Tight budget may limit faculty hiring

Faculty association president says University isn't hiring enough professors

John Holmes, Queen’s University Faculty Association president, said the University needs to do a better job of replacing departing faculty.
John Holmes, Queen’s University Faculty Association president, said the University needs to do a better job of replacing departing faculty.
Brendan Kennedy

Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) President John Holmes said a widening gap between student and faculty populations is eroding the quality of education at Queen’s.

“The concern is that from [QUFA’s] point of view, the biggest issue facing the University is the need to hire more full-time faculty,” he said. “Because if you look at the faculty and the student-faculty ratio, it is now far worse than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago.”

Holmes said the issue has come up in several different contexts at Senate meetings.

Holmes said faculty are worried the falling ratio is eroding the quality of education at Queen’s.

“One of our constant concerns is where the resources are to come from to expand the number of faculty.”

The University has entered into an agreement with the Ontario government, which sets conditions on the money the University receives, Holmes said. Universities must sign an agreement to receive funding from the province.

Last year’s enrolment report recommended that undergraduate enrolment should be kept where it is at the moment but graduate enrolment should increase significantly over the next few years.

“These are really good initiatives but in order for those to really work, we need more full-time faculty because you can’t expand graduate students’ supervision on the backs of sessional adjunct faculty,” Holmes said.

“To have supervision of graduate students, you need ongoing faculty, in either the tenure stream or faculty who already have tenure.”

When Holmes first brought up the issue at Senate, the Board of Trustees had just approved large amounts of money for the Queen’s Centre and Tindall Field, and he was concerned with what the investments would mean for the priority of hiring more faculty.

“If you look at the number of full-time faculty, there was a real dip somewhere around the mid-1990s. That’s grown back a little bit since but we’re still not back to where we were … and at the same time, the number of students has continued to increase.”

Last year, Holmes said, one more person retired or resigned than were hired overall. He said the report for this year is a little better.

“There’s a positive number but it’s still not very many new net hires. They’re hiring but at the same time, there are people that are retiring or resigning,” he said.

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said the hiring of new faculty remains a major priority for the University.

“The big obstacle is … we can’t create new faculty positions unless you have an increase in the base operating budget at the University.

“The money coming in doesn’t increase at a rate of expenditures.”

Despite tuition increases in some faculties last year, the increased revenue doesn’t enable the University to meet all its obligations.

Deane said the main constraint upon the University is the level of per-student grants—the amount of money per student the University receives from the government. “At the moment, it’s the lowest of any province in the country. If that were raised significantly, that would be by far the greatest contribution to faculty hiring.”

As for the government’s initiatives to increase graduate enrolment in universities around Ontario, Deane said the problem is that although money is coming from the government, the amount isn’t enough to bring in faculty members.

Deane told the Journal that the campus capital projects are financed separately from normal operating expenditures, so worries that construction projects are taking funds away from faculty re-investment are misdirected.

“That money is never used for faculty hiring anyway,” he said.

Deane said the only instance in which the operating expenditures could be affected is if it were necessary to borrow money to bring the capital projects to conclusion.

“If we owe x number of dollars, we’re charged with interest. The interest would have to be paid out of the operational budget,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely that there’ll be a call on the operating budget.”

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