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2016 Professor Pulse Survey

What Profs Really Think

Annual global survey reveals how faculty are handling the pressures of a fast-changing higher education landscape

It’s never been a more challenging time for professors. Enrollment is up yet resources are shrinking. Students, distracted by mobile tech, are harder to engage than ever before. And many profs feel underappreciated by their employers. In our first annual Professor Pulse Survey, 21,558 faculty members at institutions around the world shared their opinions about the state of higher education—and their place within it.

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Profs Must Do More With Less

Enrollment continues to rise while resources shrink, leaving professors doing whatever it takes to keep students happy.

We Asked:

What is/are the biggest issue(s) currently facing your school?

This leads to...

Professors pressured to inflate grades


21% say they've felt pressured to boost students' grades

Professors pressured to decrease difficulty


25% say they've felt pressured to make courses easier for students

We Asked:

On a scale of one to 10, how do you think the current higher educational 
system is in preparing students for their careers?

We Asked:

Do you think the cost of tuition is too high?

74% of professors think the cost of tuition is too high.

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We Asked:

What is more important to you: researching or instructing?

82% of professors say teaching is more important than research—yet that’s not what schools emphasize.

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Profs Need to Improve Student Engagement

A prof’s reputation is now as much about student ratings as academic credentials. Every instructor feels compelled to work to earn students’ approval.

Rate My Professors Logo


of profs admit to checking their ratings on Rate My Professors

Professors care what their students think of them and their teaching methods, and they're constantly looking for ways to improve.

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We Asked:

What's your biggest teaching challenge?

Ranked highest to lowest.

  • Illustration of a bored student.

    1. Students not paying attention or participating in class

  • Illustration of an open book.

    2. Students not comprehending the material

  • Illustration of a notebook.

    3. Not enough time to do research

  • Illustration of two paper planes.

    4. Students not coming to class

  • Illustration of a coffee mug.

    5. Other

  • Illustration of a clock.

    6. Not enough time to prepare for class

  • Illustration of a stack of paper.

    7. Administrative overhead

  • Illustration of a podium.

    8. Pre-lecture anxiety

We Asked:

How much do student reviews factor into your course planning?

We Asked:

Do you think students come prepared for class?

42% of profs say students don’t come prepared for class.

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We Asked:

Do your students participate in class?

41% of profs say most students don’t participate in class.

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Profs Feel Underappreciated

These growing pressures on profs are magnified by a tense relationship with school administrators. The biggest issues: tenure, integrity, respect.

We Asked:

How important do you think the following categories are to your school's administration?

We Asked:

Do you expect to reach tenure in your teaching career?

Only 23% of professors expect to get tenure.

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We Asked:

On a scale of one (not at all fair) to 10 (extremely fair), how fair do you think the tenure track process is?


of profs feel restricted by their school's administration

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We Asked:

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being "not at all" and 10 being "very much") how much do you think your school's administration cares about the well-being of its instructors?

Profs Must Embrace Classroom Tech—Or Get Left Behind

Technology has created a new education dynamic, impacting how profs interact with students. Profs see tech as one dependable method to keep them engaged, improve grades and attendance, and boost the school’s reputation.

We Asked:

What's most important to you in your lectures?

  1. Increasing student participation and engagement
  2. Comprehension, and improving students' grades
  3. Getting good course evaluations and performance feedback
  4. Spending as little time as possible on administrative tasks (attendance, grading, etc)
  5. Increasing student attendance
  6. Other

We Asked:

How 'tech-savvy' would you consider yourself?

  1. I am an early adopter of technologies and am very up-to-date on recent technological advancements.
  2. I know of and use the latest technologies (smart phones, tablets, etc) but am not an early adopter.
  3. I usually only adopt the newest technologies once I am forced to (by family, employer, etc).
  4. I rarely use modern technologies (smart phones, tablets, etc).
  5. I have never even used a smart phone or tablet.

We Asked:

What type(s) of technology do you use in your classroom?

PowerPoint logo Keynote logo Prezi logo

Lecture Slides


Learning Management System icon



Facebook logo Twitter logo YouTube logo

Social Media


Mobile devices icon

Mobile Devices


Group of people icon

Attendance Tools


Clicker icon



Three dots icon



Chart icon

Polling Tools


We Asked:

On a scale of one to 10, one being not at all and 10 being extremely, how useful do you think technology is in a lecture environment?

What’s Next For Higher Education

Here’s the good news: professors, despite all the difficulties they encounter on a daily basis, are well positioned to improve the university experience. Enrollment continues to grow and administrations desperately need profs who can re-energize students and build meaningful connections both inside and outside the classroom. You need to become a prof who innovates and leads. The most celebrated profs are those who capture students’ attention and change lives.

Student sitting in the library using a tablet

Make Learning Smarter

Top Hat helps you keep your students engaged by turning their mobile devices into powerful learning tools. To learn more, schedule your free online demonstration today.