How Faculty Compensation Can Impact Success in Higher Education

How Faculty Compensation Can Impact Success in Higher Education

Various stakeholders, including students, parents, the public, and the government, persistently demand higher education quality and accountability. To meet these expectations, most universities and colleges use management tools such as mission statements and strategic planning. However, faculty compensation can also help these institutions achieve their mission and satisfy their high expectations. Here’s a look at how to develop a higher education faculty pay system in proper alignment with your broader success goals.

Objectives of an Impactful Faculty Compensation System

The goal is to create an effective reward system to influence faculty behavior toward perfect synchrony with your institution’s mission. Achieving this can have various desirable outcomes for your institution, including:

  • Increased accountability, which external and internal stakeholders demand
  • The public will have a better view of the quality of your institution
  • Your institution can secure increased funding

Key Attributes of an Effective Faculty Pay System

Here are some of the ways you can harmonize your institution’s mission and compensation for faculty members:

  • Alignment with the mission statement: The system should be tied to the accomplishment of the mission statement. If necessary, you can start by reviewing the statement to make it practical, realistic, and in touch with the unique characteristics of your university. There should be a clear relationship between the goals your institution hopes to achieve, better faculty performance, and higher pay as a faculty performance incentive. It’s also important that faculty members accept and recognize the additional compensation as an inducement.
  • Sensitivity to each discipline: Academic disciplines differ in ways such as appropriate faculty performance/activity. An effective faculty compensation system is sensitive to such disciplinary differences. For example, research and published work in peer-reviewed academic journals is the most valuable faculty contribution for certain disciplines, while others may attach utmost significance to undergraduate tutoring or public service. As such, compensation as a performance inducement should always match valuable faculty contributions as appropriate for each discipline.
  • Sensitivity to talent/skill variations among faculty members: An effective faculty compensation system shouldn’t hold each member to the same standard. Instead, it should be sensitive to the unique strengths and characteristics that individual members may have. Maintaining a uniform standard for all to meet is unrealistic and may compromise the quality you get from specific academic departments. Take into account the possibility that the most prolific researcher in an academic unit may not always produce the best classroom outcomes. Similarly, exceptional teachers aren’t necessarily great researchers. The best approach is to recognize and reward each faculty member’s performance in what they’re best at, provided it’s in alignment with their unit’s goals and your institution’s overall mission.
  • Sensitivity to best practices: Regional or state standards can serve as a general guideline for creating an impactful faculty compensation system. You may also borrow from practical compensation policies established by disciplinary accreditation associations. While your institution’s unique strengths, characteristics, and goals are the most important considerations here, higher education best practices matter too.
  • Objectivity of faculty assessment: The criteria you use to rate faculty performance will impact the effectiveness of your compensation system. It’s crucial that all stakeholders, including faculty members, perceive the evaluation formula as fair, appropriate, and practical. As you develop an ideal faculty reward structure for your institution, make sure to incorporate safeguards against subjective personal judgment when assessing faculty performance.   

Anchoring your faculty reward system on these principles can contribute to the future success and quality of your higher education institution. For additional insights on pay structures and levels for faculty members, contact our experts at McKnight Associates, Inc. today.