Staff hunt goes global

May 25, 2001

Canada is abandoning a hiring policy that is impinging on its universities' abilities to attract international academics.

Universities are required to advertise for Canadian faculty before advertising internationally. But the law is to be changed.

The federal department of human resources is reviewing two overhaul scenarios put forth by universities and by academic lobby groups.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has led efforts to change the rule. It says the policy has become synonymous with bureaucracy and delay.

Under the system, a university can accept only Canadian and landed resident applications, with some exceptions in areas such as computer science. If a qualified applicant cannot be found, the university can then apply to post the job internationally.

"Most hiring takes place during the May/June window," said Bob Best, director of the AUCC's government relations division. "You interview your Canadian then go back to (the department) for permission, post your ads, set up another hiring committee. Each step takes time. By then, you've usually lost your window."

Doug Owram, vice-president of the University of Alberta has had to use graduate students to fill posts temporarily. He says he needs access to international markets because Alberta plans to expand in health sciences and engineering.

Alberta is part of a hiring blitz. The AUCC is projecting a 20 per cent rise in the number of full-time professors over the next decade, due to an increase in student enrolments and faculty retirements. That will mean an average of 3,000 new faculty a year. The domestic supply of staff is not expected to keep pace with needs.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has agreed to simultaneous posting of job offers but wants safeguards to be built into the plan. It proposes a university review committee, made up mostly of faculty, to approve each international appointment.

David Robinson, associate executive director of the CAUT, says the AUCC's plans will exclude Canadians who missed out during the past decade's dearth of job opportunities.

"Here we are on the edge of a hiring boom and the AUCC wants to shut the door on these people," he said.

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