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Contract faculty across Ontario take action during Fair Employment Week

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Every October the Canadian Association of University Teachers organizes a week where faculty across Canada take action on campus and social media to recognize the important contributions contract faculty make to postsecondary education and raise awareness about the challenges they face. Principal among these concerns are that many contract faculty have to reapply for their jobs every term, are hired to teach courses for which they are paid less than their full‐time tenure‐stream colleagues, and lack access to benefits.

This year’s Fair Employment Week was special, as it occurred right in the middle of a hotly contested federal election.

Regional meetings held in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario

As part of Fair Employment Week, OCUFA’s Contract Faculty-Faculty Complement committee held two regional meetings at Queen’s University and Western University, with the goal of connecting the struggles of contract and full-time faculty. The alarming increase of precarious academic work on campuses, and the decline in faculty renewal and increase in full-time faculty workloads are two sides of the same coin.

The regional meetings included a panel of presenters from both locations, joined through a video link. Kimberly Ellis-Hale, an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University and Chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee; Ann Bigelow, a lecturer at Western University and OCUFA Treasurer, John Ciriello, President of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association; and Carolina Cancelliere, a professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The panelists discussed the cuts and problematic policies introduced by the Ford government and their experiences. The panel was followed by local strategy discussions for supporting contract faculty, and building solidarity between full-time tenure-stream and contract faculty on campus.

OCADU professors mount special “The Gleaners” art exhibit

For Fair Employment Week, members of the Ontario College of Art and Design Faculty Association (OCADFA) mounted a special art exhibit to draw attention to the challenges faced by contract faculty at OCADU.

“This installation is a reminder of the struggle that many workers still face at universities and colleges across Canada, including OCADU,” said Surendra Lawoti, Interim President of OCADFA. “It’s time for OCADU to step up and show our contract faculty members the respect they have earned after years and years of hard work and dedication.”

OCADU prides itself on hiring practicing artists, but often fails to foster an employment environment that supports and encourages their art practices to flourish. Created by Ines Scepanovic, “The Gleaners” art installation uses imagery from Francois Millet’s 1857 painting, The Gleaners, which depicts three impoverished farm workers collecting grain left behind after the harvest.

“Most of us are familiar with the iconic figures of The Gleaners,” said Bill Leaming, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Studies at OCADU. “In this installation, these figures represent sessional instructors and the working conditions they must endure to survive. This exhibit shines a spotlight on the callous and hard-hearted economic calculus at work in education today.”

Events across Ontario

Many Ontario faculty associations hosted events on their own campuses to raise awareness about the need for university administrations to create good jobs on campus that provide contract faculty with fair working conditions and opportunities for research.

Many faculty associations set up tables and used the opportunity to build solidarity with fellow faculty members, staff, and students.

Help faculty avert a strike at Nipissing University

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The Nipissing University Faculty Association (NUFA) needs your support to avert a strike. NUFA has been bargaining in good faith with their administration, presenting a modest and responsible package that fights for pension improvements and protects research supports.

Unfortunately, the Nipissing administration is proposing claw backs that will not only jeopardize faculty research and teaching, but will compromise the high quality education Nipissing students value. After months of talks, the administration has failed to engage in genuine negotiations on NUFA’s key issues and is pushing faculty into a strike position.

Together, we can show the Nipissing University Board of Governors that they need to get serious about making a reasonable and fair deal.

Help Nipissing faculty avert a strike by sending an email to Nipissing’s Board of Governors today: https://nufa.ca/take-action-in-support-of-faculty/

Contract faculty meet in Kingston and London to highlight impacts of precarious work at Ontario universities

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KINGSTON/LONDON (Oct 10, 2019) – Contract faculty members from across Ontario are meeting at Queen’s University in Kingston and Western University in London to strategize about how to push back against cuts to Ontario universities.

“This is an important week to raise awareness about the challenges faced by contract faculty across Canada and to recognize the important contributions they make at our universities,” said Kimberly Ellis-Hale, Chair of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee. “Too many contract faculty have to reapply for their jobs every term, are hired to teach courses for which they are paid less than their full‐time tenure‐stream colleagues, and lack access to benefits.”

