Academic Workplace 2014

July 21, 2014

Seventh Annual Survey

Great Colleges to Work For 2014

Great Colleges Methodology

This year The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is based on responses from more than 43,500 people at 278 institutions: 196 four-year colleges and universities (118 private and 78 public) and 82 two-year colleges. All accredited institutions in the United States with an enrollment of at least 500 were invited to participate, at no cost to them.

About 17,000 of the respondents were faculty members, nearly 13,000 were professional staff members, about 7,000 were administrators, and nearly 6,000 were nonexempt employees in lower-paid job categories. The survey was sent to more than 110,000 people, with an overall response rate of about 40 percent.

The assessment was administered by ModernThink LLC, a management-consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del. Its survey is based on an assessment that has been used in 55 "Best Places to Work" programs and more than 4,000 organizations. A panel of higher-education experts helped to customize it for unique college issues.

Each institution was asked to submit a list of full-time employees randomly selected across four job categories: administration, faculty, exempt professional staff, and nonexempt staff. Adjunct faculty members were included for two-year colleges. The sample size, as large as either 400 or 600, was based on the number of employees in those categories. Institutions with fewer than 500 people in the designated categories were invited to survey the entire employee population.

The assessment had two components: a questionnaire about institutional characteristics and a faculty/staff questionnaire about individuals’ evaluations of their institutions. The assessment also included an analysis of demographic data and workplace policies, including benefits, at each participating college. The questionnaires were administered online in the spring.

In the faculty/staff questionnaire, people responded to 60 statements using a five-point scale, ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." The statements were categorized into various dimensions, and from those the Great Colleges recognition categories were determined, such as collaborative governance. A list of the 12 categories and examples of the survey statements that form them is below.

To determine the colleges to be recognized in each category, we divided the applicant pool into two classifications: four-year institutions and two-year institutions. Within each, there were three groups, based on total undergraduate and graduate enrollment: small (2,999 or fewer students), medium (3,000 to 9,999), and large (more than 10,000).

Recognition in each Great Colleges category, except for diversity, was given to the 10 highest-scoring institutions in each size for four-year colleges, and the four highest-scoring institutions in each size for two-year colleges. In the diversity category, three four-year and three two-year colleges were recognized.

Honor Roll status, for four-year colleges, was given to the 10 institutions in each size that were cited most often across all of the recognition categories. For two-year colleges, Honor Roll status was given to the four institutions that were cited most often in each size category.

The 12 Great-Colleges Categories

Collaborative Governance

Faculty members play significant roles in decisions on academic programs. Employees agree with statements like “Faculty, administration, and staff are meaningfully involved in institutional planning.”

Compensation & Benefits

Pay is fair, and benefits are satisfactory. Sample statement: “This institution’s benefits meet my needs.”

Confidence in Senior Leadership

Leaders have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for the success of the college. Sample statement: “Senior leadership provides a clear direction for this institution’s future.”


The college makes a concerted effort to create a welcoming and fair environment for all employees. Sample statement: “This institution has clear and effective procedures for dealing with discrimination.”

Facilities, Workspace & Security

Facilities meet employees’ needs, and the campus looks good. Sample statement: “The institution takes reasonable steps to provide a safe and secure environment for the campus.”

Job Satisfaction

There is an overall sense that the job is meaningful to the employee and to the college. Sample statement: “All things considered, this is a great place to work.

Professional/Career-Development Programs

Employees get chances to develop skills and understand requirements for career advancement. Sample statement: “Our orientation program prepares new faculty, administration, and staff to be effective.”

Respect & Appreciation

Employees are regularly recognized for their contributions. Sample statement: “Our recognition-and-awards programs are meaningful to me.”

Supervisor or Department-Chair Relationship

Supervisors or chairs solicit ideas and make expectations clear. Sample statement: “I believe what I am told by my supervisor/department chair.”

Teaching Environment

Faculty say the institution recognizes innovative and high-quality teaching. Sample statement: “Teaching is appropriately recognized in the evaluation-and-promotion process.” (Faculty only.)

Tenure Clarity & Process

Requirements for tenure are clear. Sample statement: “Promotions in my department are based on a person’s ability.” (Faculty at four-year institutions only.)

Work/Life Balance

Policies give employees flexibility to manage their lives on the job and at home. Sample statement: “My supervisor/department chair supports my efforts to balance my work and personal life.”