The ever-increasing scrutiny of governing boards, parents, and students presents substantial challenges to higher education institutions. Business schools are not immune to these trends, and so they must be responsive to the call for heightened accountability—especially when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and deploying faculty.
But business schools’ attempts to attract the best faculty have led to unintended consequences: a shortage of doctorally qualified candidates, a rapid increase in salaries, and a need to provide faculty with substantial levels of other support, such as summer compensation and travel stipends. These challenges have led to a decline in the number of long-term tenure-track faculty positions, as institutions increasingly hire non-tenure-track faculty under limited-term or year-to-year contracts. This trend is especially pronounced in the accounting field. In his paper “Accounting Faculty in U.S. Colleges and Universities: Status and Trends, 1993- 2004,” David Leslie notes that from 1993 to 2004, the number of full-time accounting faculty decreased by more than 19 percent, even as undergraduate student enrollments in accounting increased by more than 12 percent.
THE REVISED STANDARDS RECOGNIZE THAT AACSB-ACCREDITED BUSINESS SCHOOL PROGRAMS CAN STRENGTHEN THE INTERSECTION OF ACADEMIA AND PRACTICE BY INTEGRATING PROFESSIONALLY ORIENTED FACULTY IN WAYS THAT SUPPORT THEIR MISSIONS. THAT INVESTMENT CAN PAY SIGNIFICANT LONG-TERM AND POSITIVE DIVIDENDS FOR STUDENTS.
- It is improbable that these trends will be reversed. However, even as business schools recognize that the composition of their faculty is changing, they still must find ways to ensure that the quality of the educational experience is not compromised. We argue that the current context is rich in opportunities, particularly those that relate to the increased use of professionally oriented faculty (POF).
- We define POF as professionals whose education prepared them for careers in practice but who want to move into teaching later in life. Both AACSB International and the Pathways Commission, formed by the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), recommend many ways that business schools can integrate POF more fully and effectively into their missions.
- By following these guidelines, business schools can ensure that their deployment of POF truly enhances students’ experiences—in ways that could not be accomplished with academically qualified faculty alone.
THE CONTEXT: AACSB ACCREDITATION
The integration of practitioners into the business faculty is a prominent part of AACSB International’s revised accreditation standards, approved for both business and accounting programs in 2013. While the revised standards still place mission-based peer reviews at the heart of the accreditation process, they also require schools to address three new areas: innovation, impact, and engagement. The standards make it clear that business education that embraces innovation, impact, and especially engagement cannot be achieved without a balance of academic and professional faculty.
That’s why four new faculty qualifications are recognized in Standard 15 of AACSB’s 2013 business accreditation standards (A9 in its accounting accreditation standards). Scholarly academics and scholarly practitioners are those engaged primarily with academic activities; practice academics and instructional practitioners are those engaged primarily with practice-based activities. Under the new standards, at least 40 percent of a school’s total faculty should comprise scholarly academics; at least 60 percent should be a combination of scholarly academics, practice academics, and scholarly practitioners. All four categories combined should make up at least 90 percent of a school’s total faculty roster.
We must note that these guidelines are minimums—an institution’s individual percentage should be based on its mission. For instance, institutions that are highly focused on graduate or doctoral education are expected to maintain a percentage of scholarly academics that is higher than the minimum. Similarly, institutions that are heavily focused on teaching might maintain a higher percentage of instructional practitioners.
While there are many ways to engage students and faculty with practice, the revised standards recognize that AACSB-accredited business school programs can strengthen the intersection of academia and practice by integrating POF in ways that support their missions. That investment can pay significant long-term and positive dividends for students.
THE CONTEXT: THE PATHWAYS COMMISSION
AACSB is not the only organization that is examining the intersection of academia and practice. In October 2008, a special committee released the “Final Report of the Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.” In the report, the authors call on the AAA and AICPA to recommend actions to ensure that accounting programs at colleges and universities meet the future needs of the profession. The AAA and AICPA responded by forming the Pathways Commission, which comprised practitioners, educators, and other stakeholders. In July 2012, the commission released “Charting a National Strategy for the Next Generation of Accountants,” a report that outlined seven primary recommendations. Although focused on accounting, the commission’s recommendations regarding POF are applicable to all business disciplines.
