Higher education is in perhaps its most turbulent time in its history.   Institutions are under assault from state and Federal governments, consumers, and each other.  Institutions are fighting over finances, policies, and curriculum all in a battle for resources and the future of higher education.  In many cases, institutions are being forced to reconsider basic assumptions that have guided their operation for over one hundred years.  There is significant discussion of the global impacts these pressures have on educational institutions, but there seems to be little organized data or visible discussion on the impact that these pressures have on departments and faculties and the ongoing relationships between faculties and administration.

The purpose of this project is to establish a database of information about the communication discipline that over time will help to create a picture of current program structures and identify trends.  The plan is to conduct a mix of tri-annual surveys complemented with shorter annual surveys.  The surveys are to be administered via the web, in print, or via the phone to faculty and administrators.   

The communication discipline in many ways is uniquely suited to providing insights into the impact of ongoing struggles over higher education, as it is an indicator discipline for the health of higher education.  The communication discipline, by its nature and place in the university, provides important insights into that state of the academy.  Three reasons stand out.  

First, the communication discipline is interdisciplinary in nature.  Communication lends itself easily to working with other disciplines.  At EIU, for example, the department has interdisciplinary programs with Business, AET, Journalism, Biological Sciences, Geography Geology, and Health Studies and participates in programs with English, Philosophy, History, and Women’s Studies to identify some of the connections. 

Second, the communication discipline reflects multiple disciplinary classifications.  Communication programs are regularly found in colleges or units of social sciences, humanities, arts, and technology.  You can even occasionally find the discipline housed in business or agriculture. 

Third, the communication discipline is one of the larger programs in most institutions.  At EIU, the program is the largest program in the College of Arts and Humanities and typically one of the top five programs in enrollment. 

Given the size and diversity of the discipline, changes within the university environment are likely to be reflected in a communication departments demographics and practices.  Thus, the indicator disciplinary status of communication makes it an ideal candidate for closer examination and extrapolation of the findings of this close study to institutional impact of the current turbulent higher education environment. 

The project will focus on collecting data on the following issues from both faculty and administrators. 

 

  • Institutional demographics
  • Institutional initiatives
  • Curriculum including assessment, majors, minors, certificate programs, interdisciplinary programs, study abroad
  • Faculty, undergraduate and graduate student, and administrative staffing
  • Facilities
  • Finance
  • Student activities
  • Workload
  • Tenure and promotion

The project is divided into two parts, part one, labeled administrator benchmarking, focuses on building the administrative part of the database.  The administrators survey will collect factual information on the above categories as well as attitudinal information about the data. Part two, labeled faculty benchmarking, focuses on building the faculty part of the database.  Faculty surveys will focus on individual perception the categories listed above as well as attitudes related to those items.   

Part I:  Administrative Surveys

The guiding research questions for this part of the project are

  • What is the typical profile of communication departments based upon Carnegie Classification?

  • What are the trends in institutional initiatives, curriculum, staffing, finance, facilities, workload, student activities, workload, tenure, and promotion in communication departments?

  • What are the issues that administrators perceive will impact communication departments in the next three years?Role:  Principle Investigator

Co-Investigators:  None
Status: IRB approved; data collection begins Spring 2014

Part II:  Faculty Surveys

The guiding research questions for this project are:

 

  • What are current faculty attitudes and trends toward workload, tenure, promotion, retention, research support, and travel support?
  • How do these attitudes and trends toward workload, tenure, promotion, retention, research support, and travel support compare to administrative views on these issues?
  • Is there a difference in faculty attitudes and trends based upon employment type, geographic area, institutional type, or degree?
  • What are the emerging trends in higher education and faculty reactions to those trends? Role:  Principle Investigator

Co-Investigators:  None
Status:  IRB approved; data collection begins Spring 2014