Researchers or teachers?

With professors spending more time on research and the university relying more heavily on adjunct professors and instructors, what does this mean for the future of undergraduate education?

Politics Professor Kim Richard Nossal thinks more emphasis on research means less emphasis on teaching.
Politics Professor Kim Richard Nossal thinks more emphasis on research means less emphasis on teaching.

In the Journal’s second look at issues surrounding the future of undergraduate education, we examine the growing divide between a professor’s research and teaching time, and what that means for the education undergraduate students are receiving.

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Chemical Engineering professor Andrew Daugulis is a prime example of a professor whose teaching and research compliment one another.

The winner of the Frank Knox Award of Excellence in Teaching in 2005, as well as a prestigious Queen’s Research Chair holder since 2003, Daugulis has been recognized by the university for his contributions in both areas. “I would say I spend 50 per cent of my time on research, 30 per cent on teaching and 20 per cent on things that make the program run, administrative duties,” he said. “The curriculum is really full. For a student to have 30-plus hours of class a week is not unusual. We do a lot of teaching because we have to.” According to the collective agreement between the Queen’s University Faculty Association and Queen’s University, professors should spend 40 per cent of their time on research, 40 per cent on teaching, and 20 per cent on administration. Most professors are very involved in their research, Daugulis said, otherwise they would not become professors.

“You’ve made a career commitment to [research] and once you’ve become a faculty member, you’ve done negligible amounts of teaching,” he said. “The motivation to go into academia is to do academic pursuits.” Daugulis said the University’s growing reliance on adjunct professors and instructors is necessary due to lack of funding. “I think it’s a necessity given the funding the university gets for undergraduate programs,” he said. “You have to stand somebody up in front of the class. What are
your options?” However, he said students are missing out on a research component in their classes when they are taught by adjunct professors. “In a number of instances, the adjunct professors are not active researchers,” he said. “I bring my research to the classroom. It’s a matter of staying current and engaging my students.” Tom Harris, dean of applied science, said spending more time on research isn’t unusual for his professors because of the amount of research his faculty must complete.
“The university is becoming more research-intensive,” he said. “I believe there’s a bias towards research. Part of the bias is in the physical sciences—research productivity is more easily measured.”

Harris said members of his faculty spend time on research, particularly if they are trying to obtain tenure. “Obviously the highest expectations are for new faculty,” he said.

Although some faculty spend more time on their research, teaching does play a role in determining which faculty members receive tenure or promotions, he said.

“To get tenure, faculty are evaluated on their entire scholarly portfolio,” he said. The Faculty of Applied Science has a training course for professors called Teaching Matters.

“Taking it over the term helps new instructors to improve their teaching style,” Harris said, adding that there’s still room for improvement.

“Can we do a better job in teaching and learning? Yes,” he said. “The solution for better teaching is more faculty.” Patrick Deane, VP (academic), said the provincial government invests heavily in research.

“Historically, over the last three decades or so, the Canadian university system has tended to place a greater emphasis on research when it comes to awards to faculty, tenure and such,” he said.

Deane said the University depends on tenure and tenure-track professors for quality and continuity, and relying on adjunct professors is not the best solution. “It’s not a desirable situation for a
university to depend increasingly on adjunct professors,” he said. “The university depends on continuity. Ideally yes, tenure and tenuretrack professors are the essence of the institution.”

However, a research-intensive university requires faculty to spend significant time on research, Deane said. “On average, the norm across the University would be that research and teaching are intended to be more or less equal,” he said. “In a research-intensive university like this, there are faculty
members whose obligations are weighted more heavily.”

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Political Studies department head Kim Richard Nossal delivered the presidential address to the Canadian Political Studies Association on June 2, 2006, regarding the growing emphasis on research at
Canadian institutions.

Nossal said this problem is not specific to Queen’s, and his argument about research and teaching has been around since the 1950s. “It’s occurring in the university system as a whole,” he told the Journal. “More emphasis on research means less emphasis on teaching. The teaching function of the university is negatively affected by an increasing emphasis on research.”

Nossal believes professors should value teaching as highly as research. “I’m one of those people who believe that it is possible to have the university and professors at universities be producers of the
joint product. That teaching and research are of equal importance,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to be taught by someone who didn’t have an active research program, in my view. And just as you wouldn’t want to have an active researcher who was useless in the classroom.”

As for a solution to the growing divide between research and teaching, Nossal said he thinks universities should adopt a dualized system where two groups of professors have different job requirements. “There’s only one way out of this problem,” he said. “[Universities need] ‘teaching’ professors who are hired to teach courses to undergraduates and … permanent faculty members who are essentially expected to do lots of research, bring in lots of grants, and maybe they’ll teach a student or two. You’ve got these two very different kinds of professors. That’s where I think we’re heading.”

Nossal said students can be actively involved by being aware of how the university uses its funding.

“All I suggest to students is that they do the math. That they look at what it costs to hire a permanent professor and how much money governments give universities,” he said.

“If you limit the amount of money that universities get from the government or tuition, you’re going to push them into teaching more and more using nonpermanent faculty.”

Charles Sumbler, academic affairs commissioner and ArtSci ’07, said the University needs to find a way to integrate research and teaching in the classroom. “We need to find a way to bring research into the classroom setting. Looking at one over the other may not be the best way,” he said. “Queen’s markets itself on the fact that those who are in the classroom are at the top of their field. [The] hiring of more full-time faculty has to be a priority.”

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Jill Atkinson, the psychology department’s undergraduate chair, said she thinks her department’s professors spend more time on research than teaching, and as a result, adjunct professors are relied on more heavily. “We have people on five-year research awards who get a reduction in their teaching so that they can do their research,” she said. “We lose these folks. You end up with grad school students and adjunct professors teaching. Students lose out on being taught by these researchers.”

Atkinson said the focus on research comes from how the University rewards their faculty.

“We don’t reward teaching, we reward research at Queen’s,” she said. “Despite liking teachers, research is occupying more of a priority, or at least occupying more time.” Despite the fact that some professors get course reductions based on their level of administrative or research involvement, Atkinson said she tries not to let people buy out of course time completely. “The administrative roles in big departments are becoming larger and larger.

The time comes from teaching,” she said. “In the psychology department, we try not to let many people buy out of teaching time completely.”

Julian Balding, School of Business associate dean, said the school doesn’t rely as heavily on adjunct instructors and are able to attract prominent researchers in different areas of business to the University. “In the last seven to eight years, we have been lucky enough to get a substantial number of young faculty from world-class universities,” he said. “There is a range of time put in by faculty [for research] and there are variations—some spend more time, some spend less.”

Balding said the University answers to multiple constituencies, making it difficult to balance between research and teaching. “The general public cares about the quality of teaching at the University,” he said. “The funding agencies care about the quality of research.”

Students should participate more actively to ensure they are getting the best value for their education, Balding said. “What amazes me is how quiet students are. Are they just more accepting of what’s
going on in their environment?” he said. “Students should be active participants.”

By the Numbers

$139.8 million

Salary expenses by Queen’s in 2004-05

$131.6 million

Revenue from research at Queen’s in 2004-05


Other teachers and researchers (primarily part-time) in 2004-05


Full-time faculty (including tenured, tenure-track, and clinical medicine) in 2004-05

—Source: Queen’s University Annual Report 2005

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