The steady increase of Bowdoin faculty in recent years has shifted the student to faculty ratio from 10:1 to 9:1, a change that impacts interactions between students and teachers as well as the scope of Bowdoin's offerings.
Every fall, the ratio of students to professors is tallied according to very specific definitions of "faculty" set forth by the Common Data Set (CDS). The CDS reflects a collaboration between higher education institutions and the publishers who report their data.
According to the CDS Web site, "The combined goal of this collaboration is to improve the quality and accuracy of information...attained by the development of clear, standard data items and definitions..."
The section of the survey devoted to class and faculty size states the criteria for considering a person faculty. The definition addresses specific situations, such as whether or not an institution should count a part-time teacher on sabbatical without pay, or an administrator who teaches one or more classes.
Bowdoin's fall 2007 numbers, which were reported this year (there is a one year gap between the data collection and when it is published), showed a 9.7 student to faculty ratio based on 1,712 and 177 faculty, that was rounded to and reported as 10 to 1.
According to Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, Bowdoin's numbers for fall 2008, which will be published next year, show a new 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio (rounded down from 9.4).
"The size of the faculty has been increasing over the past few years," said Judd.
The Capital Campaign funded eight new positions out of the projected 12, and five of these have been filled.
"One [reason] is that we believe that close student-faculty interactions are essential to the Bowdoin experience," said Judd, as is small class size. Referencing the 2007 CDS, Judd stated that over 65 percent of Bowdoin's classes contain less than 20 students and that "out of 374 classes, 74 were for two to nine students. One-hundred and eighty-three classes were 10 to 19 students."
The CDS further reports that Bowdoin offers no courses with enrollment exceeding 100 people and only nine classes have over 50 students. In addition to small class size, a low student to faculty ratio enables students to pursue independent studies much more easily, said Judd.
The ratio also "allows us to bring breadth and depth to the curriculum," she added.
Recent expansions of Bowdoin's academic scope include the offer of Islamic studies as well the enrichment of the environmental studies department through faculty from multidisciplinary backgrounds.
"New positions bring us new areas of study," said Judd.