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No correlation between UO grad program rank and full professor pay

11/20/2019 repost: These are old data, but I doubt they’ve changed much.

8/9/2015: My understanding is that UO administration bargainer Bill Brady has said that the reason full professor pay for some UO departments lags the AAU averages is that some UO departments just aren’t that good. So I got curious if there was a correlation between UO department quality and pay.

The horizontal axis is the National Research Council’s 2010 ranking of UO PhD programs, see below for methodology. The vertical axis is average pay for UO full professors by department as a percentage of average pay at AAU publics for 2014-15. From UO IR, here.

I’m no econometrician, but the slope coefficient looks like zero to me. And lets not talk about the variance. There’s probably better data for department rankings but I doubt it changes the conclusion much: whatever system the UO administration is using to set faculty pay, it’s not about quality.

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The National Research Council rankings were released in 2010, the data was from 2007. Quoting from a description of the methodology here, “The NRC used 20 variables that it considers “indicators of program quality.” Variables include measures of faculty research activity, student support and outcomes, and faculty and student demographics. The indicators come from the extensive data provided by the institutions themselves as well as some data collected by the NRC (e.g., faculty awards, publications, and citations).” US News has more recent rankings for departments, but in contrast to their data driven undergrad rankings, the grad rankings are crap – entirely reputational, and the survey has simplistic questions and very low response rates. UO has current data on productivity from Academic Analytics by department (and faculty member) for ourselves and comparators, but the UO administration has chosen to keep even the UO department data secret. Maybe the administration’s bargaining team will show it at Wednesday’s bargaining session though, in an effort to justify their low-ball raise proposal?

9/29/2010: Idiots guide to NRC rankings of graduate programs:

UO Institutional Research has posted a spreadsheet of UO’s NRC rankings here. If you use the numerical ratings alone (i.e. ignore the reputational survey) and use the midpoint of their confidence range, then divide by the number of programs evaluated in that discipline, you get a crude percentile rank. Here’s that data for UO. So our Psych department is doing the best of all UO departments, at 16%. 11 of our 21 programs are at or above the 50th percentile in their field. Not bad for a university that continues to pay its full professors 84% of the average, and which spends 63% 63.25% of the average on research.

Note that the NRC only bothers to evaluate a subset of the best PhD granting programs, and these percentiles are relative to that subset, so showing up on the list at all is not too shabby an accomplishment.

Percentile Department
16% Psychology
24% Geography
26% Anthropology
26% Biology
36% Mathematics
36% Geological Sciences
37% History
38% Physics
43% Comparative Literature
44% Economics
50% Political Science
57% Communication and Society
57% Chemistry
64% Philosophy
65% Linguistics
71% Music
75% English
77% Computer and Information Sciences
77% Human Physiology
91% Theatre Arts
94% Sociology


  1. Dog 08/09/2015

    Well thanks to those Econ guys, the actual average salary is higher for those above the X-axis value of 50% (the not good region) than it is in the good region. So, the less productive you are as a research department the more you get paid. This is exactly the trajectory that has led to our high admin salaries …

  2. Duckduckgo 08/09/2015

    Hmm, I am curious about what does drives salaries. Comp Sci is high because a newly minted data scientist can make $100,000 after taking a single online course, according to the paper today.

    Are there high-paying alternatives for theatre? It would be interesting to plot salary by age of start of employment. In the sciences, faculty start after 5-7 years of grad school plus 3-7 years of post-doc. Is that true for theatre? Or do theatre faculty hit the highest full professor salaries at an earlier age, driving the average up?

  3. Humanities Prof 08/09/2015

    Within the Humanities, the dept. that stands out most on this list is Comparative Literature: despite a pretty impressive NRC ranking (the highest among all depts. in the Humanities), the dept. has the lowest salary average of the entire list. Disgraceful.

  4. awesome0 08/10/2015

    Is union contract proposing anything to help fix the enormous inequities across departments? How many years of 1 percent equity pools to fix it?

    • uomatters Post author | 08/10/2015

      It will cost about $2.5M to fix. The union proposal is for $1.5M of that this contract. The admin proposal is for $0.

    • Duckduckgo 08/10/2015

      But what if the inequities are because of external factors, as for Comp Sci, or the million dollar alternative salaries of our Law faculty? I’m sure there are some easily recognized cases that need fixing, but it doesn’t seem completely simple to me.

      • Daffy duck 08/10/2015

        Complicating factors are why relative AAU comparisons are most relevant across departments, by the way, nice job UO matters

        • Duckduckgo 08/10/2015

          Oh, right, I forgot that the inequities were already being compared that way and wasn’t sure how awesome0 was defining it.

  5. awesome0 08/10/2015

    I think if that current admins proposal plus the equity fix (which should be front loaded, done this first year) plus maybe 1 percent in the first year is acceptable. That deal is pretty fair and responsible in terms of getting us close to 95 percent of AAU comparators and staying there.

    • uomatters Post author | 08/10/2015

      Yes, that would be roughly the current 6.5% admin proposal, plus 2.5% equity +1% whatever. This is close to the current union proposal. See you Wed at 10AM.

      • thedude 08/10/2015

        I’m coming. And bringing back the voodoo.

  6. Hedgehog/Fox 08/10/2015

    The mistake here is in looking for a rationale or explanation or even a pattern. Like far too much at the UO, what should be done deliberately and systematically is done reactively and as a kind of quick fix. Throw out an ATB here or a merit increase there, but do it randomly and unpredictably. Hire a few NTTFs here or there to put out a fire and save a few bucks this year. Do not think about what kind of departments you are trying to build. Whatever you do, do not think strategically. Do not think of what you are building long term. Do not. That’s no way to get your sinecure and move ahead. Do what Ducks do. Win the day. To hell with next week.

    The scandal of full prof salaries is easy to address. There is simply no will, no vision.

    • awesome0 08/10/2015

      Comment of the month for me. I have no prizes though.

      • dmca 08/10/2015

        Of course you mean:
        “Win the day!”

        To hell with next week.


  7. UO CC (not an academic) 11/20/2019

    Dumb dumb public school educated person here:

    The salary data is from 2014 and the academic reputation data is from 2010 (actually 2007). I believe this data took years to compile and the rankings are closely associated with previous rankings from 15 years earlier.

    Shouldn’t you include salary data going back 20 years or so?

    • uomatters Post author | 11/20/2019

      Have at it, the salary info is at

    • Dog 11/21/2019

      well since 2014 salary is mostly union mandated so that leaves
      little flexibility. A perhaps better indicator of university investment in “academic reputation” is in faculty lines. Do quality programs
      “earn” more faculty lines over time?

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