Less faculty members leads to Canadian brain drain
By Sara Marett
Although reports released by the Association of Universities and Colleges last week claim Canadian universities are suffering from "brain gain," some universities, including Western, are feeling more of a "brain drain."
The two terms refer to the gain or loss of a university's faculty members. The reports examined the number of faculty members hired by the university versus the number who have left their positions, either for another school in a different country, to move to the private sector or to take early retirement.
The reports concluded there has been a decrease in total faculty members at Canadian universities of roughly three per cent for the past two years.
"The key issue here is the inability of universities to hire new faculty, particularly in Ontario because of recent budget cuts and many members retiring," said Western's President Paul Davenport.
He added Ontario is now 10 out of 10 in a ranking of all provinces when it comes to funding per student and faculty recruitment has a direct link to student enrollment.
Robert Léger, public relations officer for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, however, said there is not a direct link between faculty and student enrollment. "If a student feels a particular university has a good faculty, it may interest them, but there are certainly other factors involved when choosing a school."
He added the role of government is important in terms of financing the university so they are then able to finance faculty members. "Obviously if you want to retain faculty members, funds are important."
Andrew Osler, president of Western's faculty association, said students will certainly evaluate the quality of education when deciding whether or not to attend a university and it is the professors who organize and bring this knowledge to students.
He added the overall shrinkage of faculty members at Western is obvious. "There are significantly less faculty members in the past five or six years and it is the students who suffer with shorter office hours and larger class sizes."
The situation at the University of Calgary, however, is quite different. As a result of a large number of faculty members recently taking an early retirement package, there was a significant number of positions open by the summer of 1997, said Rod Chapman, director of public affairs for the university.
He said since July, Calgary has hired 132 new faculty members, much higher than the 40 or 50 that are usually hired.