OCUFA and the University Funding Model review

OCUFA has taken a principled approach to its engagement with Ontario’s review of the university funding formula.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has been, and continues to be, an active participant in the Government of Ontario’s review of the university funding formula. The funding model is absolutely foundational to the quality and sustainability of the province’s universities. So, it was clear to professors and academic librarians from the outset that a sustained engagement with the process was necessary.

This engagement has taken many forms. Previous OCUFA President Kate Lawson made a presentation to a symposium on the funding formula in March of 2015. She and other OCUFA representatives also participated in the facilitated small-group discussions held throughout that event. In May of 2015, the Executive Lead of the review, Sue Herbert, was invited to OCUFA’s spring Board of Directors meeting to introduce the Review, present some of her initial thinking, and to take questions. OCUFA also attended all of the “Open Briefings” organized by the Review, on topics including the current design of the funding formula, performance funding, and funding models from other sectors. While we did not always agree with the perspectives being presented, the briefings were a useful way to engage with some of the key ideas being considered by the Funding Formula Review team.

OCUFA also had a series of one-on-one meetings with Herbert, who also has an article in this issue of Academic Matters. At these meetings we were able to provide the project with perspective from professors and academic librarians on the funding formula and potential areas of reform.

From the beginning, OCUFA’s work on the funding formula review has been shaped by a belief that any change to the existing model must support a high quality university system that meets the needs and aspirations of students, staff, and faculty. To achieve these goals, we articulated a series of principles that should guide the review process:

  • Adequate: Public funding for universities must provide adequate resources to support a high quality and affordable higher education sector.
  • Committed to core activities: A funding formula should protect and promote the two core activities of a university: excellent teaching and learning, and world-class research.
  • Student-centred: Funding must be responsive to the number of students in the system and the programs in which those students are enrolled.
  • Supportive of good jobs: Universities should receive adequate funding to support good jobs on their campuses. This means ensuring fair terms and conditions of employment for contract faculty and hiring sufficient numbers of tenure-stream faculty to maintain high academic standards and manageable workloads.
  • Stable and predictable: Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that funding is stable and predictable to facilitate long-term planning and to avoid extreme fluctuations in institutional revenue.
  • Equitable: Funding should be allocated among institutions on a fair and equitable basis to protect against wide variations in quality across the system and to support student success at all universities. Any system that allocates or withholds funding on the basis of institutional performance or output measures will result in the creation of “winners” and “losers” and will penalize students at institutions that fail to reach their targets.
  • Transparent: Any formula for allocating funding must be transparent, simple to administer, and objective. It should not be arbitrary or open to manipulation or negotiations behind closed doors. Above all, university funding must not be subject to short-term political objectives.
  • Respectful of university autonomy and academic freedom: Universities and professors have rich practical knowledge of their institutional and pedagogical needs and strengths. Any funding formula must respect institutions’ and professors’ ability to pursue strategies that enable them to do what they do best.

With these principles in mind, we developed specific recommendations for the review. The full submission is available on OCUFA’s website, but our proposals fell into three general areas.

First, it is important that the funding model remain student-centred. That is, it must be sensitive to the number of students at each Ontario university and the program choices made by those students. This will ensure that universities continue to have the resources they need to provide high quality academic programs. At the same time, it is important to recognize that many universities have special missions and serve particular regions, and the social value of these institutions may exceed the revenue provided by a student-centred model alone. It is therefore important that the funding model recognizes and supports these important mandates.

Second, performance-based funding – where public money is distributed according to the ability of a university to meet certain targets – is not the way for Ontario. There is no evidence to suggest that such systems improve the quality or accountability of universities. In fact, growing research indicates that performance funding may actually harm the quality of education. Performance funding, by its very nature, creates institutional winners and losers. This ultimately hurts students. Institutions that fail to meet targets—even for reasons outside of their control—will lose funding. This in turn compromises the quality of education provided to students. After careful consideration, OCUFA has rejected performance funding as inconsistent with the values and purpose of a public higher education system.

Finally, Ontario is in need of a new higher education data system. While a large amount of data is currently available on universities, this information is not always easily accessible or available in a way that allows for system-level analysis. Moreover, there are many important things that we simply do not know about our universities. For example, there is currently no public data on the number of contract faculty teaching in Ontario’s universities. Such information is vitally important for making policy decisions about the future of our institutions.

Making more data available in more usable forms would serve the government’s broad goals of transparency and accountability. To administer this system, OCUFA has suggested the creation of a higher education data agency, modeled on the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). To be effective, this new organization must feature robust representation from sector stakeholders to ensure that the higher education data system evolves to meet changing needs.

As of this writing, OCUFA is waiting for the release of the Review team’s report on the consultation process. We will be viewing the report, and any subsequent recommendations and proposals, through the twin lenses of our principles and our key recommendations for an effective funding model. We look forward to continuing our work with the Government of Ontario to ensure the funding model works for students, staff, and faculty, while furthering the goals of an accessible and high-quality university system. AM

Judy Bates is the President of OCUFA and a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENTS in corporatizing Canadian universities

Government focus on boosting the economy and shrinking public expenditure has transformed our universities.

A new, market-based vision for higher education has taken shape in recent years, and the direction and priorities of higher education policy in Canada have shifted alongside it. In my recent book, Academia, Inc.: How Corporatization is Transforming Canadian Universities, I connect these changes to a process of corporatization. I take no credit for the term. “Corporatization” and the “corporatized” university are now commonplace in both academic and lay circles. And, the fact that Canadian universities are being transformed has not really been questioned. But there remains considerable debate around the sources of this transformation. Who or what is responsible? Corporate leaders, university administrators, and “academic capitalists” have all been implicated. Some have suggested that students, who are sometimes accused of embracing the role of educational “consumers,” also share responsibility. I would add, though, that there is another group of important players, a group who have perhaps not received the attention they deserve: governments.

The pivotal role of underfunding and austerity
One of the driving forces behind university restructuring in Canada has been the sharp and prolonged reduction in government funding that began in the 1970s. There are important linkages between these austerity measures and processes of corporatization. The logic is simple: once underfunding has undermined the integrity and functionality of a public system, corporations and market-oriented bureaucrats are invited to come in and reinvigorate these “failing” institutions through restructuring or privatization. In some cases, this need to shift to a corporate model has been clearly articulated by political, business, and even university leaders. For example, the Task Force on Labour Market Development, headed by economist David Dodge in the early 1980s, recommended a number of concrete ways that universities could be “induced” into a restructuring mandate. These included more reliance on private funding, redirecting federal money to support sponsored research and market-based programs, and reallocating funds away from arts-based disciplines.

In the 1980s and 1990s, other actors, including the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI) and the Corporate Higher Education Forum (CHEF)—an alliance of 25 corporate CEOs and 25 university presidents—also played a leading role in achieving an elite consensus on educational issues. The BCNI launched a sustained attack to undermine public confidence in public education and repeatedly called for government cutbacks to universities, while the CHEF explicitly advocated government underfunding to make universities more responsive to private interests. As part of these campaigns, the university was portrayed as unresponsive to market demands and the home of a lot of useless learning. These campaigns placed universities alongside other supposedly outdated public programs and entitlements, such as social security. The strategy taken up by many Canadian elites is summed up in a 1995 quote from the Conservative Education Minister of Ontario, John Snobelen, who said: “If we really want to fundamentally change the issue in training and… education we’ll have to first make sure we’ve communicated brilliantly the breakdown in the process we currently experience. That’s not easy. We need to invent a crisis. That’s not just an act of courage. There’s some skill involved.”

Snobelen’s “crisis” was largely invented through fiscal austerity. Canadian federal governments have steadily reduced the monetary commitment to postsecondary education through direct cuts to transfer payments and amendments to the funding formulas that determined them. Between 1983-84 and 1994-95, the federal contribution to postsecondary education was reduced by over $13 billion. When student enrolment is taken into account, the amount of federal transfer money spent per student declined by almost 50 per cent between 1994-95 and 2004-05. Many provinces also introduced their own brands of austerity during this period, such as the Conservative governments of Mike Harris (Ontario) and Ralph Klein (Alberta) who dramatically reduced university operating grants as part of a broader effort to shrink the public sphere and redirect higher education toward prescribed economic goals.

By the time the federal Liberal’s thirteen-year reign was over in 2006, Canada’s university system was a shell of its former self. Federal and provincial government funding for university teaching and non-sponsored research fell from more than $17,900 per student in 1980-81 to $9,900 in 2006-07. Although the federal Conservatives increased funding to universities through transfer payments and research funds beginning in 2006, these increases were still billions of dollars short of what was needed to restore funding to 1990s levels. The government also failed to set any binding conditions or legislated guidelines for new investments, which meant that while some provinces increased their grants to universities, others did not and some, like British Columbia, even reduced them. At the national level, public funding made up 84 per cent of university operating revenues in 1979; by 2009 this figure was reduced to just 58 per cent.

While this mix of austerity programs over the past four decades may have reflected resource scarcity on the part of governments, it is important to understand that they were also part of a deliberate plan to link universities more closely to the needs of the market and lay the foundation for corporatization.

Willful neglect of teaching and teachers
As government support for university teaching has plummeted, there has been an increase in targeted funds for university research. We have seen the introduction of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Canada Research Chairs program, and a range of selective grants supporting the private sector and university-industry ties. And as more and more money is channeled into these special targeted programs, less money is reaching the classroom. Sponsored research in Canada’s 25 largest universities accounted for around 15 per cent of university expenditures in 1988; by 2008, this figure had grown to 25 per cent. Teaching has not just fallen on the list of priorities, it has been pushed there by conscious resource allocation decisions.

An even more notable consequence of government cutbacks has been the sharp growth in the number of contract faculty working in Canadian universities. In Ontario, for example, the changes have been dramatic. According to data I received through freedom of information requests, in those departments that are now part of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University, the number of part-time contract appointments increased from 531 to 1253 (136 per cent) between 2000-01 and 2009-10, while the number of tenure-stream faculty grew from 493 to 593 (18.3 per cent). The growth in part-time positions was especially prominent in certain departments, such as English (564 per cent); Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (180 per cent); Administrative Studies (174 per cent); and Philosophy (169 per cent). In the 16 departments I reviewed at Trent, the number of part-time positions increased from 66 to 200 (203 per cent), while the number of tenured/tenure track positions increased from 138 to 156 (13 per cent). At Carleton, in 2003-04, part-timers were responsible for teaching one out of every five undergraduate courses; eight years later, they were teaching one in three.

Some argue that the accelerated use of contract employment represents a deliberate management strategy to impose labour “flexibility” in the academy and transform the nature of academic work. I would certainly agree. But this transformation would not have been nearly as severe in the absence of imposed resource shortfalls. In fact, contract faculty hiring represents one of the primary cost-saving measures available to cash-strapped universities.

Selling out the “customers”
Successive federal administrations and most provincial governments have adopted a “customers pay” orientation to university financing. This approach has resulted in Canada having high tuition fees, especially by European and Scandinavian standards. While tuition varies considerably across provinces, the overall cost of undergraduate tuition has grown from an average of $1,706 in 1991-92 to $6,191 in 2015-16, an increase of 263 per cent. Escalating fees has also meant escalating student debt. Federal government student loan debt in Canada is approximately $15 billion. When provincial and commercial bank loans are included, the total is closer to $20 billion. A recent study by the Canadian Federation of Students shows that students requiring a Canada student loan now graduate with average debts of over $28,000 (Burley and Awad, 2015). Of course, tuition is not the only culprit. According to the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2014, student aid in the form of grants now covers a much smaller proportion of the direct costs of postsecondary education in Canada than it does in most other OECD countries.

Skyrocketing fees and regressive aid policies do not only reflect an economic strategy, or the inevitable impact of public funding cuts. On the contrary, downloading the costs of higher education to students and their families is a political choice based on particular assumptions about public education and what constitutes a just society. This is particularly evident when tax policies are taken into account. In 2011, David Macdonald and Erika Shaker of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that the total cost of rolling back undergraduate tuition rates in Ontario to their 1990 level—from $6,500 to $2,500 a year—would cost approximately $1.5 billion. In contrast, the corporate tax cuts the province introduced in 2009 cost roughly $1.6 billion. At the national level, Canadian federal governments chose to forgo approximately $48 billion in revenues through tax cuts during the 2000s, with much of it going into the pockets of Canada’s largest corporations. Just 10 per cent of that money could have funded the elimination of tuition fees for all students currently enrolled in Canadian universities.

When you consider the far ranging impacts of these policies, it is clear that governments are doing universities—and Canadians—a great disservice. Research has shown that rising tuition and debt levels are blocking access to higher education for underprivileged families (Coelli, 2005, 2009; Neill, 2009). Students with high debt levels are also more likely to take on paid employment with adverse academic effects (Callender, 2008; Côté and Allahar, 2007; Motte and Schwartz, 2009), more likely to complete their studies at a slower pace (Ekos, 2006), less likely to graduate or pursue further education (Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, 2007; Prairie Research Associates, 2007; Williams, 2012), and less likely to consider employment or training in public service occupations (Chernomas and Black, 2004; Field 2009; Tannock 2006).

Debt dependence also permeates our broader political culture. As more and more students are forced to deal with the debt “time bombs” that await them after graduation, they are less and less likely to participate in social activism. In this way, I see debt dependence as serving a disciplining and individualizing function. It is contributing to the creation of a fragmented society where individuals are focused on individual concerns and less likely to engage in collective struggles. I have no doubt this impact is also understood by governments—and their private sector partners—who control the policy-making process.

Strengthening corporate governance
Austerity measures also affect university governance. As Canadian universities have increasingly turned to private sources of financial support, they have also devoted a greater and greater share of institutional resources to external relations (such as fundraising and the expansion of corporate-university partnerships). Growing financial concerns and secretive corporate agreements within universities have ostensibly required management that is free from faculty influence. The result has been that there are more and more career administrators who are hired from outside of the university to govern with a corporate, managerialist approach.

Governments have also inserted themselves more directly into the university governance process. In addition to championing the idea that our universities are not producing enough graduates with relevant skills and talents (the highly touted and largely illusory “skills gap”), they have also played a lead role in redefining curricular relevance by assuming greater control over academic programs. The Alberta government, for example, has introduced funding and other mechanisms—including so-called mandate letters specifying government expectations—to ensure that new university programs correspond with its interpretation of labour market needs. Performance indicators have also become a popular tool used to monitor and support corporate priorities, such as the training of “work-ready” graduates. Governments have provided tens of millions in taxpayer dollars to support contentious donor agreements, such the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Clayton H. Riddell School of Political Management at Carleton University. Another disturbing trend is the appointment of executives from management consultant firms (that specialize in the privatization of public services) to university boards. In 2013, the Government of Alberta appointed Firoz Talakshi, a KPMG executive, to the University of Calgary’s Board along with Steve Allan, who specializes in “corporate restructuring and insolvency”, while the government of British Columbia recently appointed Ernst & Young Executive Fiona Macfarlane to the Board of the University of British Columbia.

Government funding mechanisms also have an impact on campus infrastructure. Capital funding for universities accelerated during the 2000s, largely through Ontario’s SuperBuild program, funding for research infrastructure provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and the federal government’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program. All of these programs were designed to secure matching funds from the private sector, which means they have a structural preference for infrastructure projects in certain disciplines. Between 1998 and 2009, for example, the CFI disbursed over $4.2 billion to various projects, with about 90 per cent of this funding going to the physical sciences, health sciences, and engineering (accounting for 5,590 out of 6,310 funded projects). In contrast, arts, literature, humanities and social sciences received just five per cent of funds. This disparity has allowed the CFI and its corporate partners to exercise considerable influence over curriculum and research priorities.

“Innovation” = commercialization

The main impact of government “innovation” agendas, especially at the federal level, has been to commercialize university research. This was evident in the 1980s when the Mulroney Conservatives overhauled Canada’s national research policy to turn university researchers away from basic science and towards commercial application. Examples include the development of the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program and the changing mandate of the Science Council of Canada. In the 1990s, the Liberals branded their own innovation agenda in several major reports, including one by the Expert Panel on the Commercialization of University Research. It argued that universities should add a fourth mission—“commercialization”—to their customary missions of teaching, research, and service. From 2006 on, the Harper Conservatives went even further. They launched a new NCE program to be “proposed and led by the private sector.” Some of the new NCEs were packaged as Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR), which were designed to facilitate commercialization in the priority areas of management, business and finance; natural resources and energy; health and life sciences; information and communications technologies; and the environment. An example of a CECR with an alleged environmental focus is the Canada School of Energy and Environment, which supports tar sands development and advises industry and governments on creating “sound” regulations and “appropriate” legislation to deal with fossil-fuel energy expansion.

The federal Conservatives also oversaw a strategic reorientation of the federal granting councils. In 2009, it was announced that scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) would focus on “business-related degrees.” The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) also has a new commercial mandate. And the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) got a complete overhaul. As part of NSERC’s new focus on innovation, the government
redirected public funds to programs to help solve company-specific problems, which is tantamount to providing free labour for the corporate sector (since 2009, company specific research funding has grown by more than 1,000 per cent). In 2012, NSERC was even offering to organize “speed dating” events to bring interested researchers and corporations together. At the same time, NSERC’s Discovery Grants program—the main funding source for basic research in the natural sciences and engineering— has declined significantly, from two thirds of the Council’s budget in 1978 to one third in 2010. The NSERC currently has no natural scientists on its governing council, but it does include a number of corporate representatives (one of whom used to head the Fraser Institute).

Recent federal budgets have continued along the same lines. In 2012, $37 million was allocated to enhance granting council support for “industry-academic research partnership initiatives” in areas with promising commercial output. In 2013, all new money announced for the councils was targeted to support research partnerships with industry. In the 2014 budget, the government launched the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which accelerated council support for targeted research in the interests of corporate Canada.

Corporatizing academic research has gone hand in hand with the decline of basic research funding, even though it is basic research that has yielded many of the world’s most important scientific and technological advancements (not to mention those of major commercial significance). In fact, the majority of scientific breakthroughs in virtually every field have resulted from basic research conducted in academic settings built and supported largely by public funds. The strategy of defunding basic research and throwing resources at the narrow fields of commercial application has been highly damaging from a public interest perspective.

Who do our governments represent? Not the public
The role of governments in transforming higher education in Canada has been considerable and, with few exceptions, guided by a unidirectional economic focus. They have been preoccupied with how to reshape universities to contribute to corporate profitability and national competitiveness, and how to create enough “human capital” to facilitate economic growth.

