Larger classes, fewer full-time replacements cited as main causes for deterioration
New full-time faculty hires and expanded research grants given top priority
September 14, 2010 Toronto, ON: Faculty and librarians at Ontario universities are reporting deteriorating quality in the education being provided to students. In a recent questionnaire, 42 percent of respondents said that quality had declined between 2005 and 2008. This perception of decline shot up to 57 per cent when asked about the direction of quality over the past year.
“We are expecting more from our universities with ambitious participation targets, research mandates and a continued role in our broader society. Yet, our frontline faculty and librarians are telling us that we are in a downward spiral,” said Prof. Mark Langer, President of Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and a faculty member at Carleton University. “This is a disturbing result and a clear warning bell for our universities, our governments and our students as we attempt to deliver quality education to an ever increasing number of students.”
· Over fifty-five per cent of respondents reported larger classes over the past year - Ontario already has the worst student-faculty ratio in the country at 26 to 1.
· Forty-six per cent reported that retiring or departing full-time faculty in the past year have not been replaced. When there are new hires, they are most often contract or limited-term appointments.
· Thirty-eight per cent reported a decline in the amount of out-of-class assistance available to students.
· Thirty-nine per cent reported the decreased use of essay-style exams as a way to cope with larger classes.
· Fifty-one per cent reported the cancellation of classes or programs to meet budget constraints.
“Bigger classes, deferred hiring, and the outright cancellation of programs are the exact opposite direction in which Ontario should be heading,” concluded Dr. Langer. “We need to do a better job for our students by providing new investment in our universities to hire new full-time faculty and expand our research capacity.”
To support the teaching mandate of universities, faculty and librarians overwhelmingly supported new full-time hires (79.1 per cent) as the best way to support teaching, ahead of professional development, expanded use of technology, and new buildings. To support the research mandate of universities, the expansion of research grants (72.8 per cent) was the top priority identified, ahead of support for indirect research costs and new buildings.
OCUFA invited Ontario university faculty and librarians to respond to an on-line questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about a range of issues including class size, faculty hiring, research capacity, departmental budgets, student preparedness and the overall quality of education being delivered to students. Over 1,400 responses from all Ontario universities were received between March 10 and April 17, 2010.
Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 16,000 faculty and academic librarians in 26 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at http://www.ocufa.on.ca.