Ontario has the lowest per-student university funding in Canada, and the gap continues to grow. As public postsecondary funding erodes, and the Ford government moves to introduce a reckless new performance funding model, universities have refused to invest in better working conditions for contract faculty.

It is estimated that up to 40 per cent of teaching faculty at the province’s universities are employed on short or limited term contacts, often without access to benefits, pensions, or even offices. As the Ford government continues to make announcements that destabilize funding for postsecondary education in Ontario, the future for already precariously employed contract faculty is of increasing concern.

The week of October 7-11 is Fair Employment Week, a national week of awareness that recognizes the important contributions of postsecondary contract faculty members and aims to educate students and other members of the community about the need for good jobs on campus.

Many participants in the meeting will also be hosting events on their own campuses to raise awareness about the need for university administrations to provide contract faculty with fair working conditions and opportunities for research to improve the education for students at Ontario universities.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit www.ocufa.on.ca.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

OCUFA extends solidarity to education workers at Ontario’s elementary and high schools

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Ontario’s university faculty and academic librarians stand in solidarity with the 55,000 Ontario elementary and high school education workers as they prepare for legal strike action on Monday, October 7th.

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), these workers provide essential services that support the education of our children and maintain a clean and healthy environment in our schools. They deserve a fair agreement that recognizes and respects the important work they do.

OCUFA urges Doug Ford, Stephen Lecce, and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) to negotiate a fair deal with education workers and commit to making meaningful investments in Ontario’s public education system.

Representing faculty working at every university in the province, OCUFA is deeply alarmed by this government’s disregard for education. Ford’s cuts threaten the quality of education at our schools, colleges, and universities, and will negatively impact students across Ontario.

We need a government that values education, including the teachers and support staff who are so vital to our institutions of learning. We need a government that invests in better education for all students in Ontario.

As Ontario faculty, we will respect education worker picket lines and will not cross them. We encourage others to do the same.

Here are some of the many ways you can show your support for Ontario’s education workers today:

  1. Sign a petition in support of the education workers and send a message to the Premier, Minister, and your Local MPP at: https://cupe.on.ca/supporteducationworkers
  2. Call Minister of Education Stephen Lecce at 416-325-2600 urging him to negotiate a fair deal for Ontario’s education workers.
  3. Contact your Local School Board Trustee and urge them to negotiate a fair deal with education workers.
  4. If there is a strike, join a picket line at a school near you: Ontario education workers will be on the picket lines and need our support.
  5. Share your messages of support on Facebook and Twitter tagging @CUPEOntario and @OSBCUCSCSO.

OCUFA announces recipients of the 2018-2019 Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards

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TORONTO – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is pleased to announce the recipients of its prestigious Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards. Since 1973, these awards have recognized the exceptional contributions made to the quality of higher education in Ontario by faculty.

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities. Through their hard work and boundless energy, they inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future,” said OCUFA President Rahul Sapra. “This year’s distinguished award recipients are all dedicated and passionate teachers and mentors. OCUFA is honoured to recognize them with teaching and librarianship awards.”

The 2018-2019 Teaching Award recipients are:

  • Sue Baptiste, Professor Emerita in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University
  • Daniel Gillis, Associate Professor in the School of Computing Science at the University of Guelph
  • Jennifer Irwin, Professor in the School of Health Studies at Western University
  • Andrew Petersen, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the University of Toronto Mississauga

The 47th annual awards ceremony, featuring special guest speaker and award-winning journalist Robert Fisher, will take place at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto on October 19, 2019.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 professors and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

McMaster University’s Sue Baptiste receives prestigious OCUFA teaching award

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TORONTO — Sue Baptiste, a Professor Emerita in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University, has been named one of Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). She will receive a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award at an October 19 ceremony in Toronto, featuring award-winning journalist Robert Fisher.

“For nearly 40 years, Sue Baptiste has worked to foster diversity as a core component of her research – an approach that has also permeated her teaching,” said Professor Judy Bornais, Chair of OCUFA’s Award Committee. “She has demonstrated a commitment to education and mentorship that has impacted the lives of thousands of students and health practitioners.”