Not only does this vision offer a distorted and dehumanized view of the value and purpose of education, it sharply conflicts with the goals and values of Canadians. On virtually every measure, the public opposes a corporatization agenda. A majority of Canadians strongly disagree with a “customers pay” model of university financing, with most agreeing that tuition fees should be eliminated altogether (CAUT, 2009). They are vehemently opposed to public funding cuts (CCL, 2009; CFS 2012; Ipsos Reid, 2004). They believe that teaching—not research—is the most important factor in considering university quality (Ekos, 2003). A majority also believe that the best strategy to compensate for funding shortfalls would be to reduce central university administration costs (CAUT, 2011). And, although the opinions of university scientists have been largely ignored by our political leaders, the public believes they should be taken seriously. According to a nation-wide poll, 44 per cent of Canadians said they find the opinions of university scientists to be the most trustworthy in debates over university research funding. In sharp contrast, 10 per cent said corporations were the most trustworthy source, nine per cent said university administrators, and just nine per cent said the federal government (CAUT, 2009).

Governments are supposed to represent the will of the people on matters of public policy. In the area of higher education, they simply have not. AM

Jamie Brownlee is the author of Academia, Inc.: How Corporatization is transforming Canadian Universities, out now from Fernwood Publishing.


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A CAUTIONARY TALE of marketization of postsecondary education

British Columbia’s experience with private postsecondary providers illustrates the danger of market logic in higher education.

For many years, British Columbia was second in Canada only to Ontario in the number of private postsecondary education institutions operating within its borders. This was largely a consequence of little to no regulation and a hospitable climate created by international students looking for an immersive English language learning experience.

This sector was reined in somewhat by the creation of the BC Private Postsecondary Education Commission in 1990. The legislation establishing the Commission required all institutions offering postsecondary education to be registered. Registered institutions had the further option of applying for a form of accreditation, which they used to brand themselves as a better quality institution.

Although this legislation had the effect of shutting down the fly-by-night operations, in practice it provided little protection for students. After some high-profile private institution closures, in 1999 the Act was amended to require institutions to pay into a Tuition Assurance Fund for the purposes of reimbursing students left in the lurch by institutional closures.

The 1999 amendments also expanded the investigative authority of the Commission, giving it the power to enter premises and access all institutional records. This gave the Commission some teeth in dealing with uncooperative institutions.

The evolution of the Commission as a consumer protection agency came to an abrupt halt in 2003 when the Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell replaced the Commission with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency. The Agency was very similar in function to the Commission, but rather than being directed by government appointees, the Agency was directed largely by the private institutions themselves.

Self-regulating industries work best when the vendors have a shared interest in providing high-quality products and maintaining consumer confidence, and the consumers have access to extensive third-party information about the vendors and their products. Despite warnings that BC’s private postsecondary education sector lacked these key characteristics, the Liberals forged ahead with their experiment.

From the outset, there were rumblings that the new Agency tended to favour institutional interests over student and public interests. This became abundantly clear in 2006 when it was revealed that the chairperson of the Agency’s quality assurance committee, Michael Lo, had been evading the Agency’s scrutiny for years and was illegally offering degree programs through his private college.

Michael Lo also played havoc with the Liberal government’s attempt to build a private-sector market for degree programs in British Columbia—a point I will return to shortly.

Over the years, various US-based private institutions had offered degree programs in British Columbia, despite prohibitions from doing so in the province’s University Act. Successive Social Credit and NDP provincial governments chose to turn a blind eye to these activities because the political cost of dealing with the problem appeared greater than any potential benefit to British Columbians.

However, the political cost of ignoring these out-of-province and private degree-granting institutions grew rapidly in the late 1990s as a university degree became much more valuable as an entry-level credential for the labour market.

In addition to the expansion of grey market degree-granting institutions operating in British Columbia, a number of fake degree-granting institutions set up shop in and around Vancouver, taking advantage of BC’s lax enforcement of the University Act.

In 2001, the Ministry of Advanced Education commenced proceedings to shut down one such questionable institution, Vancouver University. As a result of the Ministry’s failure to enforce the provisions of the University Act against this institution for more than 20 years, the trial judge refused to grant an injunction to prohibit the institution from representing itself as a university and granting degrees.

This failure of its existing practices forced the Ministry of Advanced Education to create a new mechanism to deal with the grey market and fake degree-granting institutions that had made their home in British Columbia.

Consideration was given to limiting degree-granting to BC institutions specifically chartered to do so. However, a handful of legitimate US-based institutions that had been operating in British Columbia wanted to continue their operations in the province. They argued that rather than being barred from operating in BC, they were willing to submit to some form of quality control process to assure government of their legitimacy.

These voices were joined by a small number of BC business people who saw profit in expanding the offerings of their private colleges, or setting up new private institutions specifically to grant degrees.

In keeping with its free market ideology, in 2002 the Gordon Campbell government introduced the Degree Authorization Act which, for the first time, provided a framework by which anyone, including for-profit institutions, could legally offer degree programs in British Columbia provided they passed a quality assurance process.

One of the applicants for authorization to grant BC degrees was Michael Lo, owner of Kingston College in Burnaby, who, in 2001, had purchased Lansbridge University, a private Canadian institution based in New Brunswick.

Lo had originally sought to operate a BC-based campus of Lansbridge University in BC’s grey market. He pressed his case in personal meetings with the Liberal Premier and the Minister of Advanced Education, but was ultimately told he would have to apply for permission under the Degree Authorization Act.

In 2004, Lo first applied to the Degree Quality Assessment Board to grant degrees under the new legislation. When these applications proved inadequate, he withdrew them and reapplied in early 2005.

Despite misgivings expressed by several parties about Lansbridge’s eligibility to be called a university and its ability to offer reasonable quality degree programs (including strenuous objections from this author), approval was given to Lo in June 2005.

Lansbridge may have operated without much scrutiny for years had not Lo’s previous transgressions at Kingston College come to light in the fall of 2006. A group of students from India who had been studying at Kingston College for a degree from a UK-based university went to the media to complain about their shoddy treatment by the college.

It turned out that Kingston College’s partner university, American University in London, was a degree mill and had been forced to shut down by UK authorities. Kingston College told the students they could instead apply their credits to a degree from another US-based institution (which was also was a degree mill) but they would have to pay additional tuition fees on top of the almost $15,000 they had already paid Kingston.

If these students had given up, as many before them had, Michael Lo would have gotten away with his malfeasance. Instead, the student complaints in the media resulted in formal investigations of Michael Lo and his educational enterprises, the 2007 closure of Lansbridge University’s BC operations, and the collapse of a significant portion of Lo’s educational empire.

The Lo case was a huge embarrassment for the Liberal government and stymied their efforts to expand the market for private-sector postsecondary education in three significant ways.

First, the government was forced to concede that it had given too much freedom to the private postsecondary education industry to regulate itself through the Private Career Training Institutions

Agency. In the spring of 2007, new government appointments were made to the governing board and new public reporting requirements were implemented to improve the transparency of operations.

Second, the Degree Quality Assessment Board was forced to review how Lansbridge University had passed through its review process when there was documentation available in government agencies on Michael Lo’s past transgressions. Although this resulted in some tightening of procedures, the more significant outcome was the admission by some members of the Board that they no longer felt as obliged to facilitate the Liberal government’s fast-track expansion of private degree programs in British Columbia.

Third, the Kingston College and Lansbridge University debacles, amongst others, resulted in Indian, Korean, and Chinese government officials raising serious doubts about British Columbia as an educational destination for their citizens. The Liberal government was forced to make public promises of private postsecondary education reform to placate disgruntled foreign officials.

In one fell swoop, Michael Lo had succeeded where public interest advocates had failed: he proved the failings of self-regulation for the private postsecondary education sector, he restricted the growth of the private degree granting in British Columbia, and he forced the Liberal government to pull back on its plans for further liberalization of the private postsecondary education market.

In the summer of 2007, the Ministry of Advanced Education engaged John Watson, a respected former postsecondary education administrator, to conduct a review of the Private Career Training Institutions Act.

Watson’s 2008 report confirmed that the self-regulation model created by the Gordon Campbell government in 2002 had ill-served students, the public, and BC’s international reputation. Moreover, the provisions to protect students from market failures and malfeasance had proven largely inadequate.

Watson proposed overhauling the Act to increase investigative and quasi-judicial powers, to make student and public interests paramount, to increase protections for students, to improve transparency of operations, and to expand the scope of coverage to include all private postsecondary institutions.

Watson’s report resulted in immediate changes to the policies and procedures of the Private Career Training Institutions Agency, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2015 that the Private Training Act was introduced and adopted.

The new Act will bring the private postsecondary education industry firmly back within the control of government. The industry will be accountable to a Registrar and a Commissioner, both civil service appointments, who will exercise broad powers of administration, investigation, and adjudication.

The full scope of the Act will be defined by regulations yet to be established by the Minister of Advanced Education, so it is difficult to say if the new regulatory regime will fully address the many deficiencies identified over the previous 25 years of regulation.

What is clear is that students and the public still will not have access to independent information about providers and programs. Although the new legislation greatly improves accountability and transparency, it does so as a matter of administrative function and not public service.

Speak to students at private postsecondary institutions and it won’t take long to hear stories about fellow students being ill-treated by institutional officials.

This is not unique to private institutions, but at public institutions there are multiple avenues by which students may seek resolution. For example, they can speak to a  higher-level official, they can approach the institutional ombudsperson, they can ask the student association to intervene, or they can sound off in the student newspaper.

At private institutions, there typically is only one avenue for resolution and it ultimately ends up in the office of the person responsible for the profitability of the institution.

Under such conditions, it’s not surprising to hear stories from students at private institutions who are ignored, bullied, and even threatened with legal action for seeking resolution to legitimate grievances.

To draw an analogy, what would it be like to buy an automobile in a market where the manufacturers supressed all complaints about their products? Or where the authors of critical product reviews were silenced by threat of legal action? Or where there was little information about whether the vehicle was still running after five years?

That’s what it’s like to be a consumer of private postsecondary education in Canada.

In the United States, the situation is somewhat better because of the long tradition of private postsecondary education. However, private postsecondary education students still lack information and leverage that other consumers take for granted.

So, what lessons can be learned from British Columbia’s 25-year experiment in the marketization of postsecondary education?

First, the postsecondary education market is unlike other markets in that the final product is not the result of discrete processes applied to an inert object within a well-defined framework. Rather, it’s a messy process of continuous instruction, assimilation, application, evaluation, and reflection among free-willed individuals. There are certain aspects that can be codified and objectively evaluated, but ultimately education is a subjective experience.

Second, without the freedom for students to share these subjective experiences with potential students, there remains a massive asymmetry in information available to the vendor and the consumer. The student will always have a structural disadvantage, resulting in market failures.

Third, government regulation of the private postsecondary education market might reduce the incentives for vendors to take advantage of the information asymmetry, but the structural disadvantage for the consumer remains. Unless government takes substantial steps to reduce the asymmetry between vendor and consumer, the symptoms of market failure will persist.

The marketization of postsecondary education is inevitably the result of ideology intersecting with political calculus. The lesson from British Columbia is that the interests of students and the public will be served only when the political cost of not doing so is greater than the cost of the alternatives. AM

Robert Clift is a PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia.

UK HIGHER EDUCATION WARS: Federalism awakens

The seismic shifts in UK higher education policy can be understood through the lenses of federalism, regulation, and isolationism.

To say that higher education in the United Kingdom is undergoing a seismic and historic transformation would be an understatement. Two key changes that are driving this transformation are England’s £9,000 fee cap for universities and the winding down of grants for funding teaching. While most of the country, and many scholars, have focused on the impact of the funding change on students, less attention has been given to the impact of this change on the legal and policy frameworks for UK higher education. In addition to these forces, a changing attitude within the UK toward membership in the European Union and to immigration threaten to further unsettle the higher education sector.

As a former civil servant in Ontario and a student of higher education history, I find this situation fascinating. Working in this changing policy environment for a few years has offered unique insight into these developments. Capturing the many moving parts of the changing UK higher education policy environment is extremely difficult. However, three themes help shed light on current trends: federalism, regulation and isolationism.

Many Canadians and Americans may have noted the growing federal nature of higher education policy making in the UK. The UK is an increasingly fractured policy environment when it comes to higher education. At the moment, three areas continue to tie together higher education policy in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England: research funding, the provision of data on students and higher education providers, and quality assurance. While the former two elements remain relatively stable for the time being, the third is on the precipice as differences develop across the four nations. The interesting question is: how did these divisions evolve?

Higher education has been a matter for the devolved administrations of the UK (this includes the “Home Nations” of Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland) since 1998. However, it really wasn’t until the 2004 Higher Education Act’s introduction of “top up” tuition fees in England in 2004 that a fissure emerged in UK higher education policy-making. This gulf widened following the 2010 publication of the government’s review of undergraduate education in England, the Browne Review, which led to the introduction of a £9,000 (about $18,000 CAD) per year fee cap, the creation of an income contingent loan repayment scheme (ICLRP), and liberalization of the higher education market for England in 2012.

While England pursued a privatization and markets agenda, Scotland has doggedly refused to accept tuition fees for its students (although it does allow universities to charge up to £9,000 to non-Scottish, UK-resident students from England and the other Home Nations) and continues to view private higher education providers with skepticism. However, Scotland also lags behind its English cousin for widening participation in higher education for lower income groups, despite attempts by the Scottish Executive to improve student performance.

Given its close proximity to the growing population of southern England, Welsh higher education policy tends not to stray too far from that in England. However, given the stark economic outlook facing Wales it cannot afford the comparatively laissez-fair market approach pursued by England. The Welsh government needs the policy levers to deploy higher education as an economic development tool. The recent Further and Higher Education Act (Wales) passed by the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff gives greater power to the Welsh government to direct higher education funding, with an option to circumnavigate the Welsh higher education buffer body, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

The Welsh government continues to subsidize its students’ tuition fees to alleviate their debt burden post-graduation. Interestingly, this subsidy applies to students who choose to study over the border in England (or the other UK home nations), reducing Welsh students’ £9,000 fees to under £4,000. While excellent for promoting student mobility, the fee subsidy policy essentially allows higher education funding to bleed from Wales to, for the most part, England. Welsh universities complain they are underfunded, as Wales’s higher education funding flows elsewhere and higher education participation rates in Wales languish behind those of England. Furthermore, the fee subsidy almost actively encourages students to leave Wales exacerbating the brain drain from the region.

Northern Ireland suffers similarly to Wales. Like Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland subsidizes Northern Irish students’ fees, but also allows its two universities (Queen’s and Ulster) to charge fees up to £9,000 for students coming from the other Home Nations. Unfortunately, given mounting political instability and an inability to manage public expenditure elsewhere, annual and in-year cuts to the higher education budget have resulted in both Queen’s and Ulster having to reduce the number of Northern Irish students they accept in favour of seeking more English, Welsh, and Scottish students. This is because Northern Irish students are funded at a loss to the university. The perversity of the funding situation created by the Northern Ireland Executive means that those Northern Irish students who can afford it will leave Northern Ireland to study, while less advantaged students are left fighting for a shrinking number of spots.

It remains to be seen how the UK’s increasingly federal higher education sector will play out as England and Scotland appear to excel (for the most part) while Wales and Northern Ireland are left fighting for resources in a shrinking pool.

The newly elected Conservative government, now with a small majority and unhindered by its former partnership with the progressive Liberal Democratic Party, are undertaking a government-wide spending review. The purpose of the review is to reduce overall government expenditure and the budget deficit. All Ministers have been asked to model both a 25 per cent cut in spending and a 40 per cent cut in spending in their respective departments. Numerous reports suggest that the Minister for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), the department with responsibility for higher education, is preparing his department for a 40 per cent reduction to the English higher education budget. If this is true, English universities should be expecting major cuts to what remains of the public grants they receive.

In order to achieve this level of cutbacks, the department would be forced to consider the potential savings of dismantling its many arms-length agencies. This could include the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). England, along with Scotland and Wales, continues to operate with a quasi-independent funding body and statutory authority over granting. However, England’s 2012 move from a grants-based to largely fee-based funding system means that HEFCE’s principal job, the funding of higher education institutions, is being slowly whittled away as a larger and larger percentage of university income is derived from student fees supported by government-backed loans.

HEFCE does have an increasing role in the regulation of universities in England. However, it does not have statutory authority to oversee the growing number of private higher education providers in England. Furthermore, its authority over universities extends from its funding relationship—less funding means less control. Under current statutes and regulations, HEFCE is becoming surplus to requirements.

One area in which HEFCE is exerting its influence is quality assurance in higher education. In May 2015, HEFCE announced a comprehensive review of existing quality assurance arrangements for universities and its other funded higher education providers. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Northern Ireland’s Department for Employment and Learning joined the review but,

importantly, the Scottish Funding Council for higher education did not. A consultation arising from the review has hinted at eliminating the need for the sector-owned Quality Assurance Agency in favour of individual university boards signing-off on individual university quality reports to their respective funding council, and putting a regulatory expectation on academic peer review of individual courses. The suggestions coming from the funding councils, while putting greater responsibility on individual university boards, could also result in much greater direct oversight of universities by the funding councils—assuming, of course, HEFCE is not abolished in the meantime.

To further complicate things, the new Minister with responsibility for higher education has announced the government will introduce a “teaching excellence framework,” or TEF. The TEF is intended to mirror the existing UK Research Excellence Framework (REF). The Minister and his Cabinet colleagues feel that universities have been incentivized to prioritize research at the expense of teaching. Institutions whose teaching is deemed to be excellent through the TEF will be allowed to apply an inflationary tuition fee increase, thus creating the incentive to focus efforts on teaching (presumably provided that inflation eventually rises above 0.1 per cent).

On November 6, 2015, BIS released a consultation on revamping the entire regulatory architecture for higher education. The consultation green paper, Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice, includes recommendations on implementing TEF; addressing issues around widening participation in higher education; and creating a new primary regulatory framework for all higher education, including the publicly supported universities and the growing private sector of higher education provision. Furthermore, it calls for a liberalization of rules governing entry to the higher education market for new providers and the creation of student protections in the event of institutional failure. These proposals would necessitate a new Higher Education Act for England, something many commentators (including myself) have been arguing for over the last three years given the fundamental changes to funding for higher education in England. The consultation also signals that regulation of English higher education will move from a supply-side, sector focus to a demand-driven, market focus.

The UK appears to be on a path toward increasing isolationism, at least from a higher education perspective. This is driven by two separate, but related, policy debates: immigration and membership in the European Union (EU).

There is a desire in England for greater control over the UK’s borders. The May 2015 general election highlighted concern over immigration as a major issue for campaigning candidates, and both the UK Conservative and Labour parties made commitments to clamp down on immigration. Despite the freedom of movement enjoyed by British citizens across the rest of Europe, there is a widespread perception that the UK is unable to accommodate European immigration. It is important to note that these feelings do not apply equally across the UK—the Scottish government has clearly articulated that it does not agree with the UK government’s views on immigration and the EU.

