Professor pay ranked from highest to lowest -

Professor pay ranked from highest to lowest

What profs at 59 Canadian universities earned in 2010-11

Professor by Rainer Ebert on Flickr

Photo by Rainer Ebert on Flickr

Every student has heard at least one professor complain that he or she is overworked. At certain times, that’s no doubt true. But the annual Statistics Canada report on full-time faculty salaries shows that along with the big workloads come big salaries. The average full-time professor earned $115,513 in 2010-11. The average full-time employee in Canada earns just $50,000.

Does that mean we should all enroll in PhDs? Not exactly. The number of PhDs is increasing rapidly, while the number of professors hired in 2010-11 was up just 0.8 per cent over the year before. The professoriate is graying: the average age is 50.

Below are the the median salaries for all ranks of full-time professors, including deans, but excluding dental and medical professors. The breakdown: 33 per cent were full professors, 34 per cent were associates, 23 per cent were assistants and 10 per cent were unranked.

1. University of Toronto ($136,483)
2. Queen’s University ($133,395)
3. McMaster University ($131,696)
4. University of Guelph ($127,307)
5. University of Waterloo ($127,238)
6. York University ($126,664)
7. University of Alberta ($126,549)
8. École Polytechnique ($123,524)
9. Ryerson University ($121,469)
10. Brock University ($119,472)
11. Trent University ($119,387)
12. University of Calgary ($117,682)
13. University of Windsor ($116,998)
14. Laurentian University ($116,214)
15. University of Ottawa ($115,839)
16. Western University ($114,835)
17. University of Saskatchewan ($114,807)
18. Carleton University ($114,413)
19. University of British Columbia ($114,356)
20. Lakehead University ($112,392)
21. Université Laval ($111,638)
22. Simon Fraser University ($109,447)
23. Université de Sherbrooke ($108,785)
24. McGill University ($108,506)
25. Royal Military College of Canada ($108,150)
26. Dalhousie University ($108,041)
27. Wilfrid Laurier University ($105,270)
28. University of Victoria ($105,029)
29. Université du Québec à Montréal ($104,943)
30. University of Manitoba ($104,241)
31. University of New Brunswick ($103,785)
32. Mount St. Vincent ($103,827)
33. Saint Mary’s University ($101,879)
34. Ontario University Institute of Technology ($100,441)
35. Concordia University ($100,244)
36. University of Prince Edward Island ($99,867)
37. University of Lethbridge ($99,592)
38. Université de Moncton ($99,450)
39. University of Regina ($98,614)
40. Mount Allison University ($98,327)
41. Mount Royal University ($97,218)
42. Grant MacEwan University ($96,987)
43. Acadia University ($94,500)
44. Nipissing University ($94,438)
45. OCAD Univeristy ($94,387)
46. St. Thomas University ($94,339)
47. Athabasca University ($93,214)
48. Bishop’s University ($92,701)
49. Brandon University ($88,026)
50. St. Francis Xavier University ($85,252)
51. Capilano University ($84,896)
51. Kwantlen Polytechnic University ($84,896)
52. University of Winnipeg ($84,766)
53. Thompson Rivers University ($84,542)
54. University of the Fraser Valley ($83,231)
55. Vancouver Island University ($82,946)
56. University of Northern British Columbia ($82,835)
57. Cape Breton University ($81,384)
58. Trinity Western University ($67,229)

It’s difficult to say who is overpaid or underpaid, but it’s clear that the top-paying schools are also highly ranked in the annual Maclean’s University Rankings—with a few notable exceptions. For example, Brock and Trent both pay an average of $119,000, despite having much lower ranks than similar schools in small cities, like the University of Prince Edward Island ($99,867) and the University of Northern British Columbia ($82,835), which are top three schools in their category.

Why should students care what professors make? Well, if they’re paid too little, the brightest PhDs will turn to industry instead of academia and universities will suffer.

At the same time, students would rather see their increasing tuition go to hiring new staff or cutting class size. That isn’t happening. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance points out that 70 per cent of new government funding and tuition increases in Ontario between 2004 and 2009 were eaten up by salaries and benefits—mostly for existing staff.

Josh Dehaas is the editor of Maclean’s On Campus. Follow him on Twitter @JoshDehaas. Follow @maconcampus and like us on Facebook to keep up with our daily opinion and university news.


Professor pay ranked from highest to lowest

  1. So it doesn’t include medical and dental professors, but does it include veterinary medicine professors? Guelph has an excellent reputation for veterinary medicine, and has some top veterinarian researchers teaching and working at OVC. Those salaries would definitely influence Guelph’s average if they are included.

    • That’s a good point. Also, worth noting that schools like York University have both law schools and business schools, which also pay much higher. That said, these are medians (not averages), so they’re not skewed too much by a few highly-paid faculties.

  2. So what happened to Université Laval?

    • It has been added. Thanks for catching the error.

      In case you’re curious, some smaller and satellite campuses are omitted from the ranking, but can be found in the original report.

  3. One might also note the number of adjunct and contract professors who are paid considerably less, with fewer, if any, benefits. Hiring of full-time faculty will continue to drop with the continued cuts in budgets, while management salaries increase. Either way, I don’t feel students are getting the value they expect.

