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CAUT Bulletin Archives

March 2014

Controversial Ontario report says teaching loads should be higher

[Clerkenwell / VETTA / Getty images]
[Clerkenwell / VETTA / Getty images]
A controversial new report is claiming that just under 20 per cent of faculty in Ontario are not “research active” and should have their teaching loads doubled.

Teaching Loads and Research Outputs of On­tario University Faculty: Implications for Productivity and Differentiation, published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario in March, surveyed 10 university web sites in the province to determine how many courses tenure and tenure-track faculty in chemistry, economics and philosophy taught, and determined their “research impact” based on citation indexes.

According to the authors, the average professor in Ontario teaches just three courses per year and that “approximately 19% of tenure and tenure-track economics and chemistry faculty members at 10 Ontario universities sampled demonstrated no obvious recent contribution of scholarly or research output.”

The report concludes that “Ontario’s university system would be more productive and efficient if research non-active faculty members compensated for their lack of scholarly output by increasing their teaching load to double that of their research-active colleagues — for an 80% teaching and 20% service workload distribution.”

CAUT executive director James Turk says the report’s methodology is simplistic and the conclusions are flawed.

“It’s simply wrong to make conclusions about how much time academic staff spend on teaching by counting up courses from university web sites,” Turk said. “This completely ignores the time spent in labs and seminars, answering student e-mails, holding office hours, in preparation and grading, in supervising graduate students, and in developing new programs and courses.”

Kate Lawson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, criticized the report for drawing unwarranted conclusions.

“The HEQCO paper makes recommendations about faculty teaching that are unsupported by its own evidence,” she said.

Lawson says her group is interested in having a serious conversation about the quality of education at Ontario’s universities, but “this paper, regrettably, does not make a contribution to that conversation.”

Turk also questioned the assumption in the report that faculty research productivity can be measured by citation indexes.

“There are well-documented and numerous shortcomings of using citation indexes as a way to measure research impact or activity,” Turk said. “The report authors also fail to recognize that different disciplines and fields of study have very different citation rates.”

He added that most serious studies on the workloads of professors find they typically put in 60 hours a week.