Recruitment Is Possible despite PhD Shortage: How One Business School Has Made Itself Attractive to Faculty Candidates

Article excerpt

IN 1990, THE ASSOCIATION OF American Universities predicted a dramatic shortage of PhDs by the early 21st century. Since that time, academia, industry, and government have had to compete for a diminishing pool of doctoral candidates. While more than 1,300 PhDs were awarded in 1994-1995, that number has decreased by 12 percent in the intervening years.

One oft-cited factor for this decline is the "opportunity cost" of obtaining doctoral degrees. A typical program is six years, translating to noteworthy lost wages and career advancement opportunities. In academia, the perception exists that these lost wages will not be recouped, due to historically low starting salaries for tenure-track faculty.

Yet the University of St. Thomas' (Minn.) Opus College of Business has hired 26 professors since 2006--a 33 percent increase in faculty. They have doctorates from and have taught at places such as Harvard, Georgetown, Notre Dame, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, Duke, and University of California, Berkeley.

For those not familiar with the University of St. Thomas and our school, our success in recruiting faculty of such provenance may be surprising. St. Thomas is Minnesota's largest private university, but it's not yet a household name nationally. And our location in the upper Midwest causes some people to think "frigid tundra," so our ability to attract, hire, and retain committed, credentialed, and passionate faculty sometimes elicits wonder.

The lesson we've learned from faculty recruiting efforts demonstrates that while there may be an overall shortage of PhDs in the nation, there is an abundance of talented doctorate-holders disillusioned with the unbalanced demands of academia. These individuals long for an equilibrium of teaching and research duties.

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Large, research-based universities can afford the opportunity for faculty to discover new knowledge, but they do so by tying tenure appointments to publication and reducing teaching opportunities to a mere fraction of a faculty member's schedule. The pressure to research and publish is so great that it overshadows the importance of purveying knowledge to students. On the opposite spectrum, teaching universities expect their faculty to devote time and talent to teaching, with little room for research. …