New study sheds light on precarious academic work in Ontario

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A new report by the Centre for Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) has revealed important new information on contract faculty in Ontario. Written by Glen Jones and Cynthia Field, A survey of sessional faculty in Ontario publicly funded universities makes an important contribution to understanding who contract faculty are and, more importantly, what they want.

The report surveyed contract faculty at 12 Ontario universities, including research universities, a bilingual university, primarily undergraduate universities, and rural institutions. Key findings include:

  • 60 per cent of contract faculty are women
  • 66 per cent have a PhD
  • Around one third of respondents have been in contract positions for nine or more years
  • 54 per cent of were on contracts of less than six months; only six per cent were on contracts longer than 13 months
  • Even when other income is taken into account, 30 per cent of contract faculty earn less than the Low-Income Measure (LIM)
  • 76 per cent of contract faculty surveyed aspired to a tenure-track position, but 50 per cent of respondents felt that such a position was unachievable

Taken together, this data paints a picture of a large group of academics working in insecure, low-paid positions. OCUFA has estimated that the number of courses taught by contract faculty has doubled since the beginning of the 2000s. This has serious implications for the wellbeing of these individuals, their families, the communities in which they live, and the long-term sustainability of Ontario’s universities.

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