March 26, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 93  

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NEWS

Faculty Recruitment Part I: a prof shortage?

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

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 says.

“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 adds.

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 86th.

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 Canada.

“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.

 

 

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