Timothy R. Cain

Associate Professor of Higher Education


Ph.D., University of Michigan





Tim Cain has been an associate professor at the Institute of Higher Education since 2013.  Prior to that he was on the faculty of the College of Education at the University of Illinois, including coordinating the higher education program in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership.  He earned his AB from Duke University, his MA from The Ohio State University, and his PhD from the University of Michigan.

Professor Cain’s studies of the history of academic freedom, tenure, and campus speech rights include journal articles and book chapters on purges of faculty during World War I, anti-communism in the 1930s, attacks on the student press, and related issues.  His 2012 book Establishing Academic Freedom explored the development of academic freedom in the early 20th century, a period during which national faculty associations were founded, procedural protections for academic freedom were formalized, and the modern tenure system was established.  The book considered local and national challenges to faculty freedoms and pointed to the contested philosophical and organizational battles that led to modern understandings and policies.

The role of the American Federation of Teachers in the development of academic freedom led Professor Cain to examine the causes, effects, and debates around faculty and graduate student unionization.  In articles in outlets such as History of Education, Labor History, Perspectives on the History of Higher Education, and Teachers College Record, he has explored the long history of faculty unions, arguing that they played significant roles in higher education even before they were able to collectively bargain and that studying them provides insight into the nature and conditions of faculty work.  He has also considered what is known about the effects of faculty and graduate students since the rise of widespread bargaining in the 1960s and 1970s, including in Campus Unions: Organized Faculty and Graduate Students in U.S. Higher Education, recently published as part of the ASHE Report Series.

Professor Cain’s continuing work includes forthcoming chapters in edited books on non-tenure-line and contingent faculty, the history of college student life, and learning outcomes assessment.  He is currently writing a book on the history of faculty unionization in the United States.

Professor Cain is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Higher Education and the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, as well as the advisory board of the ASHE Report Series.  He was formerly an associate editor and the book review editor of the History of Education Quarterly.  Along with his colleagues at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, he is a co-author of Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education (Jossey-Bass, 2015).