By 2016-17, contract jobs in the sector accounted for the majority (53.6 per cent) of all university faculty appointments. The findings show that reliance on contract faculty is a foundational part of the system, and has been for at least a decade.
The report, Contract U: Contract faculty appointments at Canadian universities, is the first-ever snapshot of the prevalence and dynamics of contract jobs in Canadian universities. The data was obtained through Freedom of Information requests to all 78 publicly-funded Canadian universities.
“Our findings suggest the significant reliance on contract faculty in Canadian universities is a structural issue, not a temporary approach to hiring,” says Chandra Pasma, co-author of the study and CUPE researcher. “And we know that impacts workers in the sector and the quality of education students receive.”
Among the study’s key findings:
- Part-time work accounted for nearly 80 per cent of all faculty contract appointments in 2016-17;
- Quebec relies on contract faculty appointments far more than any other province, at 61 per cent. Ontario (54 per cent) and B.C. (55 per cent) also have rates of contract appointments above the national average (53.6 per cent);
- Overall, there are 13 universities in Canada where contract appointments are more than two-thirds of all faculty appointments;
- In all subject areas besides agriculture and veterinary medicine, contract jobs represent more than one-third of appointments.
“There are a number of excuses offered for the dependence on contract faculty: as a cost-cutting measure, as a response to job and marketplace demand, or as the personal choice of individual professors,” adds report co-author Erika Shaker, CCPA senior education researcher. “However, the data suggests that this reliance has far more to do with institutional choice than anything else.”
Precarious work is becoming the norm in too many sectors, including post-secondary education. This study offers proof on the magnitude of the problem. It also identifies some of the driving forces behind precarity and makes recommendations for the future.