In October 1996 Statistics Canada announced the creation of the Centre for Education Statistics, which will replace the current education sub-division of Statistics Canada.
Over the years CAUT and its members have made good use of the data collected through the post-secondary education section of the education sub-division and have built an effective relationship with this federal department.
In fact, the department is the main source of information on the status of the university. It supplies CAUT with figures relating to university teacher salaries, numbers of academics in various ranks and disciplines, university finances and so on.
These data have been important in the work of CAUT members, both as individual teachers and researchers and in collective efforts in the spheres of faculty negotiation and lobbying.
CAUT was therefore pleased to be asked to provide comments about the governing structure of the new centre and to pass along observations about the publications and data to be provided by the centre to the Canadian public.
As currently proposed, the work of the centre will be guided by the Canadian Education Statistics Council which is comprised of officials from Statistics Canada and from the provincial ministries responsible for education.
CAUT views this representation as inadequate and believes it is imperative that all stakeholders in post-secondary education be given a meaningful voice in the development of education policy. Restricting the advisory role to officials of provincial ministries will not provide a broad enough base for guidance.
Federal and provincial civil servants may be obliged to base their guidance on political direction and will not have the mandate to incorporate the legitimate concerns of the other major stakeholders in the education system.
CAUT has suggested that, at a minimum, the following groups should be represented: Statistics Canada, provincial education ministries, Human Resources Development Canada, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, CAUT, the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education, and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. Thought should also be given to including post-secondary student representation or input into the council.
As an organization, CAUT strongly supports the notion of openness and transparency in decision-making and has urged that the agendas and minutes of the council be open and made available to all interested parties.
The education statistics centre will continue to provide information about full-time faculty. CAUT has suggested that efforts be taken to improve the timeliness of the data, although in general the association has been well-served by the data collected.
The main gap is in the area of information about designated groups for employment equity purposes. These data seem to be only available through the census without the detail that would allow meaningful application to the post-secondary sector. For example, initiatives undertaken through the Federal Contractors Program would likely benefit from more detailed statistics.
CAUT has urged that the centre continue with the survey of part-time faculty. This survey was not included in the list of ongoing work of the centre. The part-time survey was undertaken after vigorous lobbying by CAUT and other groups and is meant to complement the data for full-time faculty.
With more than 25,000 people estimated to hold part-time positions in universities, this will continue to be an important area of concern to the post-secondary education sector.
Comprehensive and comparable data about academic librarians are not currently available from any source, although a number of organizations, including CAUT and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, collect data for their members. In the view of CAUT, the preferred source would be the new centre. For a number of years, CAUT has been lobbying for the inclusion of academic librarians in the data collected by Statistics Canada.
CAUT also sees a need to improve on the scope of student statistics collection, especially in the areas of student origins and outcomes. Reliable information about access and social mobility will be critical for Human Resources Development Canada, provincial governments and other groups which formulate education policy.
Finally, CAUT has urged that access to publicly-funded data needs to be sensitive to questions of cost. High acquisition costs will effectively deny access to many stakeholders. If necessary there should be a distinction made between education and research uses and costs, and uses and costs for commercial or profit-based purposes.
Over the next few months representatives of CAUT will be meeting with the staff of the new Centre for Education Statistics to provide further input into the formulation of the centre's work and programs.