Data Check: New research shows positive impact of faculty associations

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Faculty unionization has a positive impact on students and universities, according to a new American study. The Impact of Unionization on University Performance: A Cross-Sectional Time Series Analysis, written by Mark Cassell, shows that unionization leads to a more efficient and effective institution, while promoting student success.
The paper’s primary findings include:

  • Unionized institutions show lower costs and expenses than non-unionized institutions, even when controlling for the previous year’s budget;
  • The rate of cost increase is lower in unionized institutions; and
  • Unionization is positively linked to higher graduation rates, and a higher number of completion and degrees.

While it is not clear why  unionization promotes these outcomes, Cassell suggests that unionization has a “statistically significant impact on the budgetary mix between administration and instruction.” In other words, unionized faculty play a stronger role in the management of an institution, and tend to keep expenditures more focused on teaching and learning. Indeed, “unionized schools consistently devote a much higher proportion of their budget to instruction than non-unionized schools.”

This research concerns American universities, and care should be taken when generalizing these results to the Canadian context. However, findings of this sort are apt to make uncomfortable those who attempt to blame faculty for rising university costs. 

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