This text is dense, comprehensive, and ambitious. It seeks to understand what has transpired for academics and their careers over the last three decades, but also to use this research as a platform from which to understand where the academic profession is going. Its primary audience is scholars, analysts, and those who study and make policy for faculty appointments and careers.
The authors provide historical analysis, a retrospective reanalysis of trends in academic life using the most prominent national faculty surveys, and more recent research to argue that revolutionary changes are occurring in the academic profession. While many of the individual forces described are not new, Schuster and Finkelstein argue that the sheer number of economic, social, and political forces and the rapidity with which they are reshaping higher education suggest that a revolution is upon us.
The book is organized in four parts. Chapters 1–3 provide a framework for the analysis that follows. The authors delve into changes in supply and demand, the dissemination and management of information and knowledge, new technologies, and an expanding privatization movement accompanied by broader demographic transformations in the nation that are influencing the professoriate.
The second chapter in particular is a gift to those of us who teach courses on the history of American higher education and those on the academic profession requiring a tight but comprehensive history of the academic profession. This chapter creates an important foundation for the rest of the book by exploring changes (and previous revolutions) in the academic career. One minor critique: We thought that the discussion of events since 1979 might have also mentioned the accountability movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s that spurred such reform efforts as post-tenure review and redefinitions of scholarship advocated by Gene Rice (1996) and Ernest Boyer (1990) in Scholarship Reconsidered.
Chapter 3 explores demographic changes in the academic profession between 1969 and 2001 and finds that academe is repeating general trends toward greater diversity in the larger society. The [End Page 331] major headlines of this analysis are that the percentage of women has doubled, the percentage of non-Whites has nearly quadrupled, and the percentage of foreign-born persons has increased by half (p. 71). Likewise, the percentage of part-timers has increased by 376% (p. 40). The authors conclude, "The old modal demographic profile (i.e., White male) is virtually disappearing" (p. 71).
Part 2 (Chapters 4–5) examines how changes in demographics and appointment types are affecting faculty work, culture, and values. Major findings are an increased allocation of attention to teaching occurring simultaneously with a greater focus on research and the pervasiveness of faculty publication across institutional type. This finding is consistent with recent research completed by O'Meara (2005) with chief academic officers who report increased expectations over the last decade in multiple areas of scholarly work.
The authors also found contraction in areas where faculty act as academic citizens. Beneath the surface of these trends lies a silent redefinition or stratification of faculty work roles, including the use of nontraditional academic appointments to focus on one area of faculty work—teaching or research or extension.
Therefore it is not surprising that Schuster and Finkelstein found significant concerns in the faculty ranks regarding the declining status of the academic profession, the imbalance between teaching and research, autonomy and academic freedom, and job satisfaction. However, it was surprising that they found that despite the "small worlds, different worlds" that remain among faculty across institutional type and discipline, there seems to be some blurring of demarcations.
Internal demographic diversification is no longer expressing itself in terms of accentuating distinctive faculty subcultures or communities based on gender and race. Rather, the authors note, "Academic life appears to be at once regressing toward a mean" (p. 158).
Part 3 (Chapters 6–9) begins with an exploration of changes in graduate education and the journey toward academic careers to understand how new careers are being launched. Findings...