Top Social Menu


Graduate Program Director Survey – Report/Analysis


Dear FSU Members,

We write to report on the recent FSU survey of Graduate Program Directors.  We got 67 responses – an excellent response given the relatively small size of the group and the timing of the survey.  Thanks to those who participated!  Current and former GPDs who did not participate are encouraged to share your thoughts ( 

Although the majority of respondents came from two colleges (CLA and CEHD), we received feedback from across the university.  Ninety percent of those who responded are tenured faculty, but NTT faculty, Assistant Professors, and Staff also serve as GPDs.

Although not completely unexpected, the general sentiment that emerged from the survey was nonetheless stunning.   GPDs described a heavy, often overwhelming, workload combined with insufficient compensation and a dismally low level of administrative support.  These themes came through powerfully and consistently, with faculty pointing out that the poor level of compensation for GPDs was symbolic of a larger problem – the lack of support for graduate programs at the university as a whole.  As the survey clearly demonstrated, GPDs care greatly about graduate programs and students, and are frustrated by the lack of university investment.

The Statistics

Workload: About sixty percent of GPDs work between 9 and 12 hours a week, with another 35% working between 3 and 9 hours.  Some respondents gently pointed to a flaw in our survey, however, by noting that they worked 20-25 hours a week (which was not an option the FSU survey had contemplated!).  The workload was less during the summer, although 20% of GPDs still worked between 9-12 hours during the summer months.  And many respondents noted that what were sold as nine-month jobs had become year-round affairs.

Compensation (Course Releases): Nearly 60% of GPDs get one CLR per year, though 15% get no CLR at all and about one-quarter get two CLRs per year.  This variation no doubt reflects differing workloads, but it also points to a general lack of transparency and consistency across the university regarding compensation. 

Compensation ($$): Most GPDs are compensated with money, but most also did not know, could not remember, or could not figure out how much they got paid (with some suggesting it was so little that it was hard to tell from their paychecks).  When asked how and by whom compensation had been determined there was even less clarity.  Almost no one knew.  “It is a complete mystery!”  Some guessed that Deans decided, others thought it was uniform across the university – but most just didn’t know.  The survey in fact revealed wide pay discrepancies for similar workloads even within the same college.

The Comments

Heavy workload, insufficient compensation, and lack of administrative support were recurring themes.   Respondents did not hold back.

The growing and at times overwhelming amount of work was the problem – but insufficient administrative support at the department, college, and university level was central to it.  Many pointed out that too much routine administrative work had fallen into faculty hands as administrative support either evaporated or was overwhelmed at the department level.   This lack of support meant that faculty were left doing everything all year round.  GPDs had to be experts in marketing/advertising, recruiting, admissions, financial aid, health, housing, and international law while being expected to on-board new students during the summer and winter breaks.  This lack of administrative support was all made worse by the general absence of systematic training (or even a basic handbook), or a coordinated effort to allow GPDs to communicate and learn from one another.  GPDs felt isolated even from one another.

Admissions was singled out as being particularly problematic.  The admissions workload could be extreme, with one GPD fielding 200 emails a day during the busy season, and was exacerbated by the fact that graduate admissions was seen as being administratively overwhelmed.  Instead of providing support, some noted that having an understaffed graduate admissions office made the work more difficult.  Without sufficient staff, admissions was unable to process applications in a timely manner or respond to student emails, which caused additional headaches for GPDs.  “Grad Admissions is a disaster” summed up the current state of affairs.  Perhaps even more problematic, however, was the near total lack of administrative support for recruiting students, which is now a year-round effort carried out by individual GPDs with little training and few resources. 

Finally, a number of NTTs, Assistant Professors, and Associate Professors pointed out that the job of GPD had defaulted to them because full Professors in their departments had essentially refused to do the job under current conditions.  Although they quickly understood why no one wanted the job after taking it, they nonetheless pointed out how unfair it was to saddle them with a position that was not only infinitely more work than advertised, but made it impossible to do research (and hence get promoted).  

What to do?  The FSU will start a conversation with the Administration while trying to get language into the contract to provide a baseline for GPD compensation and workload – this will be a struggle as anyone who has followed this round of bargaining knows.  At present, there is nothing in our contract that specifically addresses GPDs.   We will also hold a meeting with GPDs in the Fall in order to see how we can pressure Admin to better support GPDs, grad programs, and our students.


GPD Survey Committee

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage