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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2012

Report Reveals Hefty Admin Cost Increases at Nova Scotia Universities

The number of administrative positions and compensation for senior administrators at many Nova Scotia universities have grown disproportionately — some wildly so — compared to faculty and support staff increases at a time when post-secondary institutions were under severe constraints, according to a report recently issued by the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers.

ANSUT’s report, called A Culture of Entitlement, uses data gleaned through freedom of information requests to eight universities across the province where faculty are represented by the association, and reveals that the surveyed schools collectively increased salaries for their presidents, vice-presidents, associate or assistant vice-presidents, deans, directors and other administrators by 27 per cent between 2004–2005 and 2010–2011.

Increases over the last seven years varied widely from university to university, with some of the largest percentage jumps in compensation costs for administrators occurring at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design at 53 per cent, St. Francis Xavier University at 77 per cent, and Cape Breton University at 67 per cent.

“The trend is truly troubling because some of these increases came even as government funding to universities was reduced, and while students continued to pay increased tuition,” said ANSUT president Chris Ferns, who attributes the substantial increases in total costs to both higher salaries and growing ranks of administrators.

The surge in administrative salary costs also occurred at a time when faculty and support staff received comparatively modest increases, Ferns notes.

According to the report, average salaries of university faculty across all ranks rose by 18 per cent between 2004–2005 and 2008–2009, while members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union who work in universities including support staff at Cape Breton University, Dalhousie, St. FX, Saint Mary’s University, and Mount Saint Vincent University, saw annual wage increases ranging from less than one per cent to 4 per cent.

The report’s authors make a series of recommendations, including a call for the provincial government to develop rules limiting the portion of a university’s budget that can be spent on senior administrative expenses including salaries, office expenditures and travel, and establishment of common reporting mechanisms that clearly illustrate university spending, particularly in the areas of instruction and research.

Ferns said ANSUT’s received no response to the report from Labour and Advanced Education Minister Marilyn More, but is seeking a meeting with her to advance their recommendations.

He also notes that the common practice of paying hefty sums to departing presidents under the guise of “administrative leave pay” is highlighted in the report as a recurring problem.

“In each year between 2004–2005 and 2010–2011, Acadia (University) was paying its current president as well as a former president,” the report states. “In total, Acadia paid $907,627 in administrative leave pay to past presidents during this time. Over this same time, the univer­sity paid $1,476,882 in salaries to presidents or acting presidents at the university.”

“It was very interesting to read that Acadia was paying for two university presidents … because of the fairly common practice of paying former presidents one or two years of full salary for ‘administrative leave’ after they have actually left their jobs as president,” said Elisabeth Hans, executive director for the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations.

The federation has also sent access requests to the province’s four public universities asking essentially the same questions as ANSUT. “We hope and expect that our universities will respond more quickly than was the case in Nova Scotia, where some took six months to re­spond,” Hans said.

FNBFA is seeking the information pursuant to the New Brunswick Right to Information Law, which has applied to universities there only since Sept. 1, 2012.