The other recipients of a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award are:

  • Daniel Gillis, Associate Professor in the School of Computing Science at the University of Guelph
  • Jennifer Irwin, Associate Professor in the School of Health Studies at Western University
  • Andrew Petersen, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the University of Toronto Mississauga

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities. Through their hard work and boundless energy, they inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future,” said OCUFA President Rahul Sapra. “This year’s distinguished award recipients are all dedicated and passionate teachers and mentors. OCUFA is honoured to recognize them with teaching and librarianship awards.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

University of Guelph’s Daniel Gillis receives prestigious OCUFA teaching award

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TORONTO – Daniel Gillis, an Associate Professor in the School of Computing Science at the University of Guelph, has been named one of Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). He will receive a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award at an October 19 ceremony in Toronto, featuring award-winning journalist Robert Fisher.

“Daniel Gillis has succeeded in making the essential connection between what he teaches and the real world application of the skills developed by his students,” said Professor Judy Bornais, Chair of OCUFA’s Award Committee. “These transformative experiences empower his graduates to reach their potential and produce a profound social impact through the contributions they make in their communities.”

The other recipients of a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award are:

  • Sue Baptiste, Professor Emerita in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University
  • Jennifer Irwin, Associate Professor in the School of Health Studies at Western University
  • Andrew Petersen, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the University of Toronto Mississauga

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities. Through their hard work and boundless energy, they inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future,” said OCUFA President Rahul Sapra. “This year’s distinguished award recipients are all dedicated and passionate teachers and mentors. OCUFA is honoured to recognize them with teaching and librarianship awards.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

Western University’s Jennifer Irwin receives prestigious OCUFA teaching award

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TORONTO – Jennifer Irwin, a Professor in the School of Health Studies at Western University, has been named one of Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). She will receive a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award at an October 19 ceremony in Toronto, featuring award-winning journalist Robert Fisher.

“Jennifer Irwin is gripped by a passion for health promotion and a belief that kindness and compassion function not only as learning goals, but are vital to the very process of learning,” said Professor Judy Bornais, Chair of OCUFA’s Award Committee. “Through her work, she has elevated this core message of kindness into an effective pedagogical tool for active and engaged learning.”

The other recipients of a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award are:

  • Sue Baptiste, Professor Emerita in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University
  • Daniel Gillis, Associate Professor in the School of Computing Science at the University of Guelph
  • Andrew Petersen, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the University of Toronto Mississauga

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities. Through their hard work and boundless energy, they inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future,” said OCUFA President Rahul Sapra. “This year’s distinguished award recipients are all dedicated and passionate teachers and mentors. OCUFA is honoured to recognize them with teaching and librarianship awards.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

University of Toronto Mississauga’s Andrew Petersen receives prestigious OCUFA teaching award

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TORONTO – Andrew Petersen, an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the University of Toronto Mississauga, has been named one of Ontario’s most outstanding university teachers by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). He will receive a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award at an October 19 ceremony in Toronto, featuring award-winning journalist Robert Fisher.

“Andrew Petersen is a highly regarded colleague and mentor committed to educating his students and supporting his faculty colleagues,” said Professor Judy Bornais, Chair of OCUFA’s Award Committee. “Through his work, Andrew has done a remarkable job contributing to the advancement of innovation in teaching and learning practices at UTM, and beyond.”

The other recipients of a 2018-2019 OCUFA Teaching Award are:

  • Sue Baptiste, Professor Emerita in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University
  • Daniel Gillis, Associate Professor in the School of Computing Science at the University of Guelph
  • Jennifer Irwin, Associate Professor in the School of Health Studies at Western University

“Faculty are at the heart of Ontario’s vibrant universities. Through their hard work and boundless energy, they inspire students to embrace new ideas and build a brighter future,” said OCUFA President Rahul Sapra. “This year’s distinguished award recipients are all dedicated and passionate teachers and mentors. OCUFA is honoured to recognize them with teaching and librarianship awards.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.

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For more information, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or blewis@ocufa.on.ca

OCUFA urges Attorney General to reverse cuts to Legal Aid Ontario

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On Wednesday, September 18, OCUFA President Rahul Sapra wrote to Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey to urge him to reverse the cuts to Legal Aid Ontario and to commit to protecting legal aid funding moving forward.