The new Conservative government has committed to having a referendum on the UK’s continued membership in the EU by the end of 2017, if not earlier. It has been suggested that a decision to withdraw from the EU should require approval in each of Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England. In the absence of a clear constitution, it is not certain how a EU referendum decision will be interpreted. Furthermore, given the Scottish government’s desire to remain within the EU, an EU referendum result which directs the UK to withdraw may play a role in any future independence referenda in Scotland.

The UK government’s approach to immigration and the EU impacts universities directly. It is increasingly difficult for non-EU students to secure visas to study at UK universities. The UK government has been downloading responsibilities for the policing of student and staff visas to universities. It has also implemented additional penalties on universities, as visa sponsors, when there are problems with visa students. The most serious of these penalties, losing the ability to sponsor visas for students and staff, is not an empty threat. The UK government has already stripped or suspended a few universities’ visa sponsorship powers with serious implications for those institutions. Losing visa sponsorship, even for a short time, translates into lost tuition fee income (deregulated for international students) and signals that a university is a risky choice for students from abroad. Making it more difficult to sponsor international students and staff has a direct impact on the budgets of UK universities and the cultural diversity of UK university campuses.

Less well known are the losses UK university researchers are likely to experience if the UK withdraws from EU, including losing up to €£2 billion ($2.8 billion CAD) in research funds the UK universities are expected to attract from European research agencies. Restrictions on staff movement and recruitment will also undoubtedly have a negative impact on the research capacity of the UK higher education sector. It is hard to imagine UK higher education coming through this period of increasing British isolationism not bruised and battered.

UK higher education is undergoing tremendous change. Increasing federalism provides new opportunities for policy lessons to be learned from other UK Home Nations, including how to design outreach programs, improve completion rates, and student enrichment. However, federalism could also present a threat to the existence of a UK higher education “brand” if measures are not taken to protect some aspects of a UK-wide higher education sector, rather than breaking up into Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, and English systems of higher education provision. Re-writing the regulation of higher education in England could lead to an increasingly diverse sector, creating more choice for students. Or, it could lead to chaos, failed universities, and students unsure of the future value of their credentials. AM

Andrew Boggs is a visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies

FAIR ACCESS: Strikes the right balance on education and copyright

Emerging forms of access to copyrighted works is undermining the value of Access Copyright, argues Professor Michael Geist.

The role of copyright within the Canadian education system was once an issue of interest to a relatively small number of scholars, librarians, authors, and publishers. With limited means to copy and distribute educational materials, the primary battle was over payments for photocopies of works that were distributed to students. While there were always disputes over the amount of compensation and the scope of fair dealing, educational institutions ultimately paid Access Copyright (formerly Cancopy) millions of dollars.

Driven primarily by technology and the Internet,
the landscape for copying and distributing educational materials has changed dramatically over the past 15 years.
New technologies have enabled the creation of massive databases of electronic materials, with institutions
gradually shifting much of their budgets to electronic subscriptions to enable access to a far larger collection of materials than many libraries could purchase on an individual basis. The emergence of open access publishing, which allows researchers to make their research openly and freely available on the Internet, has become the standard in many disciplines. Copyright law has also undergone a significant shift as the Supreme Court of Canada has emphasized the importance of users’ rights and the need for a broad and liberal interpretation of fair dealing.

For Access Copyright, the changing landscape has caused both the copyright collective and its customers to rethink the value of its licences. Access Copyright’s initial response was to adapt its photocopying licences to the digital world with new offerings that could better account for digital distribution. However, those proposed licences failed to recognize the alternative mechanisms available to educational institutions to ensure legal access to works. Rather than accounting for the diminishing value of the Access Copyright repertoire, the collective sought to dramatically increase the costs of the licence. Those early demands, which would have required educational institutions to shift millions of dollars from new acquisitions and database subscriptions to collective licensing fees, led to a re-evaluation of the necessity of Access Copyright throughout the Canadian educational community.

New forms of access
In light of alternative forms of access, the strong endorsement of fair dealing by the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Government of Canada’s 2012 reforms that removed any lingering doubts about the application of fair dealing to all educational activities, the higher education community shifted en masse away from Access Copyright. The emerging alternative model provides access in several ways.

First, educational institutions continue to pay millions of dollars every year to publishers and authors for access to their works. For example, the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), a partnership of 75 Canadian universities representing 1.2 million researchers and students, has entered into thousands of agreements with publishers to offer access to their members. Last year, CRKN spent over $100 million in licensing fees for electronic content. Those licences provide access to an incredible array of electronic journals and primary source content in both the sciences and social sciences and humanities.

Second, higher education institutions spend millions more on their own site licences or on transactional licences that permit usage for specific works, while students still spend millions each year on books, whether paper or electronic. Although transactional licensing was long viewed as cumbersome and costly, the electronic environment has facilitated cheaper, faster licensing mechanisms that reduce overhead costs and allow institutions to ensure that payments are made where required.

Third, the emergence of open access publishing has enabled free access (as desired by the author) to millions of articles. According to a European Commission-funded report by Montreal-based Science-Metrix, more than half of all research publications in some countries and fields of study are now freely available online. The company found that countries such as the United States, Switzerland, Israel, and the Netherlands have all passed the 50 per cent mark for open access publication. Canada is on the verge of joining those countries, falling just shy at 49 per cent.

The shift toward open access becoming the default form of disseminating research in many fields is a remarkable change given that conventional publishing in expensive subscription-based journals was the standard in many areas of research as recently as ten years ago. The move toward open access means that global research is far more accessible to everyone—scientists, researchers, and the general public.

The availability of these licensed works (both paid and open access) are frequently incorporated into course materials at no additional cost to the student. In fact, institutions are paying for so many works that there is frequently a risk of double-payment. According to a Stanford University study in 2013, students were spending over $100,000 on course materials that the university was already paying millions to license.

New copyright rules
Access Copyright and its supporters argue that in addition to the millions being spent on access to materials, Canadian educational institutions should pay millions more for an Access Copyright licence to compensate for copying that falls outside of these new forms of access. Canadian educational institutions would undoubtedly acknowledge that there are works being used that fall outside these new forms of paid access. The issue, however, is whether the usage qualifies as either insubstantial (a small amount that the law says falls outside copyright) or as fair dealing. If either apply, the copying is permitted by the law and no further compensation is required.

With the Supreme Court having issued several important fair dealing decisions, the government having enacted fair dealing reforms that expands its scope, and the Copyright Board of Canada having issued a clear endorsement of a broad approach to fair dealing in the context of copying by provincial government employees, there is no dispute that the value of an Access Copyright licence has declined in light of the law. Indeed, Access Copyright has acknowledged as much by reducing its rates to account for “market uncertainty around fair dealing in education.”

Where Access Copyright and the education community differ is in how much the law has changed. The Copyright Board of Canada, long a reliable ally of copyright collectives, ruled in 2015 that insubstantial copying constituted one to two pages of a work, not exceeding more than 2.5 per cent of the entire publication. In other words, where two pages are copied from a work of 80 pages or more, or one page is copied from a work of 40 pages or more, the copying is insubstantial and not compensable.

Fair dealing, which the educational community reasonably argues may cover up to 10 per cent of a work, lies on top of that. The Copyright Board rejected all of Access Copyright’s key claims with regard to the applicability of fair dealing, painstakingly reviewing copy after copy to ensure that they were all fairly compensated. In fact, the Copyright Board even expressed reservations about the Access Copyright repertoire, noting that it may be claiming to represent works for which it does not have representative rights.

What comes next?
In light of the technological, marketplace, and legal changes, Access Copyright has endeavoured to update its public face. A refreshed website, a revamped governance structure, and revised licences are all intended to present a “new” Access Copyright. While the copyright collective speaks of a new era of partnership, it continues to rely on litigation and lobbying as the primary mechanisms to restore the relevance of its licence.

Despite resounding losses at the Supreme Court of Canada and before the Copyright Board, Access Copyright is pursuing litigation against York University over its copyright practices and seeking review of the Copyright Board’s recent ruling. This continues a longstanding trend dating back to 2004 of dismissing the relevance of seminal high court decisions.

While Access Copyright battles in the courts, it can also be expected to increase its lobbying efforts to create new restrictions and limitations on fair dealing. The collective recently commissioned a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that supposedly confirms its claims about lost revenues in the publishing sector. Yet PwC acknowledged that it does not verify the information provided to it and disclaimed that “we provide no opinion, attestation or other form of assurance with the respect to the results of this Assessment.” In fact, the report makes no reference to the 2012 Supreme Court of Canada Alberta vs. Access Copyright decision nor to users’ rights, which now forms part of the foundation of Canadian copyright law.

Moreover, University of Toronto law professor Ariel Katz has comprehensively rebutted many of the economic claims upon which PwC relies. For example, notwithstanding claims of economic hardship from Oxford University Press, Katz notes that the publisher reports a tenfold increase in digital revenues and a string of new titles to help buoy sales.

The PwC “study”, alongside more aggressive lobbying efforts, is likely aimed at entrenching the copyright term extension requirement found in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (that some estimate will cost Canadians billions
of dollars), and placing fair dealing reform at the head of
the line for the 2017 Canadian copyright review.

However, any review must account for the millions being paid by educational institutions for access and the modest interpretations of fair dealing law in Canada, which have resulted in copying guidelines that are still more restrictive than those found in some other countries. Indeed, a fair review of the current system reveals that the problem facing Access Copyright is not that copies are not valued, but rather that in light of new forms of access and the evolution of the law, its licence is no longer valuable. 

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.


Access Copyright has the infrastructure and expertise to best serve universities, says the organization’s Executive Director Roanie Levy.

When photocopiers became widely available in the late 1970s and early 1980s, people’s ability to use and interact with print media was completely transformed. The printing press, more than 500 years 
after Gutenberg, had finally come face-to-face with a disruptive technology.

Suddenly we could conveniently copy a publication more cheaply than we could buy it, and we could deconstruct bound volumes to make use of specific parts. Any title we could put our hands on could be subdivided, remixed, and reproduced for little more than the cost of paper and carbon. A world of print had been unlocked to new uses.

“Gutenberg made everybody a reader; 
Xerox makes everybody a publisher.”

-Marshall McLuhan (in 1977)

Those uses had particular appeal in education, where teachers gained the option to curate resources for their students. And it was in this context that the members of Canada’s Book and Periodical Council, an umbrella group of Canadian creator and publisher associations, gathered to form Access Copyright in 1988.

There was no turning back on photocopying—the social benefit of convenient, flexible content uses for educators and students was undeniable. From the beginning, Canadian creators and publishers have sought to be part of the dialogue around changing uses and demands by responding with a pragmatic licensing solution for educational users rooted in our common interests in quality education and quality Canadian content for use in education.

Access Copyright’s licences provide faculty the option to conveniently ‘micro-publish’ tailored, cost-effective course collections for students, while ensuring reasonable rewards for the creators of the content sources that support their teaching.

Since 2002, licensed usage has lead to royalty payments on more than 280,000 unique titles, the vast majority of them used in education. Since 1988, more than $400 million has flowed back to creators and publishers. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that the loss of these royalties would amount to a 20 per cent decline in the income an average creator earns from their work. For many, these royalties may be the difference between being a writer and not being able to continue to write.

There’s no question that the content and copyright landscapes have changed since 1988, but in many ways we face some similar challenges today. When content moves over digital networks so effortlessly, it’s often followed by the thought that it is, or should be, free. At these times, it is helpful to remember that the value of high-quality published works never resided in the paper and glue. Over the past decade content use in postsecondary education has been migrating away from centrally managed bookstores and print shops towards more customized solutions targeting student needs on digital platforms such as Learning Management Systems, where it continues to support student success.

Today, library e-subscriptions, Open Educational Resources, and Open Access journals have also become an increasingly significant part of the mix. However, these things do not represent the full spectrum of sources relied on by teaching faculty. Educators continue to need high quality, professionally produced educational content not covered by library subscriptions or open licences—and that is where Access Copyright can help in unique ways.

Access Copyright’s licences provide pre-authorized permission to copy portions of most of the titles published in Canada and 28 other countries. That’s over twelve thousand creators and publishers here in Canada, and many more through our agreements with collectives in other countries.

Unfortunately, many universities are now forgoing this existing infrastructure, which offers cost-effective permission clearances on millions of titles, in favor of building their own, internal permissions infrastructure and relying on contested interpretations of the fair dealing exception.

This means funds that might have been spent on a licence that offers the broadest permissions to the most people, while reinvesting in the content sources that faculty and students value, are instead flowing into administration infrastructure and costly, labour-intensive permissions processes with much narrower benefits both for the university and content creator communities.

The fair dealing content usage guidelines advanced by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) and Universities Canada, as well as the various iterations adopted at universities, are a crude yardstick for making complex judgements around what should be a more contextual assessment. Not surprisingly, creators and publishers have concerns about this, but so do many teaching faculty and librarians.

Nothing in the new Copyright Act or court decisions suggests fair dealing is as simple or as well defined as being able to use anything below a specific percentage. Faculty and librarians find themselves in an awkward position between a limited capacity to clear permissions and guidelines that effectively download responsibilities to the individual faculty members who must rely on those permissions.

There has been an unfortunate breakdown in understanding and communication between Access Copyright and many universities. This needs to change. Renewing Access Copyright’s partnership with the education sector remains vitally important to Canadian creators and content producers and to all those who read, teach, research, and learn.

We have reached out to these communities and invited feedback from teachers, librarians, and administrators. We listened to their concerns and their desire for change and committed to a top to bottom transformation to reinvent Access Copyright in the service of our customers. We will continue to invite dialogue and strive to better understand the copyright management needs of educators.

That commitment was demonstrated at the last Access Copyright Annual General Meeting when, for the very first time, our members reached outside their creator and publisher communities and elected two academic librarians and a leader in public K-12 education as board directors.

We recognize the efforts many institutions have made in the areas of content dissemination and the centralized administration of e-subscriptions. This has led to the launch of a new set of licence offerings, developed with input from institutions, and designed to provide better convenience, value, and flexibility.

The CHOICE Licence provides more flexibility and pay-per-use pricing for paper and digital uses. The PREMIUM licence offers more comprehensive coverage and permissions clearance services at a price of $12 per student for a five-year licence.

Notwithstanding disagreements about fair dealing, we believe many institutions will find value in either the PREMIUM or CHOICE licences. These new lower prices are a sincere attempt to find ways to continue working with the education sector.

In the longer term, we are working to further enhance our offerings through the development of tools that 
help simplify the discovery, selection, management, 
integration of content, and associated permissions with e-Learning environments. We are working on pilots and trials to better understand user needs around the integration of copyright clearance and content access tools with digital platforms in order to bring content directly to educators, students, and researchers on the platforms they already use.

Access Copyright has the infrastructure, expertise, and rights to be of service to universities. However, we need to re-engage in a dialogue to properly understand how we can help. It’s time we moved past disagreement and distrust and reconnect on common ground. Our librarians, faculty, and students deserve better. Our creators and publishers deserve better.


Roanie Levy is the Executive Director of Access Copyright.

Reviewing Ontario’s university funding

The rationale for reviewing and reforming the way we fund universities.

I hesitated when the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) asked if I would write an article on the University Funding Model Review for Academic Matters. The hesitation had to do with timing. I knew there would be a gap between submitting the article and the release of our report. There was also a strong likelihood that the timing of that gap would be a crucial one in the life of the project. However, I put my hesitations aside and decided to write about the consultation and the progress we’ve made so far.

Our consultation on the University Funding Model ended on September 1, 2015. After five months of broad-based consultation, we are working on a public report that will include what we heard, what we have taken from the consultation, and our thoughts about designing a new funding model. I am unable to tell you what those results are because we haven’t got to that stage at the time of this writing. By the time you read this, we should be nearly there.* Therefore, I’m limited to writing about the consultation process itself and what we have heard so far. If you’re looking for what the consultation’s recommendations will be, you won’t find them here.

In November of 2013 the government released its Differentiation Policy Framework. In it, the government referred to “a careful balancing act between government stewardship and institutional leadership, and a strengthening of transparency and accountability between the government, institutions, and the public.” This balancing act is needed for institutions to not only maintain and improve their quality, but to do so in a sustainable and effective manner. As part of their commitment, through the joint Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs), and as the next step in transforming the sector, the Ontario government’s funding model review began in April 2015.

I was asked to lead the design of a consultation, set up a team to lead the consultation process, and report on its results. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) released a background discussion document, which can be found on the consultation website (www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/audiences/universities/uff/). This document contains 12 questions that guided the discussion at our May 6, 2016 all-day event, which was attended by about 175 participants, including OCUFA.

The purpose of the consultations is to solicit comments and views on a new distribution design for the $3.5 billion MTCU provides to Ontario’s public universities. The current funding model is built on a total revenue structure that no longer exists. It is based almost entirely on enrolment and incenting enrolment growth. This mismatch between the formula and the current structure of the university system has resulted in many tweaks being made over the years, so much so that the formula has reached the point where it is no longer explainable or transparent. As we enter a decade of a declining 18-to-24-year-old population in all regions but the GTA, this is no longer a viable approach to funding our university system. We need to build a university funding model that is able to withstand demographic ebbs and flows, is sustainable, and is focused on students.

We developed an open, broad-based consultation approach. The design can be found on our website (www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/audiences/universities/uff/about_consultation.html). We also identified key stakeholders that we wanted to meet with on an ongoing basis so that we could update them on the status of our consultation and to get their insight on what aspects should be considered as directions in the design of a formula. In addition to OCUFA, our key stakeholders include: Council of Ontario Universities (COU), Ontario Undergraduate Student Association (OUSA) and the Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario (CFS-O).

OCUFA’s Executive Director, Mark Rosenfeld, and I first sat down informally in May 2015 so I could get his advice on early approaches. OCUFA did a lot of preparation for the consultation, which we found very useful. We were pleased to be invited to OCUFA’s 146th Board of Directors meeting on May 9, 2015 and to be given a fair chunk of time on the agenda to make our presentation and answer questions. In support of our goal for this consultation to be an open and transparent process, OCUFA has been invited to and has attended all of our open briefings with other ministries.

We have also met with high school students, employer representatives, university leadership, student groups, and college representatives. As you might expect, there have been differences of opinion on the design concepts included in a funding allocation methodology. The government asked us to focus our attention on four principles: student experience, differentiation, sustainability, and transparency and accountability. And so, our consultation was organized around these four areas.

Our consultation revealed that across the system there are differing perspectives regarding the viability and advisability of outcomes-based funding; that there is anxiety about potential shifts in funding; and there are differing opinions about what the funding formula should emphasize. However, there are some consistent themes that can be shared at this preliminary stage:

  • The need for information, data, and metrics that are transparent, accessible, and validated in order to better understand what we are funding and what we are achieving.
  • A desire for an outcomes-based lens that is focused on student success and experience, particularly at the undergraduate level. Measuring learning outcomes came up quite often.
  • The importance of developing and providing more experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students.
  • Support for increased differentiation as long as it is respectful of individual institutional strengths and missions. The SMAs were suggested as a vehicle for those discussions.
  • Strong support for a model that is predictable, flexible and understandable.

