• OCUFA at 50

  • Faculty associations at the crossroads

  • The Staying Power of Unions

  • Ivory Tower or Temp Agency?

  • Neoliberalism and postsecondary education: A view from the colleges

  • Taking the long view of Indigenous teacher education

Blog Posts

Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!

By all accounts, February 10, 1355 began quietly enough in Oxford. It was the feast day of St. Scholastica, who, despite what her name might suggest, is the patron saint of nuns and ‘convulsive children.’ The townsfolk went about their business, while the scholars of Oxford University attended to their studies. A normal day. But trouble was brewing inside the Swindlestock Tavern.

Students Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, unsatisfied with the quality of the house libations, argued with the

Alex Usher Needs to Consider Taxation

In my previous Academic Matters blog post, I argued that there are five advantages to universal access to financial assistance for post-secondary education (as opposed to means-tested assistance for lower-income students).  They are:  1) lower administrative costs; 2) lower marginal tax rates; 3) greater transparency; 4) less opportunity for political trickery; and 5) greater social solidarity among socioeconomic groups.  My blog post was a response to Alex Usher’s blog post of May 9,  which had argued that we

Responding to Nick Falvo on tuition fees

Recently, on my daily blog, I wrote an analysis (link to: http://higheredstrategy.com/whos-progressive/) of distributional effects of tuition reductions versus those of targeted grant programs and concluded that the latter were far more progressive in their impact than the former.  Grants can be designed to be as targeted as one wishes (entirely to the bottom quartile, half to the bottom and half the second, etc), whereas tuition reductions deliver vastly more aid to wealthier families than poor ones.  Partly due

Alex Usher is Wrong on Tuition Fees

One of Canada’s best-known post-secondary education pundits, Alex Usher, recently wrote a blog post suggesting that Canada’s status quo system of high tuition fees (and means-tested financial aid for students) is in fact progressive.  Specifically, he argued that lowering tuition fees would reward higher-income earners rather than lower-income earners.  Ergo:  no government that wants to help lower-income households should seriously consider trying to reduce tuition fees.

Here are five reasons why I think Mr. Usher is wrong:

1. Administrative

HEQCO distorts faculty teaching loads: News media play along

In March, 2014, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), published a study purporting to show that Ontario professors only teach an average of 2.8 courses per year.

The study went on to propose that professors who are not active in research should have their teaching loads doubled.

News media such as the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the CBC, faithfully reported the study results and recommendations, without mentioning that HEQCO is an “agency of

University Governance: Reflections from the Future U Conference

Last week, I spoke on a panel on university governance at a conference titled Future U:  Creating the Universities We Want, organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.  Also presenting on the panel were Professor Glen Jones and Professor Claire Polster.

My speaking notes can be downloaded at this link. Points I raised in my presentation include the following:

The BasicsTypically in Canada, a university has both a board of governors (BoG)

Do High Tuition Fees Make for Good Public Policy?

Yesterday, I gave a presentation to Professor Ted Jackson’s graduate seminar course on higher education, taught in Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration.  The link to my slide deck, titled “The Political Economy of Post-Secondary Education in Canada,” can be found here.

Points I raised in the presentation include the following:

-Tuition fees have been rising in Canada for roughly the past three decades.  Yet, individuals in the 25-44 age demographic have the highest levels of

Liberal arts lead to good employment outcomes…just don’t tell the policymakers

Last week, the AAC&U released the report How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment (for coverage, check out Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle, or the AACU release). Looking at both employment and earnings outcomes, the report is notable for two things: first, it actually looks at long-term data, not just a five- or 10-year datasets that have the unfortunate drawback of GIANT, RECESSION-BASED OUTLIERS. Second, it finds that – ta-daaaa – graduates from the humanities

Into the program prioritization debate

Last week, we published an article by Leo Groarke and Beverley Hamilton on program prioritization. For the uninitiated, program prioritization is a process – now much in vogue at Ontario’s universities – for ranking academic and non-academic programs for the purposes of directing resources. Some have called it a “rank n’ yank” process, where programs deemed to be under-performing are slated for cuts or outright elimination. Suffice it to say, program prioritization is controversial.

Not surprisingly, Leo and Beverley’s

We Teach Ontario launches student video contest

We Teach Ontario, OCUFA’s campaign highlighting the important connection between teaching and research, has launched a student video contest. The contest offers former and current Ontario university students the chance to win an iPhone, an iPad mini, or a trip to Toronto to attend the OCUFA “Future U” conference.

To enter, students need to make a short video explaining how a professor’s research has inspired or helped them succeed. Students then post their videos to the contest’s Facebook page

Editorial Matters: Skin in the game

We only do an issue of Academic Matters if we think the topic is important, timely, or relevant to the current state-of-play for higher education. But I have to admit that this graduate student issue has a special importance for me.

That’s the effect of having a bit more skin in the game, I suppose.

As you may have learned from my byline (and perhaps I’m flattering myself here thinking that people actually read my byline), I am myself a

Massively Open Online Embarassment

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may be the way of the future, but they show every sign of disrupting my intricate bargain with humiliation. For ten years, I’ve managed to contain evidence of my incompetence to the small number of students who had the misfortune of wandering into my lecture hall. But online lectures on YouTube? Virtual office hours through FaceTime? Interactive tutorials through video conference? These can hardly be good news.

Case in point: my recent attempt to teach

Self-censoring away from the public sphere

In recent weeks, Academic Matters has devoted some of its attention to the importance of academics’ participation in public debate. Two panels at the Worldviews Conference on Global Trends in Media and Higher Education today spoke to some reasons  why this kind of public engagement can be difficult for academics. The increasing precariousness of academic work makes it challenging for professors to speak up and speak out in public debates of national and international importance.

Discussing the differences between academic

Where have all the academics gone?

Writing in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Lawrence Martin observes that Canada’s academic are “missing in action”. That is, almost totally silent on the critical issues facing the country- everything from the “declining state of our parliamentary democracy” to the tepid response to the Federal Government’s muzzling of federal scientists and starvation of key research institutions (for more on this, check out Carol Linnitt’s scathing indictment of the Harper Government’s attack on science).

Martin’s point is a good one. Canada’s professors

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Featured Articles

Open Access and the Public Purse

Last year, we were introduced to a “Draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy,” put forward by NSERC and SSHRC to harmonize their requirements with the CIHR. Under this policy, all peer-reviewed journal articles based on research funded by these councils must be made available through Open Access (OA), free and online. Researchers could either publish in a journal that is OA or has OA options, or deposit the article in an OA repository within twelve months of publication. There



Open season on academics: My brush with predatory publishing

One morning I opened my email to find that I had become editor-in-chief of an academic journal. Well, ‘chief editor’ to be precise. This came as a surprise. It was not something I could recall applying for, and the journal was outside my areas of expertise. I had received a message from a prospective author who wanted to know if it was normal practice to send $100USD after acceptance in order to secure publication – and, after some Googling, why



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