Legal Aid Ontario provides essential services for the most vulnerable in our province, such as injured workers, survivors of domestic violence, persons on social assistance, and other low-income and marginalized Ontarians. Faculty across Ontario are deeply concerned that the government’s decision to drastically cut the Legal Aid Ontario budget by 30 per cent will undermine access to justice, which is a fundamental right and a key tenant of democracy, for these vulnerable citizens. Faculty are particularly concerned about the impact of these cuts on women, Indigenous Peoples, and racialized persons who are disproportionately represented in Ontario’s low income population.

Some of the legal clinics that have received the most drastic cuts are those that have longstanding partnerships with Ontario law schools. Due to the cuts, the future of these partnerships is in doubt. The cuts to Legal Aid Ontario will also negatively impact legal education in the province. Student legal aid clinics are an integral part of Legal Aid Ontario, where law students provide free legal services to marginalized persons as part of their studies and training. The experiential learning law students are exposed to at legal aid clinics is irreplaceable in its value.

Sapra called on the Attorney General to reinstate legal aid funding and refrain from future cuts to Legal Aid Ontario.

Read the full letter here.

Ontario faculty concerned by Conservative flyers on campus

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OCUFA is concerned that the Conservative Party and Andrew Scheer are trying to score cheap political points by taking a page from Doug Ford’s playbook and attempting to manufacture a campus free speech crisis. The Conservative Party’s materials, distributed on a number of campuses over the past week, misrepresent the nature of speech at Canadian universities and insult the work of faculty.

The pursuit of knowledge is at the core of the university mission. It requires celebrating diversity on campus, including protecting the right of all community members to speak their minds and respectfully challenge each other intellectually.

Faculty are professionals with diverse political views who strongly support a culture of free, vibrant, and diverse speech on campus. University campuses are home to a range of perspectives drawn from across the political spectrum, and it is by blending these views that we foster the vibrant fabric of campus life. Ironically, it is Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford through his Student Choice Initiative who are trying to politicize university campuses and stifle dissenting voices.

Instead of trying to score cheap political points, party leaders, including Mr. Scheer and Premier Ford, should address the most pressing challenges to postsecondary education in Ontario. These include a worrisome erosion of public funding, alarming increase in precarious academic work, the need for increased faculty renewal, and making postsecondary education more accessible for students.

OCUFA’s statement on the new memorandum of understanding regarding the Université de l’Ontario Français

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OCUFA cautiously welcomes news that the provincial and federal governments have reached a memorandum of understanding in which they both recognize the importance of meeting the postsecondary needs of Ontario’s growing Francophone population.

In the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford promised to move forward with the Université de l’Ontario français – a project set into motion by the previous government as a French-language university by and for Francophones. However, less than six months after the election, Ford promptly cancelled the project.

This was followed by a year of Doug Ford’s government aggressively undermining public postsecondary education in Ontario, including the introduction of a reckless new funding formula, cuts to university budgets and OSAP, and attacks on student unions and student media. Further, since taking office, Ford and his Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities have consistently refused to meet or consult with faculty and students.

This pattern of behaviour leads to serious concerns about Doug Ford’s support for the province’s public postsecondary education system and whether he can be trusted to resurrect the Université de l’Ontario français.

Ontario’s university faculty, especially those teaching at institutions already serving the province’s Francophone and Francophile students, have a unique and vital perspective on their educational needs. As plans for the Université de l’Ontario français once again start to gain momentum, it will be critical that faculty voices are incorporated into this government’s vision of Francophone postsecondary education in Ontario.

Ontario faculty, staff, and students oppose Ford government’s “performance” funding for postsecondary institutions

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Announced in the Ontario Budget , the Ford government’s reckless new market-based approach to funding postsecondary education will fundamentally compromise the integrity of Ontario’s higher education system. This alarming shift in education funding will create greater inequity, hurt students, and threaten the quality of education in our province.

The proposed market-based performance funding model will tie 60 per cent (over $3 billion dollars) of postsecondary funding to each institution’s “performance” against a set of arbitrary and flawed metrics. This dramatic shift follows years of stagnant public funding for postsecondary education in Ontario, and is only the latest in a series of attacks on the foundations of postsecondary education in the province, including cuts of over $400 million to college and university budgets, cuts of almost $700 million to student financial assistance, and cuts to the democratically determined student fees that allow students’ unions to advocate on behalf of, and provide vital support to their members.

