivity, is significantly related to turnover intentions. Compensation has strong indirect effect through its impact on every aspect of job satisfaction. The effects of personal characteristics and institutional characteristics variables are weak and indirect. The study also identifies five external ¡°pull¡± factors but only finds one factor, extrinsic rewards, to be significantly related to intended departure. Although this study is limited by the available information in NSOPF-99, it has high generalizability. Using the results, policymakers can improve retention rate of high quality faculty by improving campus climate, changing financial or personnel policies, increasing faculty compensation or using merit pay, reassigning faculty workload, and providing incentives on teaching, research or service. These policies can be implemented at institutional level or at departmental level. The results of this study will provide empirical proof for scholars, institutional researchers and planners, and campus and system executives for their decision-making.