Unbundling the Faculty Role in Higher Education: Utilizing Historical, Theoretical, and Empirical Frameworks to Inform Future Research

  • Sean Gehrke
  • Adrianna Kezar
Part of the Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research book series (HATR, volume 30)


The growth in online and distance education has focused increased attention on unbundling faculty roles in delivering instruction, yet unbundling related to faculty work has been occurring in higher education for over three centuries. In this paper, we examine unbundling of the faculty role in higher education to provide scholars, university leaders, faculty, disciplinary leaders, and policy makers with historical context, theoretical frameworks, and gaps in the empirical literature to inform research and decision-making pertaining to the differentiation of university and faculty tasks. We describe unbundling historically in order to highlight how the faculty role has shifted over time, demonstrating this is not a new phenomenon. We also review theoretical frameworks and their mechanisms to inform our understanding of the history and future of unbundling and suggest the importance of multiple theories to best understand this complex phenomenon. We then examine the limited empirical research findings on unbundling the faculty role, which have not been synthesized to date. We conclude by offering directions for future research regarding unbundling based on the history, theory, and empirical research reviewed, as well as recommendations for policy.


Unbundling Institutional unbundling Professional unbundling Instructional unbundling Faculty roles Differentiation Higher education history Professional theory Contingency theory Managerialism Academic capitalism Online learning Distance education Information communication technology Learning fragmentation For-profit education Non-tenure-track faculty Teaching and research 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pullias Center for Higher EducationUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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