Higher Education at a Crossroads: Pathways to Bridging the Administrator-Faculty Divide to Remain Relevant
Evan H. Offstein, Frostburg State University (United States)
Rebecca Chory, Frostburg State University (United States)
For years, many predicted that Higher Education was ripe for disruption and today it seems that the future has arrived for many colleges and universities. The forces disrupting and challenging faculty and administrators are substantial, structural, and strong. For instance, many higher education institutions are situated in developed economies where populations are shrinking, leaving more colleges and universities competing for fewer students. Also, the manner in which governments historically supported Higher Education seems to be waning. These factors, along with other competitive drivers, are forcing Higher Education leadership to innovate or face possible extinction. Against this backdrop, our paper informs this phenomenon and offers insight into possible success paths to address these environmental forces. Specifically, we examine the viability of Higher Education through the lens of the administrator-faculty relationship and its impact on teaching and learning. Our commentary blends recent personal experiences in administration, our own empirical and theoretical research on the role of contemporary faculty, and an accounting of the competitive landscape in which Higher Education operates. Adopting an essay-like tone, we detail observations and trends that speak to: the siloes that exist between faculty and administrators, the dangers of short-term leadership orientations when facing competitive threats, the advent of greater role ambiguity of faculty and staff, alike, and the heightened relevance of data in driving university strategy and decisions. It is our hope that outlining our observations and specifying the nature and strength of certain trends will better prepare colleges and universities to respond effectively in the face of environmental turbulence. Moreover, our paper should spark dialogue on a topic that is underexposed and under-researched—the relational ties between faculty and administration. Importantly, the future of Higher Education may depend on how this relationship is managed and nurtured.
Keywords: Competitive Forces within Higher Education; Educational Leadership; Faculty-Administrator Relationships; Contemporary Higher Education; Challenges for the Future of Higher Education