Liberal professors outnumber conservatives, study finds

College professors who consider themselves politically liberal far outnumber their conservative colleagues, according to a report released last week.

“The American College Teacher,” based on a survey conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, found that roughly 52 percent of American college professors describe themselves as “far left” or “liberal,” while only 20 percent said they were “far right” or “conservative.”

The study, conducted every three years, offers a snapshot of college professors in the United States. Researchers asked 40,670 professors from across the country a range of questions regarding job satisfaction, their students and their personal beliefs.

Regarding political views, the findings suggest a shrinking middle ground among university faculty. Only 29 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as moderates, compared to 40 percent just 15 years ago.

Overall, professors expressed mixed feelings on their students’ performance. Around 75 percent of professors at private universities said they were satisfied with the quality of their students, though just over half of public university professors responded similarly.

Additionally, while nine out of ten professors said they believed a racially and ethnically diverse student body enhances a student’s educational experience, about a quarter said that promoting diversity leads to the “admission of too many under-prepared students.”

Regardless of their feelings about student preparedness, the report suggests that professors are by and large committed to their students’ advancement. About 83 percent responded that promoting the intellectual development of students is a high or the highest priority at their institution.

Other top priorities included enhancing the institution’s national image and prestige, developing students’ leadership and increasing the representation of women and minority groups on college campuses.

When asked about their own jobs, the study indicates greater satisfaction among faculty at two-year colleges than at four-year institutions. Professors at two-year schools were more likely to say they experienced joy in their work “to a great extent” by a margin of 73 percent to 67 percent.

In terms of job security, three in five faculty members said they believed strongly or somewhat strongly that tenure is essential to attracting strong professors, while roughly a third of respondents said it was an “outmoded concept.”

The study also found a widespread frustration among faculty over new teaching technologies. Over half of all professors – 54 percent of males and 64 percent of females – said keeping up with new technological advancements was a significant cause of stress.

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