While I have presented a number of consistent themes, I would like to add a few more words here on the need for information, data, and metrics. This is one area that warrants explicit focus as our ability to move forward to continually improve the system is deeply rooted in it. My third blog (www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/audiences/universities/uff/meet_exec.html) focused primarily on data and some of the shortcomings that currently exist. It would be unfair to say that there is a dearth of accessible data on Ontario universities. The Council of Ontario Universities provides access to data through Common University Data Ontario (CUDO) and financial data from the Council of Ontario Finance Officers (COFO). However, this data is not easily accessible or coherent, and lacks pertinent information—information that is needed for students to make informed choices, and to move the system forward. I know OCUFA agrees with this perspective.

Our goal is to provide a report for public release in late 2015. This report will outline the results of the consultation and our advice to the system about moving forward on a new funding model. In the meantime, there is a lot more information on our website. I hope you will feel free to visit it.

Sue Herbert is the Executive Lead of the Ontario University Funding Model Review.
* Editor’s Note: The final report of the University Funding Model Review is now available. It can be accessed at www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/audiences/universities/uff/.

Higher education and growing inequality

Rather than a tool of social mobility, higher education now reinforces inequality.

In recent decades all countries have seen a rapid growth in the number of students going into higher education, including students from lower income backgrounds. But has this created more equal societies?

Take the case of the United States, still in many ways the model and trend leader for the Western world in economy, society, and higher education. The USA has developed extreme levels of economic and social inequality, social mobility is declining, and higher education has been unable to compensate—in fact, higher education itself is becoming more stratified. The upper middle class dominates access to the top private universities, participation rates have stopped growing, and graduation rates among low-income families are very disappointing. Inequality is also increasing in Canada—although social mobility, the opportunity to raise up from a low-income background or remote location—is still higher in Canada than in other English-speaking countries.

This article draws together what we know about economic and social inequality with what we know about social ordering through higher education. Following Thomas Piketty’s historical approach to inequality in his book Capital in the Twenty-first Century, we can see important patterns emerging in the last three decades.

Piketty suggests that income inequality is linked to differences in wages, but also to income generated from capital such as property. Most people earn most of their income from their job. Only the top 0.1 per cent earn the majority of their income from capital (wealth) such as government bonds, shares, investments, and property. Wealth is much more concentrated than labour incomes. The top 10 per cent of those who earn their income from labour typically get 20 to 35 per cent of all labour incomes, depending on the country. The top 10 per cent of individuals who earn income from capital normally secure between 50 and 90 per cent of all capital incomes, with the precise proportion again depending on country.

The concentration of wealth and income in the hands of the top 10 per cent, top one per cent, and top 0.1 per cent and top 0.01 per cent is rising in most countries. We are seeing extreme income concentration effects. The higher we move up the income scale, the more private fortunes are expanding—the proportional increase to the income of the top 0.01 per cent is greater than for all of the larger groups. The increase in concentration is particularly stark in the USA and United Kingdom. The ultra-rich seem to be in another world from the rest of us. They pay tax at low rates, hide wealth offshore, and their incomes are climbing rapidly, while other incomes stagnate or decline. They are untroubled by the limited funding of public services in low-tax polities because they purchase their own high quality private services.

Piketty’s data show that we are seeing a dramatic regression in the economic history of wealth and inequality, returning us to the pre-World War I era.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, society was dominated by a small group of rich families that commanded most of the resources. Education and working hard were not enough to move into the upper echelons—the would-be upwardly mobile in salaried positions could not secure the level of comfort afforded by inherited wealth.

However, this changed dramatically in the period between1914-1945, as a result of two world wars and the Great Depression, which reduced or eliminated many large fortunes. World War II reset the counters close to zero, triggering a remaking and rejuvenation of wealth—in effect there were many vacancies in the middle and upper levels of society for the upwardly mobile to fill. Ultimately, this proved to be a transitional phase. Nevertheless, the period of social and economic openness was an extended one. This is because wealth creation had been partly democratized, notably and influentially in the USA. Social openness was also facilitated by a long period of high economic growth after 1945, which helped to expand the size of the middle class and hence further increased the number of opportunities for upward mobility.

The New Deal government intervention in the USA; the emerging Beveridge welfare state agenda in Britain; wartime planning; enhanced national taxation; and the turn to ‘democratic socialism’ in Western polities in response to the challenge of the pro-working class communist bloc, all encouraged and enabled policies in higher education and other sectors that were designed to create a more socially just order. The passage of the G.I. Bill in the USA in 1944 set off an explosion of growth in higher education. It provided veterans with generous financial aid for tuition and living expenses, changing the face of the country by creating access to higher education for millions of Americans. There were parallel postwar higher education enrolment policies in many countries, including my own country of Australia. Many students obtained university degrees who would never previously have had the opportunity.

The period between the 1950s and the 1970s was the heyday of meritocracy in the English-speaking world, Western Europe, and Japan. Salary differentials in the workplace were modest. A new property-holding middle class emerged, spreading wealth as well as incomes. For a brief time in the 1970s inherited wealth was a minority of all private capital, outweighed by the capital people had created during their lifetimes, saved and invested in their own homes.

The great role carved out for schooling and higher education was that of a democratic mechanism for selecting aspirants for a socially just elite based in hard work and educated merit—an alternative to capital markets and inheritance.


Piketty shows that in the 1970s and 1980s in Scandinavia, the most equal societies so far devised, the top one per cent of income recipients took in seven per cent of income from all sources, both labour and capital (Table 1). In Europe in 2010, the top one per cent received 10 per cent of all incomes. However, in the USA in 2010, the top one per cent received a much higher share at 20 per cent, and Piketty predicts it will be 25 per cent by 2030 if present trends continue.

The income received by the bottom 50 per cent has been as follows: 30 per cent of all income in 1970s and 1980s Scandinavia; 25 per cent in Europe 2010; but only 20 per cent in the USA in 2010. Piketty predicts it will be just 15 per cent in the USA by 2030. It is striking that by 2010 in the USA, the highly inegalitarian income distribution of 1910 Europe had been restored, though now more through disparities in labour income than through capital income as in the past. The main drivers of the exceptionally high income inequality in the USA are ‘super-manager’ salaries (which took off after Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers’ strike in 1981), and the Reagan/Bush/Bush tax cuts. The USA is already the most unequal society in modern history in terms of income distribution, but it is going to get worse.
In the next generation, the balance between wage inequality and wealth inequality will start to shift back towards wealth. Income inequality becomes translated into inequality of property, and ownership of property and other forms of wealth is reproduced across generations. Those with the largest fortunes gain the highest rate of return from capital, leading to further concentration of wealth. To illustrate this point about large fortunes Piketty cites university endowments, as the data are transparent: Harvard earns over 10 per cent a year on accumulated capital while the average is more like six per cent for other universities. If salary inequality continues to increase in the future, the two sources of this inequality, from labour and from capital, will compound. This suggests that in terms of inequality, “you ain’t seen nothing yet;” the inequality data will start to look more like the income distributions typical of the pre-industrial world.

The top 0.01 per cent of income earners—one in every 10,000 persons, the true plutocracy—received five per cent of total income in the USA just before the Depression in 1928. Their share dropped to less than two per cent and did not get back to the 1928 position until 1998, after two decades of tax cuts and super-manager salary hikes. It then rose to an historic high of six per cent in 2007, dipped during the recession, but was restored to six per cent a year later and is ripping upwards again.

The UK, Australia, and Canada all follow the USA, but the trends are not as blatant. In the Nordic countries income differentials are modest. France, Germany, and Japan are intermediate cases. Inequality in Brazil is actually decreasing. These differences show that historical, institutional, and political factors play a role and that the tendency to accumulation of inherited capital is by no means inevitable.

Turning now to higher education, we find that in the US, as the economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it, “Access to good education depends increasingly on the income, education and wealth of one’s parents.” This is true at both the school and college levels.

In Degrees of Inequality, Suzanne Mettler notes that in 1970, 40 per cent of US students whose families were in the top income quartile had achieved a degree by age 24. By 2013 that percentage had risen to 77 per cent. For families in the bottom income quartile in 1970, only six per cent achieved a degree. By 2013 after 43 years of supposed equality of opportunity that proportion was just nine per cent.

In higher education, people’s unequal capacity to pay and to compete for selective places has been joined by increasing stratification among the institutions themselv                 es. The institutional hierarchy is getting steeper. Research by Scott Davies and David Zarifa in the USA and Canada shows that institutions that begin from a position of advantage build on that to improve their relative position over time. This is what market competition does when it is not corrected by policy. The relationship between resource concentration and student selectivity becomes stronger over the years.

This raises the question of whether degree value is increasingly unequal in labour markets. It is difficult to disentangle the effects of institution (the so-called brand effect) from the social and academic advantages enjoyed by the clientele of elite universities at point of entry, the effects of social background in mediating labour market outcomes, and the effects of learning. The evidence is mixed. But a large number of studies in the USA (and also in the UK and China) suggest that institutional brand affects degree value.

Access to elite institutions is stratified sharply by social group. Joseph Soares has shown that in the Tier 1 private universities in the USA, 64 per cent of students come from families earning in the top 10 per cent. According to the Dean of Admissions at Yale, only five per cent of American families can pay the full sticker price. But many poor students don’t get to the starting gate for entry into elite institutions. Recent research by Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery shows that the vast majority of low-income high achievers do not apply to any selective college.

Associated with growing stratification at the top is the weak and weakening status of mass higher education. It is being weakened because of the partial withdrawal of per-student funding from public education, and the rising use of poor quality private for-profit higher education (heavily subsidized by federal loans financing in the USA) and online courses, as substitutes for state-guaranteed provision. Higher education is not responsible for extreme income inequalities in the USA, which derive from labour markets and tax policy. But these inequalities no doubt undermine the meritocratic rationale for higher education, and this contributes to undermining support for mass higher education and the weakening of its public funding.

The conditions for equality of opportunity have weakened in four crucial respects, not just in the USA but in many countries.

First, across the English-speaking world, the former Soviet bloc, and much of Eastern Asia and Latin America, per-capita public funding of higher education is declining as participation grows. Increasing tuition costs affect social access, especially to the elite private universities. Free tuition would help (though it would be naïve to think this would be enough to overcome social and cultural inequalities at the point of selection). But the problem is that the tax revenues are not there to pay for it. There is a vicious circle—the taxpayer will not support equality of opportunity as a public good so public financing is reduced, which in turn reduces equality of opportunity and evaporates the argument for it.

Second, research especially in the USA suggests a declining commitment to student learning among both students and institutions. It is difficult to pin this phenomenon down conclusively, but there is some evidence that suggests a retreat from solid learning content and an increased focus on the selection function of education, navigating the educational hierarchy, student consumer satisfaction, and credentialing—aspects that are highlighted in a positional market. These practices break the link between hard work, content, and educational outcomes. This denies aspiring students from poor backgrounds a learning technology that they can invest in, while placing greater emphasis on the institutional smarts—the social and cultural capital—that they do not possess. This is as fatal for equality of opportunity as financial barriers.

Third, the shape of higher education systems is being ‘stretched’ vertically—the university hierarchy is getting steeper. Worldwide there is the ever-growing emphasis on ‘world-class universities.’ Every nation, it seems, now wants its own version of the American science multiversity, the kind of institution that figures in global rankings, but is less concerned with achieving Nordic quality in broadly accessible forms of higher education.

The formation of world-class universities is not a problem for equal opportunity provided the rest of the sector is elevated as well. However, in much of the world, the world- class university movement has become combined with a crisis in the quality of mass higher education. Here the retreat of the state shows itself. In many systems the majority of enrolments are located in private institutions of dubious value.

Fourth, the transfer function, or the potential to move between mass institutions and elite ones, is mostly weak or non-existent in most places. Transfer has even faltered in California, where it was part of the University of California system’s original Master Plan, and has rarely developed well elsewhere.

So we have on one hand growing economic and social inequality, and on the other a hierarchical higher education system with socially differentiated access to higher education overall, and further differentiated access to its upper reaches. Increasingly, the second form of differentiation overshadows the first, so the most important question is not access, but rather, “access to what?”

To what extent is educational inequality causal in itself, or to what extent is it merely a reflection of the larger patterns of inequality? Clearly all these structures and processes are interactive and in some sense mutually constitutive.

It is clear that higher education plays only a minor role in sustaining the position of the mega-rich. Higher education is not the driver of inequality at that level though no doubt the stratification of higher education sector plays into widening gap between upper class and middle class.

Where higher education can have its greatest effect is in increasing opportunities for upward mobility. Upper middle class family domination of prestigious universities limits that prospect. This is a key area in which to concentrate reform efforts. Education is a matter of social relations. We are all affected by the number and value of high quality educational places and by what governs access to those places. We need to assert the role of higher education as a public good and as a response to social and economic inequality, rather than as a mechanism for enhancing inequality, or a dead end with limited capacity to lift the individual and collective position.

We need to build more egalitarian higher education systems with a more broadly distributed capacity to create value. This will strengthen the relation between higher education and social outcomes and opportunities. There needs to be fairer selection into elite institutions, and the elimination of financial barriers to attend those institutions. The middle tier of institutions needs to be built up, though not at the expense of learning and research in the top group. We should flatten status by leveling up, not down.

But the history of the postwar period shows that there are limits to how far we can secure a more egalitarian society through change to higher education alone. In the English-speaking countries, the larger issue is to restore the social compact on taxation, increasing top marginal tax rates, and lifting the taxation of capital to the same level as taxation of income. This can begin to reassert democratic social values and re-strengthen higher education as an alternative to money and inheritance as determinants of social participation, selection, and individual and collective success.

Simon Marginson is Professor of International Higher Education at University College London, and the Director of the UK government-funded ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education. He is Joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal Higher Education.

A personal perspective of contract instructing in Ontario

Contract faculty work in Ontario is unfair, ineffective, and ready for a shakeup.

I am a relative newcomer to contract instructing, having moved to Ontario from Saskatchewan in 2010, for family reasons related to health care for my younger son, who 
is a special-needs child. We moved from Saskatchewan because we were unable to get the health care we needed for him. My wife and I had a unique position at the University of Saskatchewan. We had a job share; she was on the tenure-track in Physics, and I was the teaching sidekick. This suited me, as I came late to university level teaching, working first as a research scientist in universities and then as a scientific computer programmer in the private sector. I did not have the conventional career trajectory of an academic employed in a tenured position at a university. We moved to Ontario without having jobs to move into, but I was fortunate to be able to find work immediately at Carleton University as a laboratory supervisor. I was then offered contract instructor positions, and moved to teaching five one-semester Introductory Physics courses during the course of the year. To put this in perspective, this is the teaching load expected of a full-time Instructor/Lecturer position, as defined in the Carleton faculty collective agreement. It would be extremely difficult to teach more than two of these courses in parallel—the workload would then be 50-60 hours per week. With 
my special-needs childcare commitments, this would be 
impossible. Nor would it be possible for me to take on a tenure-track position. The hours of work typically required to develop, fund, and launch a research program were more than I could actually devote to it. My ambition is more modest: to obtain a full-time instructor position and be able to develop better pedagogy for the teaching of physics at the university level.

So what do I find, as a contract instructor in an Ontario University? The stipends vary enormously, from the low end (Carleton) to the high end (York). Contract instructors at Carleton’s neighbour, the University of Ottawa, have a considerably better funding package and superior benefits. Yet the work is essentially the same, and each university receives a regulated amount of funding from the province, with the rest made up from tuition fees (also regulated) and donations. Given this relatively level financial playing field, the huge disparities in contract faculty pay between the different universities surprised me a lot. I originally hail from the UK, where there are unified national scales negotiated for the various faculty pay grades. Faculty pay in Ontario is highly local, with each institution negotiating directly with its employees. This localization of negotiations heavily favours employers, as it is more difficult for the various disparate labour groups to lobby effectively at much more than the local level. I also note that there are two distinct philosophies of how to position the contract instructors within existing union structures. Around half of contract instructors in Ontario are unionized with the full-time faculty at their university. The other half are often unionized with CUPE and often in bargaining units which also include teaching assistants, research assistants, and other groups of students who are also employed by the university. My personal reflection on this is that having a combined faculty/contract instructor negotiating unit is vastly preferable, as it cuts out a lot of management divide-and-rule tactics, which we at Carleton experience regularly. Many of our proposals for reform are instantly blocked by management using the argument that “that would contravene our agreement with the faculty”.

Virtually all Canadian universities claim to be “research intensive” and are fixed on the ideal model of the professor as both brilliant researcher and brilliant teacher. The snag with this hypothesis is that there is no evidence which suggests a link between performance as a researcher and performance as a teacher. Thus to correctly balance the twin objectives of the university, employing both teaching and research specialists would make more sense. The University of Toronto, for instance—easily described as the leading research institution in the province and in Canada (although UBC and the University of Alberta would no doubt dispute this national title)—does have “teaching stream” faculty. Employing full-time teachers apparently does nothing to deplete U of T’s research prowess. Ironically, most of the opposition to creating dedicated teaching positions comes from tenured faculty. Recalcitrant professors make comments about the “balkanisation of the profession” that will occur if both research and tenure streams are allowed to exist separately. This ignores the reality of what has actually happened over the last twenty years: we don’t have a balkanisation of the profession, we have segregation, or one might almost say, apartheid. On one side we have tenure-track faculty who both research and teach. On the other, the contract instructors, who teach much more, but are not paid to do any research. In some academic disciplines, research on your own time and at your own expense is possible. In the sciences, experimental science is an expensive thing to pursue, and no funding body will commit funds to precarious workers. There is also an enormous disparity in the level of pay of the two groups. The tenured staff are now mostly on the Ontario Sunshine List of those earning more than $100,000 per year. The teaching staff will be lucky to earn $25,000-$35,000 at most universities (York being the most notable exception). Moreover, tenure-track faculty normally enjoy generous benefits, pensions, and strong job security. Contract teaching staff not only do not have stable employment, they also have vastly inferior benefits— if any.

