Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version

Winter 2016


The Review of Higher Education, Winter 2016, Volume 39, No.2, pp. 269- 297


Copyright © 2015 Association for the Study of Higher Education. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Used by permission.


Faculty leave higher education institutions for many reasons, including higher salaries, more prestigious departments, lack of collegiality, a better geographic location, and to be closer to family (O'Meara, Lounder, & Campbell, 2014; Rosser, 2004; Smart, 1990; Xu, 2008). At the same time, research suggests that factors such as a higher salary and a more prestigious department are not really "pull" factors if faculty members are satisfied and thriving within their institution (Matier, 1990; O'Meara, 2014). Rather, faculty become predisposed to leave by virtue of dissatisfaction with certain aspects of their work environment (Daly & Dee, 2006; Johnsrud & Rosser, 2002; Rosser, 2004), which act as a "push" to either entertain offers or go looking for "greener pastures" (Daly & Dee, 2006). Embedded within these push and pull factors, and subsequent departure decisions, are expectations and assumptions of what could have been, or should have been possible, in the institutions faculty members leave behind (Lawrence, Celis, & Ott, 2014; Trower, 2012). Important research over the last decade has reinforced the role of work expectations and psychological contracts on advising relationships and faculty work lives (Benzoni, Rousseau, & Li, 2006; Darrah, Hougland, & Prince, 2014; Huston, Norman, & Ambrose, 2007). Early career faculty bring many expectations related to professional relationships, career advancement, and teaching to the door steps of their new academic homes (Lawrence et al., 2014; Trower, 2012). Regardless of whether these expectations are met, they are often left unsaid. Unfortunately, what is left unsaid can be a major factor in faculty departure. This study makes a distinct contribution to the literature by examining the experiences of faculty who have actually left or are about to leave their university. It is rare in studies of faculty departure to have interviews with faculty who actually made the decision to leave, rather than those who simply desire to leave, because of the logistics and politics involved in gaining access to this group. Although intent to leave is a strong predictor of departure, more faculty intend to leave than actually do (Bluedorn, 1982; Daly & Dee, 2006; Rosser & Townshend, 2006; Zhou & Volkwein, 2004); thus understanding the factors that were pivotal in the departure decisions of those who actually left is important to understanding the phenomenon of faculty departure.