The faculty at The University of Texas at Austin bring in twice as much revenue as they cost the state in salaries and benefits, a new report finds.
Using just two measures of faculty productivity—credit hours taught and external research funding generated—the analysis by Marc Musick, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, finds that UT-Austin faculty are incredibly productive. The $257 million the state of Texas spent on UT-Austin faculty in 2009-10 led to $558 million in revenue, a 117 percent return.
“There’s a lot of discussion right now about what the University is doing wrong, but not a lot about what we are doing right,” Musick says. “These numbers go against the idea that the Ivory Tower is somehow broken.”
The analysis also found that the most productive faculty members were overwhelmingly tenure and tenure-track professors, that 88 percent of professors in colleges with undergrads teach undergraduate courses, and that the highest-paid faculty also generate the most funding for the University. Faculty members who earn $175,000 or more a year together received $107 million in compensation but brought in $218 million.
Musick, a sociologist by profession, said he completed the analysis at the request of Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He dismisses the idea that his findings can’t be trusted since he is a University employee.
“As a scholar I believe in truth,” Musick says. “If I find something bad, we need to know.”
Musick did say he thinks faculty can be even more productive and recommends the creation of a faculty mentoring program to match up senior faculty with those just starting out in their career.
The UT System is currently developing a dashboard to measure faculty productivity, a process Musick says is both healthy and fraught. Measuring all different types of faculty on the same criteria or measuring the wrong kinds of data could lead to erroneous conclusions or nonsensical results.
Previous, critical reports on UT-Austin faculty have characterized them as overwhelmingly “coasters” and “dodgers” who rarely teach undergraduates. Musick’s findings suggest otherwise.
Faculty members on leave should not be counted as unproductive teachers that semester, just as retired faculty who help supervise graduate students for free should not be seen as unproductive teachers—they are not even being paid.
“You can’t compare a full professor with a full-time appointment to a part-time lecturer with a part-time appointment,” Musick says. “And this is the first account I know of that took that data into account.”