Another striking thing about the universities in Ontario is their almost complete adherence to identical doctrines of management, funding, and interpretation of their core missions. They are not exactly shining examples of debate on, academic discussion about, or experimentation with new models in teaching or finance. The dreary uniformity of the same policy positions is quite astounding. The accepted wisdom among university administrators is that there is a perpetual financial crisis caused by provincial underfunding of education. It is true that the Government of Ontario funds students less than all other provinces on a per-student basis. However the universities have simply shifted their revenue source from government to students in the form of higher tuition fees.1 Many universities have regularly reported financial surpluses (at non-profit organizations, surpluses are akin to profits, with the exception that they must be reinvested in the organization). A financial crisis does not really exist for the universities; the real financial crisis is the cost of education borne by students, and the debt levels they must incur to pay for their studies. Nevertheless, the narrative of institutions in financial crisis appears at every single contract negotiation. It is also notable that while faculty and administrative salaries have been rising at well above the rate of inflation, the contract instructor salaries have been struggling to even keep pace. The “dreary uniformity” of financial discussions at Ontario universities is especially frustrating when we see the administration, faculty, and students at Cape Breton University come together and propose that tuition fees should be abolished. This kind of out-of-the-box thinking is a rarity in our universities.

I also observe that there is an extremely rigid caste system in place in university culture. There are completely separate castes of administrators, permanent faculty, and contract instructors, and the latter group is most definitely the lowest in the pecking order. I personally find it extremely uncomfortable working with many tenured faculty, who although are civil and polite on a fairly superficial level, will, if pressed, always support their own tribe and not look out for the interests of a colleague who happens to be a contract instructor. The fact that we have a significant overlap of duties in teaching, but a massive disparity in terms of status, permanence, and salary does not help. It is sad that departments have no incentive to create permanent instructor positions to carry out teaching. In fact, every incentive at the department level is to maximize the number of research faculty. Departments gain resources by maximizing research output, not by delivering a better educational experience for their students. This makes for an uncomfortable and tense working environment for the contract instructor. In all fairness, many of the tenured faculty probably don’t realize that this is the case, but nevertheless the system as now constituted places a great deal of stress on contract instructors who are de facto full-time employees.

One of my big concerns is that, assuming there is some reform in the future and new permanent positions are opened up, the full-time faculty will insist on having the final say on who is selected, rather than offering these positions to long-serving contract instructors. It is all too easy to imagine this happening, given the apparent fondness of universities to hire from outside their own halls. This type of thinking is very common amongst faculty, and will always be justified by an argument that “it’s for the good of the department,” absolving the decision makers from any responsibility to the excluded persons. Robust negotiations and agreements with—and within—faculty associations will be needed to ensure that this is not the case.

The original purpose of contract instructor positions, intended for graduate students who needed teaching experience, subject experts employed elsewhere, and emergency replacements of faculty due to unforeseen circumstances, has been subverted. Contracts are now being given for essential core courses. It’s fairly obvious that these will not be taught by people such as lawyers, architects, and public servants, who will be at work in their “real” jobs. So this teaching will inevitably be done by faculty or professional university instructors. The fact that the university can simultaneously abuse the contract instructor system to deliver its core mission and claim with a straight face that “nobody should try and piece together a living from these contracts” defies belief. Nevertheless, this is what we have to deal with. We are essential to the running of the institution and provide core services, yet we are paid a 
fraction of what tenured faculty and permanent instructors receive and the employer sees us an easily replaceable interchangeable part to slot into a class schedule where necessary. It is telling that universities are coy about the number of contract teaching staff they employ, and how many courses are taught by contract, rather than permanent, staff. There is really no excuse for not having these figures available, except that no sustained government or public pressure has been placed on institutions to release these data. These figures should be made available, so that students can make informed choices about where to pursue their studies based on the general level of institutional support for undergraduate teaching. This would be very beneficial for both students and contract instructors (and probably rather embarrassing for most university administrations).

So how does this situation impact teaching in Ontario universities? Students do not benefit from large classes, taught by harried and stressed temporary faculty. They may lose contact with instructors who know them well, but are then forced to leave the institution. This denies many students access to good academic references. In some cases, sufficient meeting times, or even meeting spaces, are often not available to meet student needs. I am fortunate to have a shared office, whereas many have no dedicated office space at all. Face-to-face meetings with students are an exceptionally important part of the education process, and the responsibility to provide adequate resources to facilitate direct contact rests squarely with the university administration.

How long this system will remain in place is questionable. The universities have absolutely no incentive to reform themselves. The provincial government, reluctant to hand over more money as operating grants, has also adopted an extremely hands off approach to the general operation of the universities. I have received an official statement from my own Member of the Provincial Parliament, saying that “the universities act as autonomous institutions, and the provincial parliament does not interfere with their labour or hiring policies.” This is all well and good, and nobody would want external political control of individual appointments in the university system. But surely, guidelines or even legislation to force equitable employment practices should carry some weight? After all, the government is one of the major stakeholders and is the largest contributor to the university coffers; it has the influence to be an activist “shareholder.” The other major stakeholders are the students and their parents. This is where I think the pressure for reform will come. They have been paying ever increasing tuition fees, and have not realised until now that an estimated 33 to 
50 per cent of the courses are not being taught by scholars in permanent jobs, but by temporary, precarious workers, employed on much less favourable terms. Class sizes have increased, course options have decreased, and so it is very difficult to argue that the quality of undergraduate teaching during the twenty-first century has maintained standards, let alone improved. At some point, students will start to dig in their collective heels and demand more resources be put into actual undergraduate teaching, rather than research which completely dominates the agenda in the Ontario university system. We can see the beginnings of this in the recent strikes by teaching assistants at York and the University of Toronto. In both cases, the university made frankly ridiculous offers, and were forced to climb down because of action not only of the strikers, but also a significant number of undergraduates who quite clearly realize that their education is being 
compromised. I suspect that this will embolden union 
negotiation teams elsewhere in the province.

To sum up, I am encouraged by the recent signs of activism bringing concrete results into the working conditions and remuneration of precariously employed university employees. However, I am dismayed by the rigid orthodoxy of university management, and the lack of emphasis put on one of the core missions of the Ontario universities—to provide a high quality, affordable undergraduate education. A shakeup is needed, and it may have to be a grass-roots movement, given the inertia of both university administrations and provincial governments. The time for committed activism is upon us. AM

Andrew Robinson teaches physics at Carleton University.

Editor’s Note: Even when net tuition fees (fees minus scholarships and bursaries paid from operating funds) are included, Ontario still is eighth out of ten provinces in terms of operating revenue 
per student.

Zero-hours contracts and precarious academic work in the UK

The University and College Union is fighting back against zero-hour contracts that trap thousands in casualized work.

“Zero-hours contracts mean that you can’t make plans because you don’t want to be ‘unavailable’ when the call comes in. So in the end you are just hanging on, not being able to plan anything for months on end.”

This quote could be from any worker on a zero-hours contract in any sector of the UK economy. As it happens, it’s one of the people delivering frontline teaching in a UK university responding to a survey conducted by the University and College Union (UCU).

In the UK there are tens of thousands of people working on zero-hours contracts with no guarantee of work from semester to semester. Many of them are students, recruited into doctoral programmes by universities hungry for their course fees and then used to teach fee-paying undergraduates. They often work long hours at the expense of their studies and are paid poor hourly rates.

Worse still is the condition of the tens of thousands of lecturers who attempt to piece together a living with zero-hours contracts, often deceptively cloaked with grand sounding titles like ‘Associate Tutor’ or the even more disingenuous ‘Teaching Fellow’.

Beneath these job titles is a reality in which teaching staff are expected to be available to work whenever called on. However, at the same time, the university has no obligation to ensure they have work or, as a consequence, an income.

A UCU report in July 2013 revealed that 53 per cent of UK universities made use of contracts like this to deliver frontline teaching. Many had hundreds of staff on insecure contracts, while some were maintaining reserve armies of precarious workers numbering in the thousands.

For the lecturers themselves the experience is one of constant uncertainty. Unable to know whether they will have ongoing employment, they cannot plan either their careers or, more painfully, their family lives. As another lecturer told us:

“Life on a casualized contract is very uncertain and precarious as one never knows until shortly before the academic year starts what work you are going to be offered, and frequently extra work can then be offered during the year at very short notice. It becomes impossible to plan your life. It is difficult to feel fully integrated into the life of the rest of the academic department because of the temporary nature of the contracts. You feel very much at the mercy of senior administrators who want to cut costs by axing part-time budgets.”

The organization that negotiates with the trade unions on behalf of UK universities on issues like pay and terms and conditions—the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA)—dismisses these concerns as the grumblings of a few disgruntled individuals.

UCEA prefers to quibble with figures and definitions and use the defence favoured by politicians, including the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, which suggests staff appreciate the flexibility these contracts offer.

There are doubtless some people for whom casual work suits their lives, but as every survey indicates, this is a very small minority and universities are hiding behind them to justify the mass casualization of their teaching workforce. The vast majority of people on casualized contracts would gladly trade the flexibility so valued by their employers for the security of predictable employment patterns and a guaranteed income. Like so much that has happened in higher education, this hyper-casualization of the teaching workforce has deep roots in the changing political economy of
the sector. Encouraged and coerced by successive governments pursuing a neoliberal public sector reform agenda, UK universities, especially English universities, have attempted to reconstitute themselves as lean, mean competition machines, pressed out of the standard business mold and geared to the bottom line.

Under the Conservative-led coalition government, this process has been ratcheted up. Since 2010, the English higher education sector has been subjected to a form of shock therapy as the government transformed its financial base almost overnight.

The removal of block grant funding from the state and the introduction of £9,000 a year tuition fees has left universities subject to the uncertainties of a competitive student fee market. Their sensitivity to fluctuations in student demand has of course made universities more committed than ever to their new workforce models: keep a lean core of permanent workers and a big flexible margin of precarious casualized staff, which can expand and contract as required.

The problem is that this comes at a heavy cost. Part of that cost is measured in the unfairness of exploitative casualized contracts. The lives of people on these contracts are characterized by anxiety, stress, and a constant fear that the next assignment will be their last.

University managements have shown themselves remarkably resilient when faced with such arguments. Unfairness and exploitation they can live with; what really bothers them is the damage that casualisation can do to their public reputations.

Partly, that’s about the wider public furore around zero-hours contracts in the UK. Zero-hours contracts have, on the whole, had very bad press in Britain. Along with rising private debt, they’ve come to symbolise the paradoxes in the government’s so-called economic recovery: a recovery of consumer confidence built on private debt and a recovery of employment based on part-time, flexible jobs that has done nothing to repair household incomes.

Official statistics published in the UK in February 2015 revealed that there were at least 1.8 million active contracts that guaranteed no hours and at least 700,000 people who were dependent on zero-hours contracts for their main employment. Britain’s union federation—the TUC—has made zero-hours contracts and casualization a central campaigning issue, reflecting the fact that these contracts are found right across the economy, from the retail, hospitality, and social care sectors, to higher and further education.

The public and political profile of zero-hours contracts became a key issue ahead of the general election on May 7, 2015 and this looks set to endure. The Prime Minister David Cameron found himself in some discomfort in a televised interview recently when asked if he could work on a zero-hours contract. Then-opposition leader Ed Miliband promised security for anyone who works more than 12 weeks on a zero-hours contract in the Labour party’s platform.

All this is very embarrassing for universities who are furiously marketing themselves to potential students as prestigious institutions. They don’t particularly like being named in the same sentence as high street bargain retail stores.

The reputation damage is compounded by the fact that students, who now have to pay £9,000 a year for their education, have high expectations of the education they receive. Organizing teaching through the deployment of casualized labour is a recipe for a chaotic student learning experience.

Lazy management workforce planning leads to classes with no lecturers; staff finding out they are expected to teach unfamiliar course material two weeks before the start of term; and overworked, underpaid lecturers working themselves flat out to try to repair the damage. No matter how committed and excellent they are, teaching staff on zero-hours contracts struggle to make up for the inadequacies of a system built on casualization.

As you’d expect at a time of such huge upheaval, higher education in the UK is a turbulent sector at the moment. Campaigns against various manifestations of the neoliberal offensive have emerged from staff, students, and even from the upper echelons of the university establishment. Not even the rarefied atmosphere of the Oxbridge common room is immune to spasms of revolt.

UCU, which organizes academic and professional support staff in the university and college sector, is at the forefront of many of these campaigns. On casualization, we have used the window provided by the public profile of zero-hours contracts to shine a bright light on the reality of precarious work in our sector.

We are the only organization who has tried to quantify casualization in higher education. We recently mobilized members to lobby their members of parliament in support of proposed legislation that would have placed strict limits on the use of zero-hours contracts. We have taken every opportunity to highlight in the media that casualization is as endemic in higher education as it is in the retail, hospitality, and social care sectors. Effecting longer term political change is dependent on maintaining this pressure and increasing its mass. UCU is in a unique position within the sector of being able to use this campaigning pressure as leverage to effect real change for people on casual contracts now.

As the recognized union for academic and professional support staff for the purposes of collective bargaining, UCU’s job is to maximise this opportunity to turn public pressure into real and meaningful change on the ground through organizing, campaigning and negotiating.

UCU’s national strategy for tackling zero-hours contracts operates at two levels. First, we want to turn up the heat nationally, using it to shape the political debate and change the overall context in which universities operate. We then need to use this context to put pressure on local universities, turning their competitive prestige consciousness to more laudable ends.

The union has identified a series of priority universities where campaigning and negotiating resources will be concentrated. Making progress at these institutions will put more pressure on others to follow suit. We also held a national day of action in November—events aimed at highlighting the issue of zero-hours contracts were held on over 50 campuses. There are signs that the pressure is beginning to work. In late 2013 the University of Edinburgh, which maintained more than 1,200 zero-hours contracts, said it would end that practice and has moved its staff onto contracts that guarantee hours. In December 2014, the University of Glasgow agreed to a new policy that discourages the use of zero-hours and other casual contracts. It has also put all its existing casual contracts under review with the aim of moving staff onto better ones.

With negotiations under way at several other target institutions, the union’s task is twofold. First, we have to export these advances more widely across the sector. Every example shows that there is a better way to organize the higher education workforce if we can change the university’s calculations of cost.

Second, we need to use these advances to widen the issue to capture the broader casualization of academic work of which zero-hours contracts are only the nastiest manifestation. We have to tackle the use of hourly-paid contracts where fractional or variable hours contracts make more sense. We also have to address the insane situation whereby 70 per cent of the UK university sector’s research community is employed on fixed-term contracts.

We have to be realistic. This is hard and often slow work and there is a disconnect between the timescales involved in changing university practices and the career lifetime of many of our university staff. The embedded complacency and neglect of university human resources departments means that thousands of university teachers will pass through the system on casual contracts by the time more fundamental change can be achieved.

It took decades to build the neoliberal university sector and its current human resources practices. It will take decades to unpack it and build something better. Nonetheless, UCU is making a real difference for academic staff in the UK now. Every advance we win not only changes conditions on the ground for our staff in the immediate term, it also helps to erode the claim that there is no alternative and adds force to public arguments for change.

On casualization, as with so much else, there is a better way. We have to build it now.

Jonathan White is a policy officer at the University and College Union and leads the union’s campaigning on casualization.

Organizing against the widening gap in academic job security in Australia

Precarious academic work is an important issue in Australia, and the National Tertiary Education Union is making it a priority.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, teaching at Australian universities has become casualized with tens of thousands of academics employed on an hourly basis for just a few hours a week during a teaching period.

This is having severe consequences for the next generation of academics who are increasingly abandoning any thought of an academic career. The major interaction for many students with the university is through alienated casual tutors and they cannot get support when they need it unless their casual tutor works unpaid hours. University management cynically rely upon the casual academics putting in volunteer hours because of their loyalty to students and the need to secure their next contract.

Precarious employment in Australian higher education is higher than in most other sectors of the economy with four in five new jobs over the last decade being casual or fixed term. Today, only one in two university staff has an ongoing, or permanent, position.

With teaching substantially casualized, those in tenured academic jobs have to take on all the other parts of an academic workload. Casual teaching staff are not paid to undertake writing and reviewing courses, postgraduate supervision, university service, or collegial practices such as peer reviewing, which are all part of the usual role of academics.

Compounding the issue is that research is increasingly being carved off from academic positions with a 50 per cent increase in research-only positions in the last decade. However, these jobs also are increasingly precarious with over 80 per cent of grant funded research positions now fixed term contracts for both academic and
professional staff.

The latest federal department of education higher education staffing data highlights the continuing decline in teaching and research categorised positions, with an almost 35 per cent increase in teaching-only positions. Over 80 per cent of teaching-only staff are casual and the situation continues
to deteriorate. The latest data also show that
the number of casual academics increased
3.4 per cent just between 2012 and 2013.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) represents staff employed in universities and allied institutions. The NTEU is an industry union and includes academic and general staff in ongoing and insecure jobs. The union negotiates collective agreements in all universities and has a track record of keeping salaries internationally competitive and maintaining decent conditions, including pioneering breakthroughs in areas like parental leave and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment targets.

Job security has become a critical priority for the union as higher education jobs have become increasingly precarious, and even those workers in ongoing positions face continual restructuring and redundancies. The workload for remaining ongoing and insecurely employed staff across all university areas continues to escalate as student enrolments increase. Attempts by corporatized university managements to break with collective agreements and isolate the union also continue to escalate.

Late last year the NTEU held a national conference on insecure work with delegates from all universities. While the union has always organized and bargained to contain insecure work and to protect those in such jobs, the problem has blown up in recent years. The conference provided a platform for the union leadership to make a public commitment to prioritize organising around precarious work and with precarious workers. While contract and casual employment is rising across most areas of the university, the priority focus is presently upon academic teaching casual staff and research contract staff.

In 2014, NTEU conducted a survey to investigate how the move to ‘blended’ and online delivery was impacting upon the working conditions of academics employed casually (hourly) at Australian universities.

“I think casual academics are often the “face” of the university’s learning programs, as they are the people having regular communication with students about their learning and providing feedback about assessment tasks. This does not seem to be supported by the working conditions… I am operating in a relatively isolated context, with little contact with an opportunity to learn about the school’s core staff development, discussion or planning. There is no formal process of performance review, so that, as far as I know, there is no documentation that records the quality of my teaching.”

“My contract is a year-by-year proposition, with no security beyond that. If (the) uni is repeatedly hiring someone like me to do the same thing year after year on a series of 1 year contracts, should there be some requirement to offer to make the position permanent after a while?“

These comments are indicative of what we hear from casually employed academics in the survey.

This survey was not a piece of abstract research, but integral to the NTEU’s ongoing campaign to bring justice to the increasing numbers of academics employed by the hour, who are now doing more than half of the teaching in Australian universities. The NTEU’s campaign has had for many years a dedicated website, www.unicasual.org.au, as well as the regular journal Connect.

The findings of the latest survey confirmed those of previous NTEU surveys, were consistent with findings in similar international surveys, and echoed academic research. The findings also support the ground-breaking doctoral thesis of Robyn May (Brown et al, 2010; May 2011, May et al 2013). Dr. May’s thesis overturned the widely held misconception that casual academics only work casually for a short period and are mainly people finishing PhDs or others not seeking an academic career.

