New Survey Data Provides a Snapshot of Shared Governance Then and Now

The AAUP released the second report on data collected from the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey, the first national survey on shared governance since 2001. This survey report focuses on faculty roles in decision making areas at 585 randomly-sampled four-year institutions of higher education. We asked senate chairs and other faculty governance leaders to assess 29 areas of decision making on a scale that ranges from administrative dominance to faculty dominance. The response rate was 68 percent.

Key Findings

  • In several areas in which higher education faculty had made progress in decision making authority between 1971 and 2001, the trend has reversed and returned to the status of 1971 or worse—most notably in institution-level decision making, such as the allocation of faculty positions and in budgetary matters. By contrast, several areas of decision making that are local in scope, such as programmatic curricular decision making or the selection of department chairs, have seen an increase in faculty authority.
  • Despite persistent opinions that faculty unionization somehow weakens shared governance, this survey reveals that in 22 of 29 areas, there is no statistically significant difference in faculty authority between unionized and non-unionized institutions. In six areas, faculty authority was higher at unionized institutions.
  • Overall, results of this survey present a mixed picture of the current state of shared governance. At most institutions, faculty authority is consistent with AAUP-recommended governance standards in decision making about programmatic, departmental, and institutional curricula; teaching assignments; and faculty searches, evaluations, and tenure and promotion standards. However, in several decision making areas, including budgets, buildings, and allocations of faculty positions, the faculty has little or no meaningful opportunity to participate at a large percentage of institutions.


For more than a century, the AAUP has conducted or sponsored national shared governance surveys. Each of these surveys has provided a snapshot of the state of shared governance at the time it was conducted, and together they provide vital information about the historical development of academic governance in the United States over the past one hundred years. This report compares results by various institutional types and to the AAUP’s established governance policy standards. The report also compares findings to those of previous governance surveys that were conducted 20 and 50 years ago, respectively.


Publication Date: 
Thursday, July 29, 2021