Universities and colleges are unique spaces created to facilitate advanced education and research. They are publicly funded because they produce a vital public good: new knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world.

Postsecondary education is an essential extension of Ontario’s exceptional public education system, which is founded on a holistic approach to developing the human mind; it provides a far greater benefit than simply training students for the workforce. The province’s longstanding commitment to advanced education and research has fostered generations of curious, critical, and creative citizens, while consistently producing innovative and ground-breaking research and solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

Unfortunately, the narrow-minded Ford government does not seem to understand the purpose of postsecondary institutions. They believe colleges and universities exist solely to produce workers and intellectual property for profit-driven corporations.

Without any consultation with sector stakeholders, this government is ignoring sound public policy and imposing its own reckless ideological framework on Ontario’s postsecondary education system. The results will be devastating.

By design, performance funding rewards institutions that meet specific targets while penalizing those that do not. In doing so, it denies vital funding to the institutions that need it most to improve their educational outcomes. In effect, rather than encouraging institutions to improve in areas where they are not meeting targets, this approach will ensure institutions fall further behind.

This reckless approach to funding provides only the illusion of accountability, but is a very real threat to equity, accessibility, and the quality of postsecondary education. It will work against quality improvement and punish students studying at institutions that have already had their budgets reduced by the Ford government. And it will do nothing to improve accountability, as Ontario’s universities and colleges already have comprehensive structures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs they offer.

A wide body of research shows that performance funding is incapable of credibly reflecting the breadth and depth of a student’s education, the long-term benefits of basic research projects, or the contributions of a faculty or staff member. Instead, research shows that this funding model is far more likely to have negative consequences – slowly but certainly eroding the integrity of Ontario’s postsecondary education system.

Examining evidence from numerous studies in other jurisdictions where this funding approach has been introduced, the dangers are clear that performance funding is likely to:

  • exacerbate inequities between postsecondary institutions and disadvantage northern and smaller universities and colleges;
  • incentivize the hiring of more precariously employed contract faculty and staff, as financial uncertainty for postsecondary institutions makes long-term planning more difficult;
  • hinder access to higher education for marginalized students, as admission requirements are skewed to ensure only those students who postsecondary institutions consider to have the best chance of graduating are admitted;
  • lead to shorter certificate programs with less quality control, decreases in degree attainment, and lower graduation requirements, all as part of efforts to boost student retention and graduation rates;
  • accelerate the corporatization of colleges and universities, as they are encouraged to look for more private funding;
  • incentivize more administration and bureaucracy to track metrics and identify ways to manipulate internal processes to meet the criteria needed to secure more funding;
  • fail to improve the labour market outcomes this government seems so obsessed with, as institutions focused on the labour market of today will graduate students years after those workers are supposedly needed; and
  • compromise institutional autonomy, education quality, and research outcomes by increasing government influence over which courses are taught and which research receives funding.

It is universally understood that an effective postsecondary education system requires universities and colleges to be kept at arm’s length from government and partisan political agendas. By imposing their ideological fantasies on postsecondary education, the Ford government will disrupt the basic knowledge creation process in the academy, limit the capacity of students and researchers to innovate, and stall one of the vital economic engines for this province and its communities.

Rather than engaging in risky and destabilizing changes to Ontario’s postsecondary education funding formula, the government should instead put students first and invest in the province’s colleges and universities. Evidence shows that, even in the absence of explicit performance goals or financial incentives, completion rates increase when institutions receive additional resources. Unfortunately, Ontario continues to rank last in Canada in per-student funding.

Adequate, stable public funding for postsecondary education will help students by ensuring better academic support services, sustainable faculty-to-student ratios, and lower tuition fees – all of which are effective ways to increase degree attainment. Publicly funded postsecondary institutions also support good jobs on campus by providing institutions with resources to invest in faculty renewal and hire precariously employed contract faculty and staff into secure full-time positions.

Higher education should foster creative, curious, and critical minds. It should provide students with the support, opportunity, and inspiration to push forward in the quest for knowledge and understanding. Performance-based funding measures undermine these values and the very purpose of postsecondary institutions.