Over the past two decades, the profession of the teaching and research academic has gradually been eroded. The old career path of completing a PhD, then moving into an entry level lecturer position, and if all went well, tenure after three years is now only for a privileged few. In the old days, casual lecturing and tutoring was shared by graduate students (who were often also on scholarships), professionals providing specialist input, and some dipping their toe into academia. Most teaching was done by tenure or tenurable academics.

The NTEU won a landmark case two decades ago that restricted the use of contract staff to categories of genuine fixed-term replacement or grant-funded positions. This improved job security for existing academic and general staff, many of whom were converted to ongoing positions. What has changed is that now, despite enormous growth in the university system, new academic jobs are more likely to be casualized, and old jobs when vacated are also replaced with casual staff.

Australia has a public university system, which was always funded significantly by the government, secular, and co-educational. Just over twenty five years ago, the federal government drew together public tertiary education institutions into a unitary system of universities. This opened up opportunities for those staff who had taught in technical and teacher training colleges to pursue more traditional academic careers with time and resources to undertake original research. The NTEU, also the product of the amalgamation of separate unions representing university and college academic staff as well as administrative, technical, and other support employees, fought hard in its early years for a common career structure for academic staff.

Over this period, Australia also moved firmly to a mass higher education system with expansion of university places and campuses, including new opportunities in relatively sparsely populated regions. With, for example, nursing education moving into universities, a university degree was now necessary for professional and sub-professional careers.

To fund the teaching of undergraduate domestic students, universities receive a block grant from the federal government composed of direct government funds plus a component (currently around 40 per cent) funded by students through a deferred loan scheme (called the Higher Education Loan Program or HELP). Students pay back their debt when they reach a certain income level. The fee levels are capped. The current Conservative government is attempting to cut funding and allow universities to charge whatever fees they want. However, fee deregulation legislation has been twice defeated in the national senate.

Government funding is inadequate and universities have compensated by increasing class sizes, casualizing teaching, increasing workloads, and relying upon income from international student fees. Arising out of the recommendations of two independent reviews commissioned by the federal government, the NTEU has been campaigning for several years for a conservative ten per cent increase in the government’s base funding grants to universities.

The Union also calls upon the government to increase public investment in higher education to at least one percent of GDP. At present Australian lags amongst OECD countries in terms of government investment, and is near the top in terms of the level of tuition fees charged.

The post-doctoral students attempting to eke out a living as casual academics are still accumulating debt on their undergraduate loans—as they have not reached an income level to start repaying their debt. The other major route of employment for doctoral
graduates who want to work in academic education and research is to take on fixed- term research positions, which while better paid still leave people with no income security or opportunity to plan ahead. Australian lecturers and researchers have always looked overseas for career advancement, especially to North America and Europe. Now there are opportunities in the rapidly expanding higher education sector in Asia. As a result, Australia does, rather spectacularly for such a rich country, suffer from a brain drain.

The bottom line is that Australian governments—whether Labour or Conservative—are enmeshed in the international neoliberal trend towards cutting government investment in public services and institutions. At the same time, they are increasingly dependent upon universities to educate the tertiary workforce of the future and undertake research critical to national economic growth and social stability.

The NTEU has not allowed university vice-chancellors to get away with wringing their hands over the fate of the next generation of academics, claiming it is out of their control and all the federal government’s fault. University leaders are in thrall to neoliberal management mantras and embrace cost-cutting measures and workforce flexibility. University administrators make choices in their expenditure. Most universities are still accumulating surpluses and a number of vice-chancellors have remuneration packages over $1 million.

When negotiating collective agreements, job security is a key issue. Australia’s internationally competitive salaries and conditions are being eroded due to increased precarious employment. Pursuit of anti-worker and anti-union agendas by successive governments have undermined the efficacy of hard won limits on casual and contract employment. It is increasingly difficult to win conversion clauses and cases. However, the NTEU has succeeded in getting better remuneration and conditions for academic casuals in our agreements. Currently, a case is being developed challenging the basis of work being determined “casual” if it is continuously done in the same way by the same employee.

In the recent round of collective bargaining, the NTEU won around 1000 new academic teaching positions, which will start to provide secure jobs to some casual academics. There was a heated debate within the Union about supporting teaching-focused positions as delegates were reluctant to cede the integrity of the traditional teaching and research academic position. However, with the reality of half of the teaching already being done by teaching-only casual staff, such a position has become untenable.

The job for the Union is to force the employers to create more secure jobs as well as to continuously improve the wages and conditions of casual workers. This has become a discussion point amongst casual academics and NTEU activists. There is concern that putting too much focus on improving casual conditions and remuneration further institutionalises casual employment. The NTEU does not intend to prop up an alternative (and inferior) career track, but casual academics need short-term relief.

Immediate conditions of work mobilize casual academics to start agitating and joining together with the Union. Organizing on the ground wins improvements, and success on one site soon spreads to others. Issues like being paid on time; access to training, to libraries and IT; adequate working space; and payment to attend meetings are all winnable demands that improve the day-to-day conditions of casuals. After some campus-based wins in the previous round of collective bargaining, the NTEU successfully won extra payment for marking across universities, crushing the employers’ argument that this is built into the hourly casual rate. This has forced universities to pay up, although many have tried to get around this by offering to pay for only a proportion of the time marking really takes.

As one respondent explained in the online teaching survey:

“Never enough time allocated. One course – the same assignment went from a 20 minute allocation at complex rates to 10 min at simple rates. Of course expectations about feedback etc. did not change. It doesn’t seem to matter to some coordinators, unfortunately…”

The NTEU is also focusing on publicizing the unpaid and unrecognised, but nonetheless expected extra work of casual academics. Experienced casuals find themselves coordinating and even writing courses and hiring other casuals. And the hourly rate does not change. There is no promotion or merit increments for casual teaching academics
in Australia.

This is a significant difference with fixed-term research contractors where some people are promoted and yet still continuously employed on fixed-term contracts. The university will not offer them an ongoing position even though the research work continues. This can only be about control. Our employers want a frightened and hopefully docile workforce, constantly worried about retaining employment and getting the next contract.

In a NTEU survey on research contract employment in 2014, respondents explained:

“I have signed over 13 yearly contracts and this creates a lot of insecurity for me around contract time as I am the family bread winner. Some colleagues have not had their contracts renewed after over 15 years of service and they receive minimal payout for this (approx. 8 weeks’ pay). Yearly contracts make you very vulnerable to the commitment of your supervisor to like you and bother to find work for you.”

“I have repeatedly been surprised at how few people, including senior management, actually understand what it means to be a research-only staff member at [name of university] and to have to earn your income from external sources. We even have to cover any time spent on university committees and even earn our own holiday pay…”

For the NTEU, insecure work is also an academic freedom issue. Insecure workers are less likely to criticize, do anything adventurous, or tackle controversial issues. Academic casuals usually have no say in what they teach, or how they do so. They cannot follow through on issues like student plagiarism. If they propose setting further work to test underperforming students, they are likely to be told there is no money to pay for it. Academics, tenured or casual, constantly worry about quality and the maintenance of standards.

For fixed-term researchers, the message is that it is better to stick to the safe projects where results are assured, along with, by extension, the next grant. There is a reluctance to speak out and risk being dubbed
a troublemaker as this is likely to mean an end
to employment.

This environment does drive a wedge between insecure and more securely employed academics, as tenured academics are reliant upon the casuals to do the teaching that frees them
up to do the research that advances their careers. One higher education and research commentator provocatively recently wrote in a mainstream daily newspaper:

“There’s a growing divide among university staff between the haves and have-nots. Some academics are just hanging onto to their jobs; others are losing them while some lead a charmed existence”… (Erica Cervini, the Age, November 3, 2014).

Surveys conducted by the National Union of Students repeatedly report that students cannot get the amount of teaching or support they need. In the past, there would be criticism by students of their casual lecturers and tutors. But with the greater knowledge of the circumstances of casual academic staff, students have become much more sympathetic and are developing as important allies. Students joined unionists on picket lines during the last collective bargaining campaigns.

Student organizations are focusing their complaints toward university management and are particularly angry about universities that are increasing class sizes and even cancelling face-to-face classes to further bring down teaching costs. Students recognize that their casual tutors are volunteering much of their labour and yet students are still paying hefty fees.

When the union staff and activists join with casual and contract staff in organizing at a local level, and other union members join in, small changes are won and bigger challenges taken on. This year, increased effort is being made to organize academic casuals in and across their workplaces. Targeted campaigns to organize in research centres are planned. Academic casuals and research contractors (often the same people) are also very active on social media, and are monitoring what is going on in other countries and are encouraged by actions in Canada, the US, and UK.

Australian activists are always looking for more novel ways of making their case, drawing upon examples like the clever “yoga action” of the Sydney University casuals network a few ago where they performed a yoga class in front of the university dignitaries and at a public rally, with renamed positions like “bending over backwards” and “standing in solidarity.”

The NTEU has long recognized that we have a responsibility to organize precariously employed workers in our industry. We must for the good of us all. Two old union adages constantly remind us that “an injury to one is an injury to all” and “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link’.” We expect our public universities to act for the public good. This includes modelling decent work practices. The NTEU intends to make sure universities follow through on their obligations. AM

Jeannie Rea has been the national president of Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) since 2010 and has studied, worked, and agitated in post-secondary education since the halcyon days of the1970s.

From Deference to Defiance: The evolution of Ontario faculty associations

Faculty associations are behaving more and more like unions, transforming labour relations at universities in Ontario.

Faculty associations in this part of the world are a little more than six decades old. Yet we know relatively little about where they came from and how they have evolved. As they become ever more important in the world of postsecondary education, it is useful to look back over the terrain that professors have mapped out as they created and recreated organizations to promote and defend their collective interests.

There is a phrase that often floats over faculty discussions about the latest outrage perpetrated by our senior administrations: we like to refer to “our traditional rights as faculty.” Some time ago, we seem to believe, there was a golden age when faculty collegiality ruled the university and administrators would never dream of acting the way they do now. This may be good political mythology or demonology, useful in our confrontations with our employers, but it is not good history.

To get closer to the way it used to be, we might actually want to talk about the “bad old days.” Until at least the 1960s, university governance was closely controlled by the presidents and the boards of governors. Below them hierarchy, paternalism, and patronage reigned. Senior faculty exercised a great deal of power over decision-making in their departments and faculties, and junior faculty dared not open their mouths. Hiring flowed through old-boys’ networks, as people recruited in the late 1960s and early 1970s will readily admit. Disruptive or controversial faculty could be privately punished, quietly squeezed out, or, on rare occasions, more publicly dismissed, as Harry Crowe was at United College in Winnipeg in 1958. Professors were overwhelmingly white, Anglo-Canadian, and male. The few women who found their way into academic jobs were paid less than their male counterparts and were marginalized. There were virtually no visible minorities. Assumption University in Windsor recruited the country’s first African-Canadian professor in 1959 when it hired biologist Howard McCurdy. This was not an environment conducive to negotiation between faculty members and administrations, let alone for professors and their associations to confront their administrators directly.

Issues were nonetheless percolating away. The most pressing was professors’ growing concern about their general social status, much like many other public-sector employees in the postwar period. In essence, their rallying cry was relative deprivation (although they probably never used the term). They believed that their salaries and benefits were falling behind comparable groups in Canadian society. The new Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), founded in 1951, helped to substantiate these concerns by disseminating information on faculty salaries and salaries in comparable professions across the country.

There was also growing interest in consolidating more faculty control over the professional standards of academia. As part of the intensification of professionalism within individual disciplines, professors set out slowly and cautiously to consolidate the right to control their own curriculum, to train the practitioners of their discipline in graduate programs, to make their own decisions about recruiting new faculty, and, probably most importantly, to have their right to tenure and the processes for granting it respected. These became new privileges and prerogatives, not age-old traditions. The Harry Crowe case, however, revealed how fragile these new rights were, and how much lingered on from an earlier era. Crowe, a history professor, was fired after the administration deemed him at odds with the supposed purpose of the college and disloyal to the administration, accusations based on improperly obtained private correspondence.

So, in the 1950s, haltingly, cautiously, professors began to form faculty associations that could defend their status in the university and the wider society—McMaster in 1951, Toronto in 1954, Western in 1955, Waterloo and Ottawa in 1957, Waterloo Lutheran (later Wilfrid Laurier) in 1958, and so on. These were anything but militant unions. They steered clear of the larger labour movement and never darkened the door of the Labour Relations Board to be legally certified as bargaining agents. Instead, they engaged in what some association leaders would later refer to as “collective supplication,” which meant informal practices of consultation with senior administrators, hoping that their request for higher salaries or better pensions would be received positively and passed on to the board of governors for ratification. The associations were generally controlled by senior faculty, and operated on the assumption of unity of interest between faculty and administration. They were nonetheless often ignored by paternalistic university presidents.

In the wake of the Harry Crowe case, there was a new interest in academic freedom. At the University of Toronto, for example, the faculty association’s pressure led to the creation of a committee in the mid-1960s to reform tenure and promotion procedures and appointment processes for chairs, deans, and directors. As the CAUT pursued more cases of discrimination in tenure and promotion procedures across the country, faculty associations turned new energy towards reforming university governance. There was much talk about having faculty on boards of governors, but that faced steady resistance from the businessmen who controlled the boards. In practice, reform meant strengthening the central institutions of collegiality, faculty councils, and senates.

Everything about this polite, relatively informal kind of relationship was disrupted after 1965 by five convergent forces of social, economic, and political change:

  • the reshaping of government policy toward postsecondary education that put more emphasis on closer integration with the labour market;
  • the consequent emergence of the mass university with thousands more students, many of whom began to demand a change in their status within the education system;
  • the secularization of older religiously-based institutions and the creation of several new universities without longstanding academic traditions;
  • the recruitment of hundreds of young, newly minted professors, many of them from the United States, at least some of them touched by the new youth rebellion that was exploding throughout the western world, and more than a few bringing experience with faculty unions in the US;
  • and finally, the concomitant growth of university bureaucracy to handle the transformed university in new ways that paid less respect to the fragile, relatively new processes of collegiality.

In this context, faculty began to feel buffeted and vulnerable, especially as the expansionary government plans of the 1960s contracted into the budget-cutting and soaring retail price inflation of the 1970s. After doing reasonably well in the boom years of growth, professors were once again worried about their economic status. Their associations’ annual treks of “collective supplication” to the university president were not paying off. Moreover, as postsecondary funding shrank, there were even threats of layoffs. That was what motivated my predecessors at York to create a faculty association in 1976. So, faculty associations became more aggressive in the 1970s in raising important issues about the terms of professorial employment, especially salaries and pensions.

Money wasn’t the only issue. Faculty associations were also concerned about the vulnerability of the professional practices that they had been struggling to nail down through the 1950s and 1960s. Administrative bureaucracies mushroomed along with the expansion of enrolments, and new managerial practices threatened to diminish professors’ collegial practices. As the former president of the Carleton University Academic Staff Association argued, “It is this feeling of powerlessness, the perception that Senate was being reduced to symbolic and often manipulated legitimizers, and the belief that professors must retain a real role in institutional decision making, which has convinced many professors to accept collective bargaining.” As Norman Rosenblood, president of the McMaster University Faculty Association in 1971-72, later recalled, “It appeared that the concept [of ‘collegiality’] was perpetually on the brink of disappearing or at least being ignored by the administration and that the faculty association was the only force that prevented its demise.”

In this context, a deeply divisive debate unfolded on many campuses in the 1970s over whether to turn faculty associations into full-fledged unions, legally certified to engage in formal collective bargaining. The proponents of this decisive shift argued that university administrations would only listen to the concerns of professors and librarians once they were compelled to negotiate in good faith. The opponents were adamant that unionization was alien to university life, that as professionals professors had nothing in common with the blue-collar workers who had traditionally formed the Canadian labour movement, nor with the many public-sector workers who were flooding into unions in the 1960s and 1970s such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Public Servants Employees Union.

In fairness, there was more than class snobbery involved in the resistance to unionization—there was a genuine concern that formal collective-bargaining processes would diminish the status of the professoriate to mere employees who had ceded management rights to the university administration. They clung to a belief that professors had a right and an obligation to be centrally involved in running the university, and should not have that status demeaned. In the words of the McMaster Faculty Association President in 1984, “the University is its faculty,” a sentiment expressed many times elsewhere as well. Perhaps some of them were aware that the US Supreme Court had ruled in a precedent-setting case in 1980 that the professors of Yeshiva University could not unionize because they were part of management. Their opponents, of course, saw this position as naiveté that failed to recognize the fragile status of professorial autonomy and the profound changes that were sweeping through the university system. Their status as professionals had always been vulnerable, and in practice, the terms of their employment had been at the whim of senior administrators for decades.

This was a debate that echoed through other groups of salaried professionals, notably teachers and nurses, who used their associations (in the case of the nurses, a brand new Ontario Nurses Association) to engage in much more militant actions. The nurses were barred by law from striking, but the teachers undertook some high profile work stoppages that shut down schools in whole cities in the 1970s. They nonetheless felt uncomfortable identifying themselves with the older image of the male blue-collar unionist, and for many years kept their distance from the rest of the labour movement.

Teachers and nurses made decisions to build organizations that included all their fellow workers across the province, but faculty associations remained creatures of individual campuses. Despite their affiliation with CAUT and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), they decided on the nature of their organizations locally (note that here, unlike in the US, teachers’ unions did not try to organize university faculty). As a result, the decisions about whether to make the important step to get certified as a union proceeded unevenly, and created a patchwork of certified and uncertified associations. After forming its first Collective Bargaining Committee in 1971, CAUT became an important resource for associations considering certification. OCUFA helped too. The first associations to get certified in Ontario were Carleton and Ottawa in 1975, then York in 1976. Within four years, Windsor, Laurentian, Lakehead, and Trent had taken the same step. Not surprisingly, these were some of the hardest hit in the funding crunch of the 1970s. By 1980, 30 per cent of Ontario faculty were represented by certified collective-bargaining agents. Even more shocking were the first faculty strikes, notably for six days at Windsor in 1982.

The option of becoming a certified union proved unpopular on several campuses, however, especially at the older universities. An alternative form of voluntary collective bargaining was slowly worked out at most of these places. At the University of Toronto a painfully slow process of bringing the senior administration to the table to sign a formal Memorandum of Agreement evolved over the 1970s until a regular set of practices, including grievance procedures and a mediator/arbitrator during negotiations, was finally in place by 1977. It took McMaster almost another decade to reach a similar point.

So, beginning in the 1970s, and more aggressively In the 1980s and 1990s, Ontario professors insisted that a host of issues, formerly dealt with informally and often arbitrarily, become subject to some kind of formal negotiating procedures, albeit diverse and specific to each campus. But, despite the involvement of many lefties in the unionization efforts, Ontario’s faculty had not made a great leap into more radical, class-based confrontation. They were instead trying to use their faculty associations to shore up their sense of professional entitlement—to good salaries and collegial self-governance. What was happening was a collision of proud academic traditions and growing fears of proletarianization, a result of changing relationships between faculty and the institutions within which they worked, but also with provincial governments, who set so many parameters for what happened in public universities. Unionization was usually triggered by some sense of crisis and a spirit of indignation.

