MADISON – Nearly 40 percent of current University of Wisconsin System faculty are likely to retire over the next decade, according to a report to be released next week by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research.
The report finds that approximately 2,384 of the current 6,208 UW faculty could retire during the next 10 years. This echoes a trend at universities throughout the country.
The report looked at changes in the age distribution of faculty in the UW System over time in order to determine the impact of these changes on faculty retirements. This “graying” of the UW faculty has been accompanied by a decline in the number of younger faculty due to budget cuts in the 1995-97 biennium, which eliminated 550 positions.
“This study underscores the need for the UW System to pay faculty and staff competitively,” said Katharine Lyall, UW System President, “So that we can recruit and retain the next generation of faculty from the best and brightest.”
She added, “As we seek to replace these essential educators, we know that we will be in tough competition for the best and the brightest minds. Many other states are also hiring to renew their faculty ranks.”
The combination of new faculty and retirements will significantly change the age distribution of faculty. Serious challenges could face UW institutions as older, more experienced faculty retire and are replaced by younger, less experienced professors. Some academic departments will experience a large number of retirements, while others will experience retirements at a slower rate.
In 1997-98, the academic discipline with the highest percentage of faculty in the 55 and older age group was Engineering and Physical Sciences (39%). This group was followed by Humanities (38%), Agricultural and Life Sciences (33%), Social and Behavioral Sciences (32%), Non-Clinical Health Sciences (31%), and Clinical Health Sciences (28%).
The substantial turnover could, however, have some positive implications, including increasing the proportion of women in faculty positions.