Ontario’s university and college students, faculty, and staff are committed to working side-by-side to resist the Ford government’s reckless attacks on our postsecondary education system. Together, we will continue our efforts to cultivate a high-quality, equitable education system that fosters young minds, innovative research, and good jobs. We call on the government and MPPs of all political stripes to reject this reckless and dangerous new funding model and, instead, to invest in Ontario’s postsecondary education system so that it can thrive.

Signed,

Felipe Nagata, Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario
Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair, CUPE Ontario University Sector
Rahul Sapra, President, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations
Chris Buckley, President, Ontario Federation of Labour
RM Kennedy, Chair, OPSEU College Faculty
Janice Hagan, Chair, OPSEU College Support Staff
Kella Loschiavo, Chair, OPSEU University Sector 9
Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Sharon DeSousa, Regional Executive Vice-President, PSAC Ontario
Marty Warren, Director, United Steelworkers–District 6
Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Director, Unifor

For media inquiries, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations
blewis@ocufa.on.ca | 416-306-6033

Download this statement in English.
Téléchargez la déclaration en français.

OCUFA’s Status of Women and Equity Committee: The Ontario government’s performance-based funding model is a threat to equity and diversity at universities

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In April 2019, as part of its first budget, the Ontario government introduced an alarming change to the funding model of public universities and colleges in the province. By 2024-25, this new approach will tie 60 per cent (over $3 billion dollars) of funding for postsecondary institutions to “outcomes” or “performance” measures. Institutions’ so-called “performance” will be assessed against a set of arbitrary metrics determined by the Ford government without any consultation with sector stakeholders, including faculty and students. The proposed metrics do not reflect the needs, priorities, or realities of our postsecondary system.

OCUFA has long cautioned against the negative impacts of performance-based funding models. In particular, we are extremely concerned about the consequences of this newly proposed plan on the accessibility and quality of education in the province, specifically its likely negative impact on the most marginalized groups in our communities.

This change to the funding model follows years of stagnation in public funding for postsecondary education in Ontario. The chronic underfunding of universities has left Ontario behind all other provinces in the country in terms of per-student funding. Yet, instead of making meaningful investments towards a more equitable and accessible postsecondary education system, the government has opted for an inequitable, unnecessary, and destabilizing change to the primary instrument for funding universities.

The government’s metrics have serious equity implications

Research on other jurisdictions where performance-based funding models have been implemented has repeatedly demonstrated that these approaches to funding do not meet their set objectives. Rather, in many cases, they leave severe negative impacts on equity and accessibility of educational institutions.

We are troubled by the reductive, flawed and inequitable set of metrics the government has proposed and the adverse effects they will have on universities. For example, a recent study in the United States has shown that minority-serving institutions, when compared to larger research schools, are more negatively impacted by performance-based funding models. This often results in these minority serving institutions shifting their focus away from serving minority students in order to secure more funding.[1]

The new Ontario funding model puts forward 10 metrics, down from the 28 proposed by the previous government, against which the “performance” of a university or college will be measured. These newly proposed metrics are almost solely focused on economic measures and labour market demands, which will likely institutionalize existing social inequities. They include no measures of teaching, research, or social impact of universities, all of which are essential to universities’ missions and mandates. These impacts cannot simply be measured through economic contributions, but must also take into account the contribution of postsecondary education to building knowledge, fostering innovative and critical thinking minds, and creating more equitable and inclusive societies.

One of the 10 proposed metrics is “graduate earnings,” which is the level of salary and compensation graduates would receive after graduation. This measure is inherently biased as salaries and earnings are market-driven variables that change based on a number of factors, none of which universities control. From an equity perspective, the labour market values professions differently. Woman-dominated professions, such as teaching, childcare, and nursing, are commonly paid less than male-dominated fields such as business and engineering. Moreover, it is also well documented that hiring practices are not free from discrimination on protected grounds such as race, immigration, disability status, and sexuality, and there are evident pay gaps within most professions for marginalized groups, including women, racialized and Indigenous peoples, and those who experience disabilities.