For instance, the first recommendation calls for schools to integrate POF more fully and to treat them “as full and valued members of the accounting faculty.” The commission formed a task force to identify leading practices in this area by surveying accounting department leaders and POF. The task force found that while 90 percent of program chairs who responded to the survey believed that their schools were fully integrating POF into their programs, only 60 percent of the faculty agreed with that assessment. Many POF reported that they felt they were not being fully leveraged, even though they were willing to “step up” to contribute more to the program if asked.
In response to this perception gap, the task force developed its Professionally Oriented Faculty Integration Principles, which are outlined in its July 2014 report, “How Integrating Professionally Oriented Faculty Enhances an Institution’s Mission.” (The report is available online at www2.aaahq.org/images/PathwaysReport1.pdf.) These principles were modeled after the Sullivan Principles, written in 1977 by Baptist pastor Leon Sullivan to support human rights and address equal opportunity and treatment in a society, institution, or organization.
PROGRAMS THAT ENDORSE THE PRINCIPLES ARE ASKED TO E TRANSPARENT ABOUT THEIR COMMITMENT TO INTEGRATING PROFESSIONALLY ORIENTED FACULTY. PROGRAMS THAT DO SO WILL ATTRACT MORE POF AND HELP EXISTING FACULTY UNDERSTAND HOW PRACTITIONERS CONTRIBUTE TO THE MISSION.
The Pathways Commission asked business schools and accounting programs to commit to the following statement: “We value the contributions of professionally oriented faculty and commit to applying these principles with integrity consistent with the legitimate role of a higher education institution. We will develop and implement institutional policies, procedures, training, and internal reporting structures that ensure fidelity to these principles throughout our organization. We believe applying these practices will achieve a more effective environment for education, research, and service.”
So far, about 20 accounting departments have signed on to the principles for their own programs. We believe that all academic units of the business school, not just accounting, would benefit from making the same commitment.
AN ACTION PLAN
The Professionally Oriented Faculty Integration Principles are divided between those under the direct control of an academic unit and those under the direct control of the business school or university. Under the principles, academic units are asked to advocate for their POF whenever necessary, and business schools are asked to provide such faculty with opportunities to do the following:
- Teach in both undergraduate and master’s-level courses, according to their expertise.
- Serve as faculty advisors for student organizations.
- Participate as members and chairs of department and program committees.
- Be considered equally for teaching, research, and service awards with tenure-track faculty.
- Participate in faculty meetings.
- Vote on program and department matters except those related to promotion, tenure, and doctoral education.
- Participate in orientation programs.
- Be offered multiyear contracts, in ways consistent with contracts offered to other faculty.
- Receive technical support, office space, travel funds, and other resources on par with tenured and tenure-track faculty.
- Have position titles and promotion structures consistent with the institution’s mission.
- Contribute to academic research in ways consistent with their expertise.
- Programs that endorse the principles are asked to be transparent about their commitment. While some programs may not meet all the principles at first, endorsement represents their commitment to adopting them within a reasonable time.
- Programs that do so will attract more POF and help existing faculty understand how practitioners contribute to the mission.
These principles are consistent with other AACSB accreditation standards, including those related to faculty management and support, student-faculty interactions, and student academic and professional engagement (standards 6, 10, and 13, respectively). These standards apply to the work of all faculty members regardless of title, tenure status, or contractual relationship with the institution, in areas such as workloads, assignments, evaluations, promotions, rewards, orientation, guidance, and mentoring. By integrating POF as fully contributing members, a business school satisfies the spirit and intent of both the Pathways Commission’s principles and AACSB’s accreditation standards.
To begin the process of integrating POF, we encourage administrators in all business disciplines to explore the resources regarding the Professionally Oriented Faculty Integration Principles on the Pathways website at commons.aaahq.org/groups/2d690969a3/summary
. We recommend that they distribute the principles to all faculty members, discuss them in an open meeting, and ask their faculty to endorse the principles and help develop plans to move toward alignment. Furthermore, even though the principles do not require ongoing validation, we encourage academic leaders to review their compliance with the principles on an annual basis.
We then ask that your business school or disciplinary unit become the next to endorse the Professionally Oriented Faculty Integration Principles. As the contributions of professionally oriented faculty to your programs increase, so will the benefits—not just to students and faculty, and not just during the accreditation process, but in the continuing improvement and effectiveness of your programs.
Jerry E. Trapnell is dean and professor of accountancy emeritus at Clemson University in South Carolina. D. Scott Showalter is professor of practice in the department of accounting at the North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management in Raleigh. Showalter also serves as a commissioner of the Pathways Commission.