Study Flunks University of Texas Profs on Productivity

Thursday, 26 May 2011 09:33 AM

By Andra Varin

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Most professors at the University of Texas at Austin aren't pulling their weight, and their inactivity is contributing to skyrocketing tuition, a new study says in a finding that could have implications for campuses around the country.

University of Texas, college, professorsOnly 20 percent of professors at UT-Austin teach the majority of students, according to the Center for College Affordability and Productivity study. That same 20 percent also generate 18 percent of the campus's research funding.

That means just one-fifth of faculty members are doing all the work, according to the study.

The findings also indicate that professors don't have to sacrifice classroom time in order to conduct research.

If the least-productive 80 percent would start teaching as much as the top 20 percent, the flagship Texas public university could cut its tuition in half, the study's authors said.

"States looking to find answers to the exponential growth in college costs should take a close look at the Texas study’s findings,” said Richard Vedder, director of Washington-based center and co-author of the study.

“It appears universities can significantly reduce college costs by having faculty teach more students or courses. This, along with other studies on the high cost of research and limited learning outcomes of students, suggests we need to re-examine how students and faculty use their time, and how incentives can be used to enhance the productivity of all members of the university community,” he said.

The study also found that the least productive 20 percent of faculty teach just 2 percent of all student credit hours and generate a disproportionately smaller percentage of external research funding.

Faculty who aren't on the tenure track teach a majority of undergraduates and 31 percent of graduate students, the study said.

And almost all research grant funds, 99.8 percent, go to just 20 percent of the faculty, it found.

“The results are very compelling and eye-opening,” Vedder said. “Other states should follow Texas’s emphasis on university-cost transparency and release faculty compensation, teaching loads, external research grant information, student evaluation results, and other relevant data for closer inspection.”

UT President Bill Powers described the study as "inappropriate" and "not useful."

“The faculty at a top-tier university like ours are productive and efficient, but more important, they engage in the top quality instruction and research that make an institution great. That quality should be part of any measurement,” he told the Texas Tribune.


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