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Leaving the Institution or Leaving the Academy? Analyzing the Factors that Faculty Weigh in Actual Departure Decisions


Although research has revealed many factors that predict faculty turnover, the literature is often limited by using intent to leave as a proxy for actual turnover, and further by consolidating faculty who leave institutions with faculty who leave the occupation. We resolve these limitations and advance the faculty mobility literature by studying faculty who actually left their higher education institution for both academic and non-academic jobs. Drawing on a survey of 773 departing faculty respondents, we employed structural topic modeling and logistic regression to understand whether or not academic and non-academic leavers had statistically different reasons for leaving. Structural topic modeling revealed 12 dominant reasons why faculty leave, but none of these reasons were unique to those who left academia. Regression results show that gender, tenure status, and salary increase were significant drivers of leaving the academic profession. We provide implications for future studies of faculty departure and for faculty retention.

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Correspondence to Damani K. White-Lewis.

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White-Lewis, D.K., O’Meara, K., Mathews, K. et al. Leaving the Institution or Leaving the Academy? Analyzing the Factors that Faculty Weigh in Actual Departure Decisions. Res High Educ (2022).

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  • Faculty mobility
  • Faculty departure
  • Occupational turnover
  • Structural topic modeling
  • Logistic regression