Therefore, using graduate earnings in the first year following graduation to determine a university’s funding level could have significant negative consequences for the programming and strategic planning of an institution. It would likely incentivize universities to tailor their academic planning to the whims of the labour market, potentially favouring certain high-salaried professions and their related academic programs and departments, at the expense of others. In addition, if graduates from marginalized groups face discriminatory hiring practices and suffer the consequences of existing pay gaps, then the structure of the performance-based funding model actually encourages universities to deny or limit access to individuals who are members of equity-seeking groups.

Another proposed metric under the new model is “graduate employment”, defined as the “proportion of graduates employed full-time in related or partially related field.” This metric is proposed at a time when there is clear evidence that full-time employment is on the decline while precarious employment is on the rise. Given already existing biases in hiring, the evidence is clear that individuals from marginalized groups are more likely to be employed in part-time, precarious positions. Thus, the proposed metric of full-time graduate employment further incentivizes universities to admit fewer and fewer students from these groups.

A third metric introduced under this proposed funding model is “graduation rates”. This metric has well-documented adverse consequences especially for the equity, accessibility, and quality of an education system. When graduation rates become a factor in determining a university’s share of public funding, universities are likely to shift grading and admissions policies and practices over time, and/or to reduce their requirements and lower their standards for graduation. This includes changes to admission requirements that discourage admitting students who may require greater support or accommodations in order to complete their degrees. This could significantly limit some students’ access to postsecondary education, including students with accessibility and accommodation needs, and part-time students who require more time to complete their degrees due to childcare duties, eldercare responsibilities or financial considerations, among other “non-traditional” student groups. Assumptions about which students are more likely to move through their degrees quickly and to require fewer institutional resources will drive admission decisions designed to boost a university’s performance statistics. Thus, performance-based funding and metrics hinder access to higher education, especially for marginalized students, and penalize universities that seek to enroll traditionally under-represented students.

Ontario needs meaningful investment in an equitable postsecondary education system

The new funding model introduced by the Ford government, including the highly problematic set of metrics, will destabilize our postsecondary education system and harm the quality and accessibility of university and college education in Ontario. It will, by design, disadvantage students who are already marginalized and institutions that are already under-resourced.

We urge the government to reverse these unnecessary and harmful changes to the province’s funding model. Instead, we call on the government to meaningfully invest in Ontario’s chronically underfunded postsecondary education system and provide our public institutions with the means to offer a high quality, and equitable higher education experience that is accessible to all.


[1] Hillman, Nicholas and Daniel Corral. “The Equity Implications of Paying for Performance in Higher Education.” American Behavioral Scientist 61.14 (2017)

Ontario Universities and Colleges Coalition opposes Ford government’s “performance” funding for postsecondary institutions

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Announced in the Ontario Budget , the Ford government’s reckless new market-based approach to funding postsecondary education will fundamentally compromise the integrity of Ontario’s higher education system. This alarming shift in education funding will create greater inequity, hurt students, and threaten the quality of education in our province.

The proposed market-based performance funding model will tie 60 per cent (over $3 billion dollars) of postsecondary funding to each institution’s “performance” against a set of arbitrary and flawed metrics. This dramatic shift follows years of stagnant public funding for postsecondary education in Ontario, and is only the latest in a series of attacks on the foundations of postsecondary education in the province, including cuts of over $400 million to college and university budgets, cuts of almost $700 million to student financial assistance, and cuts to the democratically determined student fees that allow students’ unions to advocate on behalf of, and provide vital support to their members.

Universities and colleges are unique spaces created to facilitate advanced education and research. They are publicly funded because they produce a vital public good: new knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world.

Postsecondary education is an essential extension of Ontario’s exceptional public education system, which is founded on a holistic approach to developing the human mind; it provides a far greater benefit than simply training students for the workforce. The province’s longstanding commitment to advanced education and research has fostered generations of curious, critical, and creative citizens, while consistently producing innovative and ground-breaking research and solutions to society’s most pressing problems.

Unfortunately, the narrow-minded Ford government does not seem to understand the purpose of postsecondary institutions. They believe colleges and universities exist solely to produce workers and intellectual property for profit-driven corporations.

Without any consultation with sector stakeholders, this government is ignoring sound public policy and imposing its own reckless ideological framework on Ontario’s postsecondary education system. The results will be devastating.

