Prestige over professors?
While thousands of Canada’s best and
brightest professors continue to head south of the border looking
for work as part of the “brain drain,” it appears
that many who want to stay and work in Canada are not being
given the chance.
Questions are being raised about the hiring practices and
obligations of Canadian universities after two American professors
were hired at UBC and McGill, each being chosen over Canadian
candidates. This growing trend of hiring foreign professors
could leave many qualified Canadians flipping burgers or teaching
Technically, universities are required to attempt to hire
faculty domestically, but many larger Canadian schools seem
more concerned with increasing prestige than providing employment
for home-grown profs.
At universities such as Western, where 30 per cent of the
faculty is from outside Canada, acquiring professors who taught
at or were educated at Ivy league schools or other world-renowned
universities improves the school’s reputation. Meanwhile,
Canadians are being left on the bottom rung, even if they are
Some Canadian universities appear to have an inferiority complex,
and assume that to garner prestige they need professors from
Harvard, Yale or Oxford. Most students don’t take the
faculty into account in their decision about what school to
attend, but for some top-of-the-line students, prestigious
faculty can be a deciding factor.
The centre of the issue is straightforward: should the most
qualified individual be hired or is there an obligation for
Canadian universities to hire home-grown professors?
For some programs (such as languages and culture-intensive
positions) it only makes sense to look abroad. It may be part
of a mandate to draw in different experiences from around the
If this is the case, then where are Canadian PhD graduates
going to get their experience? This presents a bleak outlook
for current undergrads.
Meanwhile, no standards exist to hire Canadians in other
fields in Canada — but should there be some?
Perhaps there should be a minimum percentage of Canadian faculty
in Canadian universities or in any industry. This requirement
could be regulated in the same way the CRTC ensures a minimum
of Canadian content on the radio.
These two hirings may just be the beginning. This could be
the start in a race to secure foreign profs in a battle of
prestige among Canadian universities. If this is going to be
a continuing trend, Western and all Canadian universities should
take a look at what they are really selling to students. Or
perhaps the onus is on students to realize that they may someday
be unemployed if they continue on an academic path.