Strengthening the heart of Ontario universities: making sure every academic job is a good job

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Last week, OCUFA staff members Graeme Stewart and Brynne Sinclair-Waters wrote an article for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Ontario (CCPA-ON) on the need for more full-time faculty in Ontario’s universities. The piece is part of the CCPA-ON’s ongoing series on the provincial budget.

Stewart and Sinclair-Waters argue that hiring of full-time faculty has lagged well behind increases in enrolment, with serious implications for the quality of university education in Ontario. The reason for this lag is the gradual decline in public per-student funding for higher education in province. This under-funding is also to blame for the disturbing rise in precarious academic work, where a large proportion of university teaching is now done by faculty on short-term, insecure contracts.

They conclude:

OCUFA estimates that hiring the 8,500 new faculty positions needed at Ontario universities would cost around $865 million, or about $173 million a year, in new public investment until 2020.

Even a modest bump in the provincial operating grant to universities would support greater hiring of full-time faculty. The challenge of precarious academic work is immense and will take years to correct. We need to begin turning the tide before the problem gets worse.

No organism can survive long with a weakened heart and our universities are no exception. Ontario needs to invest in our universities to boost the number of professors and academic librarians, and to ensure that every academic job is a good job.

If we do that, we secure the quality of Ontario universities—and the success of our students—for years to come.

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