By design, performance funding rewards institutions that meet specific targets while penalizing those that do not. In doing so, it denies vital funding to the institutions that need it most to improve their educational outcomes. In effect, rather than encouraging institutions to improve in areas where they are not meeting targets, this approach will ensure institutions fall further behind.

This reckless approach to funding provides only the illusion of accountability, but is a very real threat to equity, accessibility, and the quality of postsecondary education. It will work against quality improvement and punish students studying at institutions that have already had their budgets reduced by the Ford government. And it will do nothing to improve accountability, as Ontario’s universities and colleges already have comprehensive structures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs they offer.

A wide body of research shows that performance funding is incapable of credibly reflecting the breadth and depth of a student’s education, the long-term benefits of basic research projects, or the contributions of a faculty or staff member. Instead, research shows that this funding model is far more likely to have negative consequences – slowly but certainly eroding the integrity of Ontario’s postsecondary education system.

Examining evidence from numerous studies in other jurisdictions where this funding approach has been introduced, the dangers are clear that performance funding is likely to:

  • exacerbate inequities between postsecondary institutions and disadvantage northern and smaller universities and colleges;
  • incentivize the hiring of more precariously employed contract faculty and staff, as financial uncertainty for postsecondary institutions makes long-term planning more difficult;
  • hinder access to higher education for marginalized students, as admission requirements are skewed to ensure only those students who postsecondary institutions consider to have the best chance of graduating are admitted;
  • lead to shorter certificate programs with less quality control, decreases in degree attainment, and lower graduation requirements, all as part of efforts to boost student retention and graduation rates;
  • accelerate the corporatization of colleges and universities, as they are encouraged to look for more private funding;
  • incentivize more administration and bureaucracy to track metrics and identify ways to manipulate internal processes to meet the criteria needed to secure more funding;
  • fail to improve the labour market outcomes this government seems so obsessed with, as institutions focused on the labour market of today will graduate students years after those workers are supposedly needed; and
  • compromise institutional autonomy, education quality, and research outcomes by increasing government influence over which courses are taught and which research receives funding.

It is universally understood that an effective postsecondary education system requires universities and colleges to be kept at arm’s length from government and partisan political agendas. By imposing their ideological fantasies on postsecondary education, the Ford government will disrupt the basic knowledge creation process in the academy, limit the capacity of students and researchers to innovate, and stall one of the vital economic engines for this province and its communities.

Rather than engaging in risky and destabilizing changes to Ontario’s postsecondary education funding formula, the government should instead put students first and invest in the province’s colleges and universities. Evidence shows that, even in the absence of explicit performance goals or financial incentives, completion rates increase when institutions receive additional resources. Unfortunately, Ontario continues to rank last in Canada in per-student funding.

Adequate, stable public funding for postsecondary education will help students by ensuring better academic support services, sustainable faculty-to-student ratios, and lower tuition fees – all of which are effective ways to increase degree attainment. Publicly funded postsecondary institutions also support good jobs on campus by providing institutions with resources to invest in faculty renewal and hire precariously employed contract faculty and staff into secure full-time positions.

Higher education should foster creative, curious, and critical minds. It should provide students with the support, opportunity, and inspiration to push forward in the quest for knowledge and understanding. Performance-based funding measures undermine these values and the very purpose of postsecondary institutions.

Ontario’s university and college students, faculty, and staff are committed to working side-by-side to resist the Ford government’s reckless attacks on our postsecondary education system. Together, we will continue our efforts to cultivate a high-quality, equitable education system that fosters young minds, innovative research, and good jobs. We call on the government and MPPs of all political stripes to reject this reckless and dangerous new funding model and, instead, to invest in Ontario’s postsecondary education system so that it can thrive.

Signed,

Felipe Nagata, Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario
Janice Folk-Dawson, Chair, CUPE Ontario University Sector
Rahul Sapra, President, Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations
Chris Buckley, President, Ontario Federation of Labour
RM Kennedy, Chair, OPSEU College Faculty
Janice Hagan, Chair, OPSEU College Support Staff
Kella Loschiavo, Chair, OPSEU University Sector 9
Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Sharon DeSousa, Regional Executive Vice-President, PSAC Ontario
Marty Warren, Director, United Steelworkers–District 6
Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Director, Unifor

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