Data check: Ontario spends less per student on faculty than the rest of Canada

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In last week’s Data Check, we demonstrated how Ontario lags the rest of Canada in per-student operating and research revenue. This week, we show how Ontario’s per-student university expenditures are also lower, particularly when it comes to faculty salaries.

With occasional exceptions, it is the rule that university expenses are lower than revenues. So it is no surprise that, since Ontario lags the rest of Canada in funding per student, university expenditure per student is also lower in the province. Excluding student scholarships, Ontario universities’ combined operating, research, and special purpose expenses are 13 per cent lower than the average in the rest of Canada.

Like other public services and service industries generally, wages, salaries, and benefits at Canadian universities represent the bulk of total expenditures (including ancillary and capital expenses). The national average for all salaries is about 60 per cent of university budgets. Salaries for “academic ranks” – professors – in Canada are about 20 per cent of total expenses, and have been so for more than a decade.

Per student, Ontario universities’ operating expenditures on faculty salaries have been the lowest of all provinces for more than ten years. In 2013-14, the average Ontario per-student expenditure on faculty was the lowest in Canada, 19 per cent lower than the national average and eight per cent lower than the second-last province. When we think of faculty salaries as paid from operating, research and special purpose funds combined, the gap widens as Ontario universities’ rate of expenditure is 24 per cent lower than the rest of Canada, and 13 per cent lower than ninth ranked Québec.

As a proportion of total operating, research and special purpose expenses (again excluding scholarships), faculty salaries in Ontario are the second-lowest in Canada. Only Alberta spends a lower proportion of total expenses on faculty salaries. If one were to take the teaching models in each province as given and assume other expenditures were the same per student in other provinces as in Ontario, the proportion of Ontario expenditures directed to faculty is 22 per cent, compared to 27 per cent for the rest of Canada.

To hear some tell the story, university expenses in our province are quickly outpacing revenues. Sure enough, the difference in overall expenditures per student between Ontario and other provinces is less now than it was in 2010-11. But by the above measures of expenditures on faculty salaries, the pattern is different. The gap narrowed for a few years a decade ago – along with the provincial funding gap. Since then, the difference has been growing again.

Ontario vs. Rest of Canada: Operating, research and special purpose expenses per student – Total expenses (excluding scholarships), and Academic ranks salaries

OCUFA is planning a University Finance Workshop, to be held on November 13th it Toronto. It will focus on the Financial Facts about Faculty in Ontario in an effort to sort out the real trends from the myths. For more information about attending, please contact your local faculty association.

Canadian Association of University Business Officers, Financial Information of Universities and Colleges
Statistics Canada, Postsecondary Student Information System (updated to 2013 using data from: Association of Atlantic Universities; Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada; British Columbia Higher Education Accountability Dataset; Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities)

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