Within these new frameworks, faculty members used the bargaining mechanisms that their associations, certified or not, had worked out to push important new issues, including better pension and benefit plans, but also, more notably, equity. For the first time, there were serious efforts to confront the systematic discrimination against female professors in hiring, salaries, and promotion. Sexual harassment, affirmative-action hiring, and employment equity found their way onto negotiating tables.

The bargaining agenda began to get more defensive in the 1990s as provincial governments began to turn down the screws. In 1993, Bob Rae’s NDP government imposed the third set of legislated wage controls on the public sector in twenty years. Even more menacing was the budget-slashing of Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservative government that began two years later. The process went deeper than the miserliness of particular politicians. The university was being
reconfigured within the larger ideological onslaught that has become known as neoliberalism.

For senior university administrators in Ontario, those pressures accelerated a trend towards a new managerialism that was more centralized and increasingly modelled on private- sector practices. Their vocabulary began to ripple with terms like “productivity,” “input and output,” “flexibility,” “accountability,” and, my personal favourite, “measurable deliverables.” All of these terms became a cover for closer scrutiny and micro-management from deans and vice-presidents; more demands for bureaucratic reporting; and more administrative interventions in hiring processes or tenure and promotion procedures. Processing ever larger numbers of students through bigger and bigger classes became a priority. Research won respect only if it brought in big research dollars. Links to the corporate sector multiplied in various kinds of funding partnerships. The administrative portion of university budgets mushroomed, as more middle and upper-level managers and their support staff, often with little or no work experience in universities, proliferated.

Administrators also began to restructure academic labour markets. As a result, faculty associations have found the turf over which they are bargaining constantly being more tightly circumscribed and diminished. More and more of the teaching is thus now done by faculty on part-time contracts, who are typically recent graduates of PhD programs, and who in many cases belong to different unions. Among the so-called full-time faculty, contractually limited appointments have also proliferated. Within the ranks of tenure-stream faculty, the longstanding assumption that teaching and research are closely related is being pulled apart by the appointment of a growing contingent of faculty to teaching-only streams. These individuals teach considerably more than their colleagues and are assessed only on their teaching (and perhaps service), but not their scholarly output. In fact, what has emerged is a much more complex hierarchy of academic teaching positions, far more of them insecure and precarious. Currently, there is more pressure to put courses online, where it appears they will be handled on a long-term basis by part-time or contract faculty. Casualization obviously cuts into good,
well-paying jobs, but it also threatens tenure and the academic freedom that it was intended to protect. Precariously employed instructors are more vulnerable and have little recourse to the processes that full-timers have to buttress their rights.

By the turn of the millennium, the work world of university professors was thus being profoundly shaken up. Three new trends in faculty responses to this new working environment had become evident. The first was the growing number of faculty associations that turned themselves into full-fledged unions. Jaws dropped when Queen’s got certified in 1996 and Western two years later. The voluntarism of the so-called Toronto model had rapidly lost its appeal. Across Canada, half the university faculty were unionized in 1998; ten years later the proportion was around 80 per cent (the public sector in general was around 70 per cent and the private sector at about 17 per cent). As university senates got weaker and thus became less reliable defenders of faculty rights, the collective agreements that faculty associations negotiated became the new bulwark of collegiality and academic freedom, with clauses guaranteeing fair tenure and promotion practices and sometimes specifying faculty rights in the process of appointing senior administrators.

Second, many faculty associations began acting more like traditional unions. Probably most dramatically, professors found themselves on picket lines much more often. Faculty strikes had been unheard of until the 1980s, but have since become more common. There would have been many more but for eleventh-hour settlements, as associations were preparing to throw up picket lines around campuses the next morning. Early in the 2000s, several Ontario faculty associations also took the opportunity to affiliate with NUCAUT, the arm of CAUT that joined the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), and thus association representatives began attending conventions of the CLC and Ontario Federation of Labour, as well as monthly meetings of their local labour councils. A different kind of collective identity began to emerge from all these developments—a sense of connectedness as academic employees, but a distinct separation and distance from and distrust of administrators, in marked contrast with the pre-1970s years.

That new consciousness connected with a third development. Elsewhere on Ontario university campuses, other groups of workers were unionizing and occasionally striking: secretaries, groundskeepers, plumbers, library technicians, and, probably most emphatically, teaching assistants—the future faculty members. Faculty associations now had to situate their own work and their agendas within this larger framework of academic collective bargaining. There were agonizing debates about honouring the picket lines of other unions versus continuing to meet students. Many faculty members nonetheless joined the lines of other workers on their campuses. At York in 2000-01, most professors refused to cross the picket lines of CUPE 3903, the union representing teaching assistants, graduate assistants, and contract faculty, even though the strike lasted nearly three months. Faculty associations are now far more likely to express solidarity with workers in other occupational groups than they were twenty or thirty years ago.

Together, universities have become among the most unionized workplaces in Canada. This reality has exposed campus unions to both new opportunities and a new vulnerability. The collapse of so much of the country’s industrial sector, and the declining membership of the unions in that sector, has shifted the composition of the Canadian labour movement. Public-sector workers now make up a majority of union members in Canada, and, for the first time ever, women form a slight majority. The problem is that public discourse in a neoliberal Canada is now turning on the alleged “fat cats” of the unionized public sector, with salaries, benefit packages, and pension plans far better than the large numbers of unorganized workers in the private sector.

In closing, let me play labour historian. In so many ways, the unionization of the professoriate was akin to the response of 19th and early-20th century craft workers whose manual skills appeared to be threatened by the first wave of capitalist industrialization. The comparison suggests two lessons that emerge from the distinct but still similar histories of professors and craft workers. When machinists looked around at the giant factories of the early 20th century, they saw a second industrial revolution under way—scientific management, assembly lines, and so on—and found their established workplace practices under attack. In that context, they tried to defend what skill they still exercised and spoke eloquently about the value of their craftsmanship. They also reached out to organize the less skilled workers working alongside them known as specialists or handymen and brought them into their union. They also saw that there was a unity of interest in the metal-working factories that required cooperation with the moulders, patternmakers, blacksmiths, stationary engineers, and so on, and created Metal Trades Councils to bring them all together in an organizational federation. The famous Winnipeg General Strike started because Winnipeg metal shop owners refused to deal with the local Metal Trades Council as the bargaining agent for all metal workers. Today, unity across occupational groups within our academic workplaces will also be just as important. We should be sitting at common bargaining tables with other unions on our campuses as often as possible, on a wide range of issues.

Secondly, machinists also recognized that there were government policies that needed to change, and worked within the broader labour movement and with other allies on campaigns for mothers’ allowances, minimum wages, and the eight-hour work day. Faculty associations today have to be prepared to participate actively in the local, provincial, and national labour movements to support campaigns for social justice and to build alliances for future battles.

Our challenge then is to find a way to hold onto what we value in academic freedom and collegiality without retreating into an elitist defence of our own narrowly circumscribed interests. There is too much at stake, and the destructive forces of neoliberalism are all around us. From what I’ve seen in recent years in my own association and in meetings with people from other institutions, there are a lot of academic workers out there who are already committed to this task, and the battles are already raging around us. AM

Craig Heron is Professor of History at York University.

Author’s Note: In preparing this paper, I have leaned in particular on William H. Nelson, The Search for Faculty Power: The History of the University of Toronto Faculty Association, 1942-1992 (Toronto: University of Toronto Faculty Association and Canadian Scholars’ Press 1993); B.W. Jackson, MUFA’s First 50 Years: The Presidents Reminisce (Hamilton: McMaster University Faculty Association 2001); Michael Horn, Academic Freedom in Canada: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1999); Paul Axelrod, Scholars and Dollars: Politics, Economics, and the Universities of Ontario, 1945-1980 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1982); Judith Wagner DeCew, Unionization and the Academy: Visions and Realities (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers 2003).

The political challenge of academic commitment

As we approach this year’s federal election, professors and academic librarians have a responsibility to speak out.

Academic life and politics don’t always mix. There may be times when we can just keep our heads down, teach our courses, conduct our research, and attend committee meetings with little thought to spare for policy decisions being made off-campus. But not always, and never for very long. Academic life is in many ways inherently political, and a commitment to the integrity of higher education obliges us to act accordingly.

Like it or not, political decisions impact us all. And in 2015, as we head towards a federal election, we are faced with an especially stark set of political realities. After years of ideologically-driven cuts to university and college funding, along with all the gradual yet unmistakable harm to academic missions that we have seen trailing in their wake, it is time to take a stand and demand better. For our profession, for our students, and for the sake of society as a whole, Canadian academic workers need to loudly, and repeatedly, remind candidates from all political parties that postsecondary education (PSE) is an essential public asset, and one that is currently in dire need of more principled public support.

Few would deny the importance of education in modern society. An educated, well-trained and versatile workforce is obviously beneficial to overall economic health, and we depend on such a workforce if we are to confront both immediate and future challenges: from social problems to environmental degradation, international conflict and technological advancement, to name just a few. Ensuring the integrity of a strong PSE system that is fully accessible for qualified and interested students is in our long-term common interest. It is not simply a matter for private investment, nor should it be pursued for the sake of enjoying private returns.

Failure to fully grasp this reality has allowed many of our political leaders to assume that government can, and indeed should, increasingly divest itself of responsibility for PSE funding at both the provincial and federal levels. Calls for ever-deeper tax cuts, accompanied by the ubiquitous mantra of “austerity”, provide further reasons for such divestment. And as government funding dries up, our institutions have come to rely more and more on private sources of revenue: chiefly tuition fees paid by individual students, but also in the form of corporate investment and sponsorships. This has resulted in a mounting crisis of student debt, with economic implications that may not be fully understood for generations to come. It also has serious political consequences for the sort of work that academic workers are expected to do, and the ways in which we are expected to do it.

Teaching and research for the public good, in a publicly-funded system, is a vocation. It differs fundamentally from being contracted to provide educational and/or research services, on a for-profit basis, to paying clients. Yet increasingly we too are expected to pander to the market by competing for raw student enrollment numbers, or by ensuring that our research is profitable to a corporate partner. We have made a political choice if we continue to permit the encroachment of this notion that PSE is essentially a private commodity. And we make a political choice when we choose to register our disagreement with it.

Education in the public interest

Political assumptions that undermine the public character and utility of our colleges and universities must be questioned, resisted, and reversed if we are to defend and improve a PSE system that has already benefited so many of us. Students of the 21st century will continue to need committed and properly resourced educators who can help guide and form their intellectual development—perhaps more than ever before—if they are to navigate the complexities of modern life. We owe it not only to them, but to ourselves and our neighbours, to ensure that they can do so effectively.

Academia is never simply a producer of commodities, and attempts to apply business or industrial models to PSE generally fall flat. Truly formative education cannot be reduced to the mere purchase of data and technical skills from privatized knowledge providers, and the more it is allowed to drift in that direction the more we all lose out. Anyone who expects education to be carried out on a rationalized “just-in-time” basis, for example by eking out maximum “productivity” from technology-based mass delivery systems or through the exploitation of a precarious and casualized labour force, clearly does not understand the true value of PSE or its underlying purposes.

Sustained public investment is therefore crucial to the maintenance of a healthy PSE sector. Students require and deserve mentorship from professors and other academic workers who have the time and institutional support to facilitate meaningful intellectual discovery, as opposed to proscriptive rote learning. Truly unfettered academic freedom is essential to achieve this mandate, as is stable employment, and the ability to develop one’s scholarly interests. And these essential conditions cannot be provided on a system-wide basis without decent levels of reliable core funding.

PSE funding is for the most part a provincial responsibility, but the federal government has an important role to play. CAUT and others have long called for a Post-Secondary Education Act, modelled on the Canada Health Act, which would ensure that predictable levels of provincial funding are made available to public universities and colleges across the country. It is time for this initiative to move forward. Politicians need to realize that education is not something we can afford to treat as an afterthought; it is an ongoing, permanent commitment that Canadians have a right to expect from their governments.

Demanding such a funding commitment is a crucial first step. But it is not just a matter of asking for money. More importantly, the demand is based upon a principle: that PSE is a publicly funded undertaking, and that it is to be managed and directed accordingly—with respect for the rights, the working conditions, and the intellectual integrity of all participants.

Research in the public interest

The federal government also has a role in ensuring that the research side of academic life is properly funded and sustained. Research is essential to the public nature of PSE, both in terms of the benefits derived by the community at large from the sharing of new developments in knowledge and practice, and in the opportunities it affords for the training of future researchers. Here too we see the negative impact of corporatization and privatization. The public interest, and in some cases public safety, can be seriously endangered when choices regarding research topics, research practices, or the interpretation and publication of results are not controlled by expert scholars whose primary motivation is intellectual curiosity as opposed to financial gain.

There is a place for business-led research in our economy, but it would be poor science policy to leave our national research agenda entirely in the hands of corporate leaders whose first concern is to ensure profit for shareholders, rather than to consider the long-term interests of all citizens. It is therefore a matter of national importance that governments be consistently reminded of their duty to ensure that a vibrant research culture continues to flourish at the heart of our publicly funded PSE system.

New policies are urgently required to increase the funding of basic academic research in Canada. Since the Harper government took power in 2006, there has been a net reduction to base funding for every one of the federal tri-council granting agencies: a loss of 10.5 per cent for SSHRC alone in real dollar amounts, and six per cent overall. This is simply unconscionable in the modern context, where research and development are key to societal well-being. Funding shortfalls also have a serious impact on individual academic workers’ ability to do their jobs: success rates for major SSHRC grants fell from 40 per cent in 2006 to 21 per cent in 2013, for example, while those funded through CIHR fell from 31 per cent to only 13 per cent over an even shorter period.

Worse still, federal monies made available for research are increasingly directed by government toward pre-selected priority areas such as energy extraction, which are expected to yield profits for industry partners—rather than being awarded through open, peer-driven and expert evaluation of overall intellectual merit. Basic curiosity and discovery-driven research lose out in this process. Yet it is precisely this sort of research that underlies all but the most short-
term developments. No government has ever been able to successfully direct its scientists to solve problems of fundamental importance and complexity without supporting a solid and constantly evolving base of knowledge for those scientists to build on.

CAUT has dedicated much effort over the last few years to generating conversations around Canadian science and research policy with its Get Science Right campaign. We have consistently heard from the scientific research community that current government attitudes toward science desperately need a major overhaul. Not only is the quantity of scientific funding in danger federally, and not only is it being increasingly directed to serve private rather than public ends, but there has also been a worrying tendency in recent years for the federal government to seek control over scientific discourse. In the social sciences the elimination of a national long-form census, combined with major cuts to Statistics Canada, have dramatically reduced the types of questions academic researchers are able to ask about socio-economic issues. There have also been well-publicized instances of federal government communication policies being used to muzzle and silence public scientists, including those employed by the National Research Council (NRC), Environment Canada, or Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose contribution to scientific discourse is needed more than ever.

One of the most crucial functions of a publicly funded academic community is to carry out unbiased and non-partisan research without fear of reprisal, and to freely publish the results. Science policy should never be informed more by ideology than by sound expert advice, yet since the removal of the National Science Advisor in 2008, Canadian parliamentarians have lacked the benefit of an authoritative independent voice on the subject. CAUT supports the creation of a new Parliamentary Science Officer, who could provide expert advice and analysis on the adequacy and effectiveness of the nation’s scientific policies, priorities, and funding. Again, the point is that publicly funded scientific research, like PSE as a whole, should be managed in the interests of all Canadians. It is a public trust, and should not be owned or directed by any particular investor or political party.

Education and research are spheres of government policy that most directly impact us as academic workers. But they are by no means the ends of the story when it comes to our political commitment—not just as ordinary citizens, but also as citizens who care passionately about the integrity of our PSE system. For even if we manage to ensure a greater degree of political sensitivity to the immediate need for increased public funding of teaching and research, the well-being of our families, neighbours, and friends must also be taken into account. Without adequate childcare, our colleagues and students struggle to participate fully in academic life—or give up it entirely. And without decent, stable employment that pays a living wage, too many otherwise promising Canadians will continue to find themselves unable to ever attend a university or college. The overall shift in our economy toward precarious, underpaid employment, accompanied by attacks on Employment Insurance and labour rights, should give us all pause not just as academics, but as members of our communities.

Politicians need to be held to account for the decisions they make, and the policy directions they decide to follow. For too long now, too many politicians have been making wrong turns when it comes to support for postsecondary education, public science, and general social well being. It is incumbent on us, as academic workers, to let them know that we expect better; that Canadians deserve better. As Canadians prepare to vote this fall, we have a unique opportunity to intervene in the public dialogue around higher education in our country. If we don’t speak out—who will? AM

Robin Vose is the President of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

More Than A Bargaining Unit: York University Faculty Association’s commitment to social unionism

A look inside YUFA’s innovative community projects committee

Every month two dollars comes off the payslips of York University’s 1,500 professors, librarians, and postdoctoral visitors, a deduction that most members don’t even notice. Listed between union dues and pension plan contributions, it is just one of the many such items that appear on our monthly statements. But it is a deduction that does a lot. The two dollars is directed toward the York University Faculty Association’s Community Projects committee, or YUFA-CP for short. Guided by a commitment to social justice and social unionism, the committee’s purpose is to advocate for a broader political agenda that is responsive to the needs of the community in which the university is located. Referred to as Jane/Finch, it is usually stigmatized as a neighbourhood of guns, gangs, and high levels of poverty. And, indeed, it contains all of these conditions. But it is also—and more saliently—one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Toronto, and one marked by a deep commitment to activism and social justice.


YUFA’s interest in community engagement dates back to the late 1990s, when cuts to public education associated with Premier Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution” were darkening the horizon of low-income communities across Ontario. It was at that time that our association, acting on a long-standing commitment to social justice, began supporting a number of community-university projects (academic enrichment, adult and community education, advocacy research, and other similar initiatives). But it was not until a meeting in 2002—billed as a “Local Hearing on Education”—that the idea of pursuing this interest locally, and especially in connection with the neighbouring Jane/Finch community, occurred to us.

The meeting was part of a series of open forums on the future of postsecondary education organized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) on university campuses across the country. YUFA, in seizing this opportunity to initiate a dialogue on issues of access and equality in education, insisted that the hearing take place off campus at a local community centre, and was rewarded when more than 100 people, most of them Jane/Finch residents, showed up.

