I came across a faculty vacancy announcement at a US university where it is mentioned that the candidate will be expected to perform teaching, research and guidance duties in area(s) of expertise. In addition, the candidate will share responsibility for committee and department assignments including administrative, supervisory, and other functions. From this statement, can it be determined that it is a teaching university where I will be primarily involved into teaching and administrative duties? There is no point of contact mentioned in the announcement whom I could contact with in order to know the details.

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    The faculty webpage will give a contact address you can use for asking questions specific to this job. (But the general question is a good one.) – David Richerby Aug 4 '15 at 15:10
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    It's always wisest to do these evaluations based on public information such as university web pages, catalogs, etc. You should start by looking at what academic degrees are offered in your discipline (bachelor's only, MS, or PhD) and look up the research activity of the faculty to see what they've been up to. – Brian Borchers Aug 4 '15 at 15:24
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    It's common to find bottom-tier universities at which the teaching load is high but research is required for tenure. Some faculty at this type of school will do the minimum amount of research needed in order to get tenure, and then stop doing research. Others, through heroic efforts, sustain a meaningful research career until the day they retire. Very little high-impact research goes on at these schools, but they may do some research that is useful and important to a narrow community. These schools essentially should not be pretending to be research universities, but they want the prestige. – Ben Crowell Aug 4 '15 at 16:24
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    Just ask them??? – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 4 '15 at 18:49
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    Come now...is there any such thing as a "teaching university" anymore? – K. Alan Bates Aug 4 '15 at 20:09

I teach at a research university and we have pretty much the same language in our job ads.

How to tell if a school is a research university:

  1. See if your university is listed as one of the original 59 Research I Universities defined by the Carnegie Institute (see the 1994 list here) or 108 Research University/Very High (RUVH) in the current classification.

    a. Related to this - does the school offer doctorates in your field? Is it well known for producing high caliber scholars? Does it seem to be getting national grants? These are all part of the criteria for the R1 or RU/VH designation.

  2. See if the course catalogue is online and look at how many courses a semester each professor teaches. Research universities will be 2:2, 1:1, 2:1, or 1:1:2 or even lower (1:0, 0:1:1, etc.).

  3. Look at the CV of faculty and see if they are publishing actively in highest tier journals

  4. Ask a faculty member who teaches there what the teaching:research ratio expectation is.

  5. Beggars can't be choosers. Unless you have other options then you take the position if offered and then when outside opportunities beckon, you switch.

Discussion: While it's easy to figure out the overall research vs. teaching balance and emphasis at a Harvard University versus Sweet Briar College (a small liberal arts college); there is a considerable grey middle ground. At upper-tier SLACs and state universities, there may be more of an equal 50:50 research:teaching emphasis, or even an unexpected imbalance that an outsider would not be able to easily perceive. Usually, you can ascertain this over drinks at the post job-talk dinner.

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    I think your point (3) is the ultimate measure. If people are publishing, it's a research university. If they are not, it's not. Also, be particularly careful before applying to positions where current holders used to publish a lot before coming there, but are not anymore. Basically, if I have the impression that a school has a tendency of attracting good people who then fall off the research train when they join, that's a big flashing stop sign for me. – xLeitix Aug 5 '15 at 7:16
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    Also, re: your point (5) - at least here in Europe, a good postdoc is much better for your research career than a teaching professorship. As postdoc, you'll get less reputation but a lot of time for brushing up your CV, and you can apply for funds and get your quasi-own students. In a teaching position, most people don't have students nor time to actually write grants or conduct research of the quality that would later on lead them to a research professorship. – xLeitix Aug 5 '15 at 7:19

When I hear teaching university, I think of a four-year liberal arts college such as Colgate, where excellence in teaching is prioritized over "publish or perish." When I hear research university, I think of an institution where you don't get tenure without a record of significant original research, such as Cornell University. To get a quick clue, go to the institution's home page and look for "Academics" in the menu. (If that doesn't yield a blurb, try searching for "About [name of institution]" in the site's search box.) Here are two examples.

With a 9:1 student-faculty ratio, our students are pursuing their intellectual passions in close contact with field-leading experts. (Colgate)


You'll interact closely with world-class faculty and a diverse student body, each a collaborator in learning, in research, and in service. (Cornell)

Note there are schools that try to hit a balance, such as Ithaca College, where faculty are strongly encouraged to involve their undergraduate students in authentic research experiences. Here's a clue:

Ithaca College strives to become the standard of excellence for residential comprehensive colleges, fostering intellect, creativity, and character in an active, student-centered learning community. (vision statement)

An additional clue is whether the institution offers a wide gamut of graduate degrees. If so, it's probably a research institution. You can check this aspect quickly at the College Board and put the name of the institution in the search box.

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    University of Phoenix offers a lot of graduate degrees, but is hardly a research university... – RoboKaren Aug 4 '15 at 15:11
  • And there are some graduate degrees that are not research oriented (eg. MBA) – Phil Aug 5 '15 at 14:03

Use the institution's reported balance of instructional v. research staff in the IPEDS database. Head to http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/ and choose Look Up An Institution (or others if you want). Choose the institution you want, then click Human Resources. Probably the best metric is simply All Staff - Full Time Research versus All Staff - Full Time Instructional Staff.

  • Harvard: 1897 to 2136, highly research
  • Minnesota: 1329 to 3330, highly research
  • Valparaiso: 0 to 262, highly teaching
  • Wisconsin - Milwaukee: 101 to 1113, mostly teaching

There are a number of other useful metrics, including grant money from the federal government. For instance, NIH gave Wisconsin-Madison $257,660,041 in 2014. See http://www.report.nih.gov/award/index.cfm. Check out the number of graduate research fellowships awarded as well: https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/AwardeeList.do?method=loadAwardeeList. These are applicable if the NIH, NSF, GRFP, or other government programs offer awards in the fields you care about.


That sounds like a normal faculty position at a research-focused institution. I can imagine at a teaching-focused institution, research might not be mentioned. Even at research institutions, there is still a lot of teaching that needs to be done. 2-3 courses a year would be common for new junior faculty with maybe some relief in the the first year plus a startup package that you could use to buy out time.

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