Canada fishes foreign waters

March 1, 2002

THES reporters examine appointment systems worldwide:

Canadian universities are seeking unprecedented numbers of new faculty, but critics point out that it is more likely than ever that applicants from beyond its borders may be appointed.

Universities can now dip into a larger pool of candidates, which includes international faculty and Canada's many PhDs, postdocs and part-time professors.

In 2001, new appointments doubled over the preceding year, and universities have announced plans to add 30,000 new full-time professors in the next ten years - almost doubling the current number.

The reason is that enrolments are rising as many professors prepare for retirement (about one-third of Canada's full-time faculty are aged 55 or older), as a spate of federal research schemes begins, as savings from early retirement schemes come to fruition, and as provinces restore funds that had been cut in the mid-1990s.

But Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, is not convinced that all the new positions will create a healthier university system. He said the federal government was favouring "boutique programmes" over transferring adequate core funding to the provinces.

Despite a rise of almost 10 per cent in overall investment, government funding per student has been all but stagnant for a decade. And while full-time staff hirings are on a roll, student enrolments still outpace them, bringing higher class sizes and space at a premium. And there has been no evidence that reliance on sessional instructors has abated.

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