Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential to support high-quality accessible education for Ontario students, continued strength in research, and fairness for contract faculty. With this in mind, OCUFA’s recommendations for the 2018 Ontario Budget seek to preserve the quality of university education in Ontario through increased public investment and government leadership on key issues impacting faculty working conditions.
As part of the consultation process, OCUFA President Gyllian Phillips presented the priorities of Ontario’s faculty and academic librarians to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on January 16 in Sudbury. On January 22, OCUFA Vice-President Rahul Sapra made a second presentation to the Minister of Finance in Toronto.
OCUFA is recommending that the Government of Ontario:
- Increase per-student public investment in Ontario’s universities to support a return to 2008-09 funding levels by 2020-21.
Since 2008, per student funding in Ontario has been declining and trailing the rest of Canada. It is time to break from years of stagnated funding and meaningfully invest in postsecondary education. A sensible plan should begin with investments to return Ontario to 2008 university funding levels, coupled with long-term investments to close the gap with other provinces.
- Ensure that the renewed funding model does not link performance metrics to funding. Instead, available data should be used to develop policies that will support university educational quality and research outputs.
The government’s planned shift to allocate a portion of university funding based on performance is counterproductive as it will, by design, create inequities in the system. Funding allocation mechanisms should not be structured in a way that harms the student learning experience. Rather than employing such unnecessarily risky and destabilizing methods, available data should be leveraged to improve policymaking decisions and outcomes.
- Make meaningful consultation with faculty a requirement in the Strategic Mandate Agreement negotiation process.
The Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) that the government negotiates with universities should include input from university communities. As a substantive mechanism for implementing the new funding model, it is vital that faculty have meaningful input in the upcoming SMA negotiations. While it is the responsibility of individual university administrations to undertake local consultations, the Ministry must take a leadership role and set standards for the negotiation process. This will ensure the SMAs reflect the views and priorities of the entire campus community – not just administrators.
- Take leadership to facilitate the implementation of updated labour law and identify remaining gaps in coverage in the postsecondary education sector, particularly for contract faculty.
The government should confidently set a standard of fairness for contract faculty across the postsecondary sector. As the recent changes to labour and employment legislation are rolled out, attention to gaps in coverage will be crucial. The government should take leadership to identify outstanding issues and commit to providing public funding where necessary for fairness for contract faculty to be achieved.
- Launch a faculty renewal strategy for Ontario universities that achieves the dual goals of supporting new full-time tenure-track hiring and creating pathways to full-time secure positions for contract faculty.
Every student’s learning experience and every university’s capacity to produce research relies on the faculty members who teach, research, and engage in their communities; but the growing gap between enrolment and faculty hiring is putting strain on the system. This year’s budget is an opportunity to launch a faculty renewal strategy that supports new faculty hiring and provides pathways for contract faculty to secure full-time positions. Multi-year investments in faculty renewal will improve student-faculty ratios and support quality educational and research outcomes.
Universities are vital institutions within our communities, delivering education to thousands of students, producing thought-provoking and ground-breaking research, and providing good jobs that support local economies. Government commitment to robust public funding for postsecondary education is essential for sustaining the capacity needed to ensure these transformational contributions continue.
This article originally appeared in OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week, please subscribe.