MUNFA IB 2006/07:42



 

TO:                   MUNFA Members

 

FROM:             The MUNFA Executive Committee

 

DATE:              August 31, 2007

 

SUBJECT:      THE INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION FOR FACULTY MEMBERS



MUN’s administration claims to be committed to ensuring the growth of this institution, not only in the actual numbers of students, but also in its status in Canada and abroad. If this is to happen, MUN must offer an environment that will attract and retain academics who are leaders in their field, or with great potential, in a climate of increasing national and international competition.


The problems of recruitment and retention are not unique to MUN, nor are they recent phenomena. Moreover, they are not confined to a few select disciplines. Universities worldwide recognize that the inability to attract and keep faculty members has immediate and long-term consequences for the research that is undertaken, the courses that can be offered, and their own reputations.


There are several reasons for the predicament in which universities now find themselves. Demand has risen for new academics as a result of an ageing professoriate that must be replaced, an increase in the number of people pursuing a university degree, and efforts to reduce student/faculty ratios. Moreover, many developing countries are now improving their higher education systems at the same time as developed countries are diverting a higher percentage of the GDP to research.


At the same time as demand has risen, a shortage of available PhDs from which to recruit has emerged because many graduate programmes curtailed their enrolments during the 1990s, and those students who did graduate often pursued jobs outside of academia.


The consequences of the surplus demand illustrates the competitiveness of the labour market in which MUN must compete. Within the next few years there will be positions in the EU for approximately 500,000 new researchers.1 Footnote A report written in 2000 argues that universities in Ontario may need to hire 13,500 faculty members by 2010. However, there are only approximately 4,400 completed PhDs able to fill these positions.2 Footnote Other provinces reveal a similar need to hire many more faculty members than are available.


Henry Jacek, Vice-President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), argued in 1999 that universities in Ontario were facing serious problems of faculty retention and that significant increases in salary and benefits” were necessary.3 Footnote In 2001, an OCUFA publication acknowledged the problem of filling vacant academic positions and reiterated Jacek’s comments of two years earlier. It concluded that “if universities are incapable of retaining their staff, then recruitment alone will do little to redress the critical faculty shortage. The whole salary grid must therefore move up, and across-the-board increases must keep pace with inflation.”4 Footnote


More recently, the Faculty Association at the University of Saskatchewan wrote in November 2006, that the university faced a serious problem of faculty retention which it attributed to salaries that were uncompetitive with those of similar institutions, and work loads that exceeded those found at them.5 Footnote


The Globe and Mail recently reported that within twenty years, universities in Toronto must find room for between 40,000 and 75,000 students - many of whom will not wish to attend universities elsewhere.6 Footnote The consequences of this enrolment crisis are obvious for all universities. As more and more instructors are required to teach in Toronto area institutions, the competition for faculty members will become even more intense than it is now.


Memorial University administration must decide if it wants to be competitive nationally and internationally or not.


It is simply a matter of choice. We can accept the administration’s offer and be content with the consequences this will have for the future of this institution and the quality of education we can provide our students. Or we can demand that the administration demonstrate its commitment to ensuring the future success of MUN, its students and faculty by offering salaries that will allow us to recruit and retain leading scholars. During the past year, negotiations at other Canadian institutions have resulted in salary increases in the neighbourhood of 3-4% per year. The only reason why faculty at MUN should be satisfied with less is if we are content to have this university fall even further behind all those with which it is competing. It is MUNFA’s position that we must drag the administration into the 21st century and make Memorial University competitive nationally and internationally. We are committed to our students and want to provide the stimulating environment that can be achieved only with the help of academic staff who envision a positive future for this institution.


We must not accept being second rate.


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