Faculty Recruitment Part I: a prof shortage?
By Laura Katsirdakis
A large part of a university’s reputation depends on
the quality of its faculty. Demographic changes will result
in an increase in competitiveness between North American universities
to recruit and retain superior faculty, but how does Western
fit into this picture, and how strong is the university in
terms of retaining good professors?
“Thirty per cent of faculty [in Ontario] are over the
age of 55; the average age of faculty retirement is 62,” says
Henry Mandelbaum, executive director of the Ontario Confederation
of University Faculty Associations, adding the expected retirement
of many faculty members, in combination with an ever-rising
student enrollment, creates a faculty shortage problem in Ontario.
“There is a steady erosion of quality of education because
of a dramatic increase in student-to-faculty ratio — [Ontario]
has the highest student-to-faculty ratio in the country,” he
“Universities are competing — there are faculty
members moving to larger schools, moving to other provinces
or to the [United States],” Mandelbaum explains. “There
is a constant migration.”
“From the early 1990s on, we had a drastic loss in the
number of faculty members at Western; there were a number of
reasons [for this] driven by monetary constraints. Several
years ago, we made a concerted effort to hire more people and
there has been a stop to that loss,” explains Albert
Katz, president of the University of Western Ontario Faculty
Association. “The number of faculty here last year was
roughly the same number as in 1992-93 — [so] we’ve
recovered, but only to where we were 10 years ago.
“The number of students has increased over this period,” he
Alan Weedon, vice-provost policy, planning and faculty, presented
a report on faculty recruitment and retention to the Senate
on Mar. 19. “We need to make sure we’re competitive — this
is a continental issue,” he says. “There was a
lot of expansion in the 1970s; these people are now coming
to retirement age.”
Faculty recruitment and retention must take a number of things
into account, Mandelbaum says. “Faculty are interested
in a number of things: a healthy and productive working environment,
with cooperation between administration and academic staff;
research funding and individual faculty members’ compensation.”
According to Gary Rollman, a psychology professor who has
been at Western for over 30 years, environment is an important
part of faculty retention. “I have never seen the morale
[of faculty] as bad as now,” he says, adding he feels
that faculty bear the brunt of increasing enrollment.
Rollman points to a ranking done of the world’s universities
by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Institute of Higher Education. “It
does not look at the quality of teaching, how happy students
will be at the university [or] class size — in other
words, it is not the Maclean’s ranking.”
The Shanghai rankings measure scholarly output, and on this
measure Western ranked in the 201-250 cluster, he said. The
University of Toronto ranked 23rd, the University of British
Columbia 35th, McGill University 79th and McMaster University
According to Rollman, this indicates that Western has been
less successful when it comes to attracting quality faculty.
But David Robinson, associate executive director of the Canadian
Association of University Teachers, said Western is slightly
above average when it comes to recruitment and retention in
“Western is among the top 10 universities in Canada
with respect to research capacity,” he says, noting this
is beneficial because government funding has been targeted
to research intensive universities.
“U of T [and other large schools] have more of a private
sector to fall back on, and an ability to seek donations from
the business community [that Western may lack],” he says.
—Look for more information about Western’s faculty
recruitment and retention plans
in Part II next week.