Study: Most provosts don't want to be presidents
A college presidency is not, by most accounts, a bad job. You get to run a college. Live on campus. Earn a good salary. Cultivate a reputation as an intellectual leader. The average tenure of a college president is the longest it's ever been, 8.5 years.
So, it comes as something of a surprise that a fairly small share of chief academic officers -- the No. 2 job at most colleges -- want to be presidents.
A new study, released today by the Council of Independent Colleges in the District, finds that fewer than one-quarter of chief academic officers aspire to be presidents.
It's a worrisome finding, because the CAO job, more or less analogous to that of provost, is the common pipeline to the presidency. If today's provosts don't want to be tomorrow's presidents, then who does?
"The majority of them don't like the job responsibilities of the president. They don't find it appealing," said Harold V. Hartley III, senior vice president of the council, who co-wrote the study with Eric E. Godin, manager of research projects.
It's something of a paradox: both college presidents and CAOs profess to love their jobs. Yet provosts don't like the looks of the presidency.
CAOs enjoy being directly responsible for academic leadership at their college, Hartley said. They like working with faculty and students, teaching classes and running the academic program. They are comparatively less enamored of the additional duties heaped on a president: fundraising, managing a budget, worrying about the endowment and so on.
"External" facets of the presidency, chiefly fundraising and alumni relations, have expanded in recent years, much to the displeasure of some who would otherwise aspire to the job.
The chief academic officer is still seen as a primary pipeline to the presidency, along with other senior administration positions. But the study authors say they are seeing a trend toward provosts purposefully avoiding the presidency, content instead to finish their careers as provosts or returning to teaching.
"What we find is that they're either going back to the faculty or they're going on to another CAO position," Hartley said.
The drying up of this presidency pipeline could have consequences: smaller applicant pools in presidential searches.
Among other concerns, college presidents aren't getting any younger. The average president today is about 60.
"We're hearing, anecdotally, that the pools of candidates are smaller, and not as well qualified," Hartley said. "Except for the elite institutions. There's no trouble there."
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Daniel de Vise
July 20, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories: Administration | Tags: CIC study, chief academic officers, chief academic officers study, college presidency study, college presidents, college provosts, council independent colleges, provosts don't want to be presidents
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