Working Paper 74
The resilience of university departments in the United States
Published October 2021

Faculty, housed in disciplinary departments, are the core of universities and the engines of university research. National narratives suggest upheaval, with traditional disciplines losing faculty as universities chase limited funds. But universities are staid institutions that are responsive to their existing structures and research metrics, so they may not easily transform their disciplinary areas of focus. Using new data on faculty at U.S. research universities (and comparison data for college faculty nationwide), we demonstrate that university department faculty sizes change slowly and may respond more to research production than grant availability. Inertia and the logic of academic professionalism may slow disciplinary transformations, even overcoming incentives in the research economy.

Read the full Working Paper here.