“In an increasingly international labour market, it’s good to offer strong compensation,” noted education professor Glen Jones of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at U of T and who is part of the Canadian team of researchers on the study.
The research, released Thursday, was led by the Boston College Center for International Higher Education and the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
The study adjusted the dollar-value of full-time salaries to the cost of living in each country to allow a true comparison of the value of the pay. In adjusted dollars, Canada’s average full-time professor earns $7,196 per month, compared to $6,054 in the United States and $5,943 in the United Kingdom.
And while the study excluded private institutions, including ivy league names such as Harvard and Princeton, these are relatively small schools that likely would not have changed the U.S. average by much, noted Jones.
“Canadian professors work hard, they’re productive and they’re one of the reasons our universities are relatively well ranked,” said Jones, “and unlike other jurisdictions, their full-time tenure stream is still strong.”
But there’s a cost to those heady salaries, he noted: Canadian universities are increasingly turning to part-time, contract, lower-paid instructors who can be excellent, but who often say they are underpaid, overworked and unconnected to campus life.
And there are too many of these part-timers these days to ignore in any study of salary, warned Constance Adamson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.
“This study focussed on full-time tenured faculty but as we know, almost half of teaching is being done by non-tenured, contract academics staff,” she said. Still, high salaries are not out of line for a profession so highly educated that “most of them don’t get to start their careers until their early 30s.”
What else drives up these Canadian pay cheques? Almost all Canadian campuses are unionized, said Jones, and far more of our professors are full-time, tenured staff than other countries such as the United States.
Canada’s university professors saw their salaries climb by 46 per cent between 2001 and 2009 — nearly three times the rate of inflation, which was 16 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
“A lot of it has to do with the way that pay levels were set when new money came into the sector at the turn of the century (2000) and we were trying to compete with American institutions,” said education analyst Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates. “And then the dollar rose by 65 per cent. And an extraordinary number of our institutions are trying to compete with the top tier of American universities.”
Physics professor George Luste is president of the University of Toronto’s faculty association, and he admits there are some blue-ribbon names on the U of T payroll.
“But they’re not typical,” he said. “It’s like having Bill Gates walk into a poor village and immediately raise the average income. There may be some professors who are making $300,000 — but they also work in an area where houses can cost more than $1 million.”