What ensued was a meeting that was lively and at times disturbing –especially in light of what it revealed about the uneasy relationship between Jane/Finch and York. Indeed, the university was roundly castigated as an “absentee resident,” one that regarded the community “as a guinea pig to be talked about and discussed in classrooms.” Serious concerns were likewise raised about the increasing inaccessibility of postsecondary education. Funding cuts to public education, it was bitterly noted, were making it more difficult for local students to transition to university or college, or even to complete their high school degrees. As the meeting drew to a close, support for a grassroots collaboration between the union and the community emerged. It was the kind of collaboration that promised not only to address these issues head on, but also to do so in ways that could redefine the relationship between the community and the university.

Identifying community goals and perspectives, and establishing YUFA’s credibility as a communal resource, thus emerged as central to the creation of the partnership we had in mind. It was a slow process—the union needed to gain trust in the community as both an advocate and a resource. In fact, it was only in 2004, after two years of discussion with community groups, that we felt confident enough in the objectives of our joint project to ask for approval of the YUFA Community Projects Committee at our annual general meeting.

In its current form, YUFA-CP, a standing committee of the executive, is funded entirely by the association, which pays for half-course releases for the committee’s co-chairs and likewise for some administrative support. The money that goes to advance its projects comes from both YUFA core funding and from the two-dollar special levy. First approved by a membership vote in 2009, this levy has been reconfirmed annually ever since.


The YUFA-CP committee meets regularly to review ongoing projects and to consider new initiatives. Broadly speaking, its projects fall under three separate mandates, which are described in detail below. Suffice it to say here that YUFA-CP is distinct in its emphasis on a democratic model of engagement in both process and practice. In carrying out our mandates, we collaborate with community networks on local strategies to strengthen neighbourhoods as well as on broader efforts for systemic social change. This has required forging partnerships with groups and agencies both internal and external to York.

Reducing educational barriers

The committee’s first mandate is to support place-based programs that increase the participation of underrepresented populations in postsecondary education. Some of these initiatives, which also promote leadership and civic engagement, bring the community to York; others take York into the community. Campus-based projects are designed to expand learning opportunities and increase exposure and access to post-secondary education.

Among the initiatives that fall under this mandate are Readers to Leaders, a literacy enrichment and leadership program for students in Grades 9 and 10 and the Advanced Credit Experience (ACE). ACE was developed jointly with the Toronto District School Board and York’s Faculty of Education. It brings Jane/Finch students to York campus, where they are enrolled in a university course and also register in a co-op program. The goal is to increase the participation rate of Jane/Finch students who might not otherwise consider attending university.

Perhaps the two most formidable examples of YUFA’s commitment to social unionism is our role in creating the Transition Year Program (TYP) and Success Beyond Limits (SBL). Established in 2010, TYP (http://transitionyear.info.yorku.ca/) provides special access to postsecondary education for youth and adults who, due to various barriers, lack the formal credentials to qualify for admission. Every year TYP helps about 40 individuals find pathways to college or university. Roughly half attend York University as full-time students in the Transition Year Program, while the others are directed to college programs or to university bridging programs. In the spring of 2016, members of the first graduating class of TYP will complete their undergraduate degrees.

As for Success Beyond Limits (http://www.successbl.com/), YUFA-CP has supported its evolution from a Grade 8 transition initiative that was piloted in 2006 into a community-based, holistic program that aims to reduce the impact of systemic barriers to educational achievement. It aims to expand opportunities and “support youth in Jane/Finch along their individual paths to success.” In addition to a six-week summer program on the York campus and an on-site youth space at local high school Westview Centennial during the academic year, SBL has developed several highly acclaimed initiatives that provide mentoring, employment, and leadership opportunities for youth in Jane/Finch.

YUFA-CP continues to work closely with SBL. Recently we have provided funding for in-school and community activities, including the expansion of after school programming from Westview Centennial to Emery Collegiate, another area school. We also funded a TEDx event for youth in Jane/Finch, and are supporting their 2015 summer credit and mentorship program at York University. Support of SBL is critical in a time of cutbacks to education and in situations where financial support increasingly requires measurable indicators of success. With fewer strings attached, YUFA-CP’s funding
provides a certain degree of continuity.

Outreach and political action

Our second mandate is to create alliances on social justice issues. Hence our organization of and participation in an array of initiatives that brings York faculty and students into the community as part of a broader support network (community meetings, town hall forums, neighbourhood advocacy, educational workshops, etc.).

In this connection, one of YUFA-CP’s strongest allies is Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP), a group that emerged in 2008 amidst a demonstration in support of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. With more than 150 community residents participating in this inaugural event, JFAPP has developed into a locally led, grassroots coalition of community residents, activists, and organizations working to eliminate poverty and oppression in their own community and beyond.

Over the past three years, YUFA-CP has supported JFAAP’s mobilization around a number of campaigns, including: Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020, Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Mayworks at the Yorkwoods Library Theatre, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and the panel on the Community Assessment of Police Practices in Jane/Finch.

The YUFA-CP co-chairs have been participants in JFAAP’s bimonthly meetings and strategic planning sessions. JFAAP, for its part, has made presentations on community issues to the YUFA membership, participated in Pushing Forward, a YUFA-CP symposium on austerity, and, most recently, joined picket lines on campus in support of CUPE 3903 strikers. Indeed, it is not too much to say that working with JFAAP has been the key factor in developing our relationship with the community.

Advocacy & research

Our third mandate is to facilitate collaborative research that enhances the effectiveness of YUFA-CP community partnerships. As part of our work in this area, the committee assembled a team of graduate students to carry out focus group and individual interviews for an evaluation of Success Beyond Limits—an evaluation undertaken at the behest of the executive of that organization. In a similar vein, the committee is currently supporting a focus-group study entitled Fortress York?: The Impact of Racial Bias and Neighbourhood Stigma on Educational Experiences & Outcomes. Here the point is to assess the impacts of neighbourhood stigma on those York undergraduates who come from Jane/Finch.

Finally, we do well to mention one of our specific efforts to report on research that was carried out with our community partners. In this instance, YUFA-CP members joined with Success Beyond Limits to organize a panel discussion, Decolonizing and Re-inhabiting Places of Learning in Toronto’s Jane/Finch Community. This session, with its SBL student and staff participants, fulfilled all of our ambitions. It certainly facilitated a lively discussion of the strengths and challenges of place-based community engagement models of urban education.

Much to our dismay, however, we discovered that our non-academic collaborators were expected to pay full conference and association fees for their involvement in this single event, a prohibitive $400 per participant. For many, the choice was not to attend, or else not register and sneak in. These limited options—which, we feel, clearly delegitimizes our community partners’ right to participate in research as active agents—needs to be changed. And they need to be changed especially in light of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) commitment to what it calls “community engagement.” Hence our current lobbying efforts to create a registration category—Community Partner—that waives the SSHRC fee for single-day or single-panel participation.


In the October 2014 issue of Academic Matters, Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage make a case for faculty associations to act beyond the bargaining and representational needs of their membership. It behooves such associations, Ross and Savage argue, “to create opportunities” for disadvantaged groups in initiatives that “build connection and common cause with each other.” Indeed, this call strikes us as all the more timely and urgent as the pressures of corporate governance bear down on our universities. With students increasingly being treated as customers whose rising tuition fees account for a growing proportion of university revenues, faculty associations have a responsibility to push back. And they should do so in ways that chiefly address—but are not limited to—growing inequalities in access to education.

Since its inception, the goal of YUFA-CP has been to encourage both faculty researchers and students to work with our Jane/Finch neighbours and agencies, and to do so in collaborations that advance the goals of social justice. That this commitment to community engagement has enhanced teaching and research efforts on issues of education, poverty, and political efficacy goes almost without saying. In short, the benefits of our social unionism have been substantial.

And, significantly enough, YUFA-CP’s Jane/Finch commitments have unfolded at a time of increasing popularity of community partnerships in university mission statements. Such recognition, limited though it has been, does allow a space for us to problematize what “community” means. Yet while taking some credit for the long-term alliances we have forged and the minor impact we have had on the York administration, we have clearly fallen short of communicating the importance of these achievements to the members of our association. While activists in the community are often aware of our union’s practical activities in support of social justice, this commitment tends to go unnoticed by the dues-paying members who generously fund the community projects being advanced in their name. Clearly, if this kind of pushback against the neoliberalism that is restructuring our universities is to have any measure of success, then we must find ways of identifying and gaining more active support for our communal work. This is a goal that YUFA-CP has set for itself in the coming year. AM

Natalie Coulter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at York University. Lorna Erwin is an Associate Professor and the Director of York’s Graduate Program in Sociology. Both currently serve as the co-chairs YUFA-CP.

Taking the long view of Indigenous teacher education

To “take the long view” is to reflect, discuss, or dialogue on the effectiveness and/or power something 
will have in the future instead of the present. The 
21st century is proceeding at a relentless pace of change. This has brought disruption to faculty across the Canadian landscape, including those who work in the Ontario university sector. Why is it important at this juncture to turn our collective intelligence and action to the future of Indigenous teacher education? What transformative ideas are unfurling in university teacher education programs by Indigenous faculty and their Indigenous students?

As an Indigenous professor, I carry two important perspectives that guide and shape my work. First, I identify with the Coastal Mountains of the Fraser Valley and the Big River in British Columbia known for thousands of years as the Stó:lō. The River and the People have the same name, 
Stó:lō. I am a river woman of the Stó:lō and learned at an early age that everything that fed our family came out of that river. Salmon, it is said by my elders, “is found in our bones. It is in our DNA.” Second, I have spent the better part of my adult life reclaiming my identity, renewing the foundational knowledge of culture and language, and walking the path as a peaceful warrior for social justice, equity, and women and children’s rights. I continue to work alongside Indigenous communities to bring a new era of Indigenous teacher education programs to the university and am deeply committed to mentoring the Indigenous scholars that are fulfilling their goals in higher education.

This is a point in time when a renewed commitment could be made by Faculties of Education to make bold curriculum and pedagogical change through acknowledgment that Indigenous epistemologies, cultural worldviews, and community partnerships have a place at the table of learning. Why does this matter more than ever in the halls and walls of the university? Relationship building does not happen because a document, a policy statement or a vision statement are signed and protocol is addressed. Let me explain.

Indigenous stories of the land, people, and culture are narratives that inform a way of respectful living. The stories are told time and again, sometimes seasonally, and often when protocol requires. This is how respectful relationships are formed and trust built over time. For example, in the spring season in my territory, there is the First Salmon Ceremony. The Elders share this story of the relationship that joins the People and the Salmon. It is an old story. The narrative is about sustainability and maintaining a relationship, so that the Salmon will always return to feed the People. It is more than preservation of an ecosystem, it is a deeper recognition that “respect, and setting things right,” are the ties, the roots, and the lineage narratives of language, culture, and history. The protocol, the ceremony, listening and sharing of the stories of salmon keep the community together through acknowledging the importance of harmony, and appreciating a shared value worth remembering and honouring. A renewed commitment from our universities to move Indigenous education goals and programs forward is necessary as we move into the next decade.

How confident are the voices of Aboriginal, Inuit, and Métis Faculty pioneering original educational research along with ground-breaking policy recommendations in our universities? Are they being awarded respect, tenure, and equity throughout the university system? What is to be made visible and to be acknowledged in an authentic manner by peers, deans, and presidents of our institutions? What are new Indigenous teacher-scholars bringing to the art of learning as they come through the doors to higher education? Respect. Continuity. Humour. Protocol. These words describe how to reach people, and how to change and open dialogue.

The timing of these questions has come as a six-year window opens towards the year 2020. This sense of urgency to change the “way things are done” throughout the university towards a more diverse, transparent, and equitable relationship has been made clear through strategic reports on Aboriginal education in the past four years. One, came from the Council of Ontario Universities, Unity Through Diversity. This is a summary report from 2012 containing an immediate call to “reframe” the need for Aboriginal education funding because of the simple fact that, “investing in the postsecondary education of Aboriginal youth makes great economic sense.” The other commendable document was designed by the Association of Canadian Deans of Education (2010), titled Accord on Indigenous Education. The Accord’s progressive goals give agency to the membership in the ACDE to foster respectful and welcoming learning environments; inclusive curricula; culturally responsive pedagogies; mechanisms for valuing and promoting indigeneity in 
education; culturally responsive assessment; affirming and revitalizing Indigenous languages; retention strategies 
for Indigenous education leadership; and to foster non-indigenous learners and indigeneity through reflection and dialogue. Will the academy falter and continue to be bystanders and detractors as a new wave of Indigenous learners enters the halls of higher learning while little change 
is made to the systemic refusal to understand the rich environmental narratives, stories of community, and the heartbreaking healing that is a constant throughout Indigenous urban and rural territories?

It is my hope that a deeper appreciation will take hold in all corners of the academy and that minds will be open when recommendations are brought forward by Indigenous educators. However, the perspective I offer is that for all the collective reports, policy documents, think tanks and recommendation forums, there remains a “ceiling of power,” that refuses to examine their resistance to an Indigenous viewpoint. I offer a story. It is told by Richard West Jr., a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne. He is also a founding director of 
the Smithsonian Museum.

“The story begins by introducing a northern California Indian basket-maker, Mrs. Matt, who was hired to teach basket making at the local university. After three weeks, her students complained that all they had done was sing songs. When, they asked, were they going to learn to make baskets? Mrs. Matt, somewhat taken aback, replied that they were learning to make baskets. She explained that the process starts with songs that are sung so as not to insult the plants when the materials for the baskets are picked. So her students learned the songs and went to pick the grasses and plants to make their baskets. Upon their return to the classroom, however, the students again were dismayed when Mrs. Matt began to teach them yet more songs. This time she wanted them to learn the songs that must be sung as you soften the materials in your mouth before you start to weave. Exasperated, the students protested having to learn songs instead of learning to make baskets. Mrs. Matt, perhaps a bit exasperated herself at this point, thereupon patiently explained the obvious to them: “You’re missing the point,” she told them, “a basket is a song made visible.”

At the epicentre of Indigenous thought and philosophy is how to engage others in meaningful dialogue so as to make visible a worldview that is the foundation of all Aboriginal education. Indigenous student scholars are confronted with this negotiation for most of their undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Indigenous faculty, who themselves have had to swim through the treacherous waters of academic institutions to gain their degrees, continue to bring forward a deep appreciation for a way of learning and a 
philosophy of connectedness that anchors their original research and grant opportunities. Still, a glass ceiling of resistance is all too apparent when Indigenous faculty are challenged for suggesting innovative programs or pilot projects for reaching potential new students when funding is needed for travel to remote communities, or investment monies are needed to bring community partnerships into faculty programs. Funding agencies are reluctant to cover things like mobile computers or tablets when digital tools and software apps for Indigenous learning resources are 
necessary for a knowledgeable, mobile society.

An Indigenous ceremony involves a protocol that prepares the area for relationship building, a bringing together of everyone attending, acknowledging the territory, and setting a respectful intention for the work, the speaking, the listening, and the sharing that will commence. The four areas that may assist in resetting our Aboriginal education goals towards the year 2020 are: change, respect for Indigenous knowledge, opening doors for community partnership, and recognition of the new storytellers.

First, it is time to create talking circles that share the ways and the means of developing and maintaining positive, progressive relationships between Indigenous faculty and all levels of the university. There are many talented and creative individuals that have brought Indigenous stories of the land, people, language, and history through courses, research, film, literature, dance, art, and story. Each and every member of the university community needs to be part of the healing process that addresses the horrific residential school history. In order to accomplish this, knowledge, reflection, and dialogue will ultimately open hearts. We can support the commitment to Aboriginal education that plays a role in leading the way to restore a longed for salve of grace and humanity throughout the halls of learning. This is the change needed to move the long view of Aboriginal education into new waters by 2020.

Second, the research undertaken by Indigenous education scholars continues to crack open new possibilities for ways of learning, revising curriculum to teach literacy and to put into place project initiatives that reflect the priorities of Indigenous communities. It is time to create an innovative expression for the word “research.” The notable Maori Scholar, Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, is well known for her use of the term “decolonizing methodologies” to herald a new era of conducting innovative approaches to pressing issues throughout Indigenous education. The context shift is towards valuing the role Indigenous knowledge, language and culture play in all aspects of the research process.

Third, it may be opportune to push forward interdisciplinary partnerships within the university that would benefit collaboration and exchange of ideas, course content, and epistemological approaches to learning. For example, consider the opportunity for the health sciences and education to bring about a greater exchange of knowledge when health professionals and Indigenous educators bring both nurses and teachers together to focus on improving the lives of Aboriginal children. The approach could bring about new collaborations that would resonate locally, provincially, and nationally. The same could be applied to environmental and resource management as well as the disciplines of science, engineering, and business. What is at stake is the future of our Aboriginal children. When we put our children’s success in the centre of all our discussions and decision-making, it becomes increasingly important to take on opportunities that foster innovation and encourage transparency. It takes leadership, partnerships and a will to envision a better world for our next generation of learners.

Finally, and perhaps the most exciting prospect found in Indigenous education today is the new teacher-scholars entering our universities. They are the new storytellers. 
I have met these extraordinary students in my classrooms, in online courses, in graduate seminars, and in community events and ceremonies. I have witnessed their honours projects in community forums, Aboriginal education media presentations and have been inspired by their ground-breaking thesis work. These new teacher-scholars are arriving with a sense of purpose to create learning environments that are relevant to Aboriginal children. They are asking the hard questions about racism, discrimination, and equity. There is a better way. They are part of this new revolution of change. After completing their education degree and gaining full teacher certification, these new teacher-scholars are now changing the landscape of their communities. They are influencing the next generation to succeed at school and are embracing education leadership roles. The new Aboriginal, Métis, and Inuit educators are forward thinking in creating partnerships that make sense economically, environmentally, and above all, are placing social justice at the front of all policy decision-making.

The long view towards Indigenous Education is that change takes time to gain momentum, to get the wheels in motion, and to keep going forward. This is not the moment in history to reduce funding for the aspects of Indigenous education that are necessary for growth and capacity building, such as community partnerships with northern communities, developing innovative course delivery, and retaining and hiring Indigenous faculty.

An Elder in Northern Ontario explains it this way: “as long as the grass grows and the wind blows, there is no mountain too high or valley too low, to keep the People from doing the work.” The long view must be kept in our sight for the children that are entering the classrooms of today and tomorrow. Somewhere by the Great Lakes is a native child preparing to lead the city of Toronto. Somewhere by the fast-moving river is a child preparing to take their place as the first Native Premier of the Province of Ontario. Somewhere walking the land is a native child destined to lead a nation as the first Indigenous Prime Minister of Canada. This is what it means to take the long view of Indigenous Education.

Chi Meegwetch. Thank you very much. AM

Dr. lolehawk Laura Buker is a pioneer of Indigenous Teacher Education programs and is currently in the Faculty of Education, Aboriginal Education at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario. Dr. lolehawk Laura Buker is Stó:lō from the Fraser Valley in BC.