  4. Looks like Memorial University has been omitted also.

  5. This is only a third of the story. Large amounts of gravy are hidden in professors’ benefits package, that would bring their total remuneration up by at least a third so discussion limited to salaries is misleading. For example, taxpayers pay much more into profs’ pension fund than the academics do themselves and their paid sick days are beyond generous. Finally, there’s the time element. What actual evidence is there of hours worked besides professors’ own say so? There are definitely coasters out there who teach little, mark even less, and claim to spend their time on research with no objective corroboration. Don’t forget the year long sabbaticals every fifth year or so. That said, the group who definitely do not give value for money are the top heavy administration. Again, salaries are only a fraction of the story while work load and results are totally amorphous and uncorroborated. Students are overburdened with rising tuitions in order to pay for a mushrooming and near useless educational bureaucracy. How many professors or educrats leave what they claim is “hard underpaid work” for the private sector? There’s a reason they don’t. Although stars may do better in the private sector, mediocrities and below earn much more in the public sector per hour actually worked.

  6. Laine: check your facts.
    1. “For example, taxpayers pay much more into profs’ pension fund than the academics do.”
    Wrong. The burden is shared 50:50 by the university and the profs at most institutions. This ratio already exists in the academic sector, yet it is not the norm in the federal public service (Harper is trying to change this).
    2. “their paid sick days are beyond generous”
    I think you are confusing professors with…I am not sure. I am only ‘allowed’ to be sick once or twice per term. Any more than that, and I have questions to answer from the administration.
    3. “What actual evidence is there of hours worked besides professors’ own say so?”
    Well, none, clearly! But don’t firefighters sit around and drink tea all day? Don’t cops just eat doughnuts? Don’t students just get drunk and protest? Your comments reveal your ignorance, so here’s a suggestion. Why don’t you go and spend 7 years of your life being trained for your job. Then, get a job at a middle-range community college or university. You have four courses to teach every three months (including the summer) and each one needs careful prep. You teach 3 hours per course per week, and they are all lectures. So you need to write 12 hours of lectures per week, so that the material is intelligible, well-structured, and contains the right information and interpretation (that is, something more intelligent than what’s on Wikipedia). You’ll find that it takes 3-5 hours per hour of lecture to prepare, if you want to do your job properly, and not cut corners. Then why don’t you reply to hundreds of e-mails, mark (carefully: don’t throw the papers down the stairs please and grade where they fall!) and carry out the dozens of office tasks that come with the job. By now it’s Saturday afternoon and you’re prepping for Monday. But wait! In order to keep your research profile active, which is essential for effective classroom teaching, you need to write a few books. Good luck with that, since your summer is spent teaching.
    4. “How many professors or educrats leave what they claim is “hard underpaid work” for the private sector? There’s a reason they don’t. Although stars may do better in the private sector, mediocrities and below earn much more in the public sector per hour actually worked.”
    Professors work similar hours to top private sector jobs, but academia is a vocation – most of my colleagues (as well as myself) do it because we love research and teaching. We also understand the social responsibilities which come with our profession, which admittedly many profs don’t (and clearly neither do you). For your information, I worked in business before I became a professor, and turned down offers from several investment banks to take a lesser salary – in a humanities job – but I don’t whine about it, so neither should you.
    5. “Don’t forget the year long sabbaticals every fifth year or so.”
    Check your facts. It’s every seven, and only the first one is paid at the regular rate. And sabbaticals are for research, and if you don’t do any… figure it out.

    The grass is always greener, but you shouldn’t judge until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I have more cliches if you want them, but it’s not wise to look at your neighbours and colleagues and simply assume xyz.

    Good luck.
    Andrew, Prof at large Ontario university.

  7. Dear Professor Andrew,

    Please disclose the total value of your benefits package and a reference to objective evidence of the rest of your claims. It would be most enlightening to see a list of myriad benefits which taxpayers have no idea they’re paying e.g. free tuition for professors’ kids attending the same university. You assert your peers stay put in the public sector (at a financial sacrifice no less) for “the love of research and teaching”. The latter is certainly not borne out by your profession’s actual behavior as a group though it may be true of certain individuals. As university costs including tuition continue to spiral, with over 80% of it going into personnel demands for higher pay and benefits, teaching of students has suffered by any measure. This is especially so at the undergraduate level, with larger classes and more teaching assistant involvement. Where’s the “love of teaching”?

  8. @Laine
    –Professor benefits details are typically posted on HR websites of universities: feel free to look them up.
    –Workload studies have been done regularly in many countries. All that I’ve seen (of US, Canada and UK) have reported that professors do more unpaid overtime than any other profession. Regular loads are c. 60 hours a week. Pre-tenure, that number is higher and regular workloads are 80 hours a week. Professors must account for every hour of their time spent on annual reports that are submitted to the university. Yes, we have to waste even more time writing down what we’re doing with our time.
    –research outcomes are certainly quantifiable. We do not get promoted, get tenure, or get raises unless we have tangible and considerable output every single year. Those profs that you think may be coasting may be doing significant administrative work that is also a big part of our job.
    –I’m “allowed” to take sick days at a rate comparable with what I had in the private sector. I technically get longer vacations, but ask any professor and they’ll tell you they’ve never taken their full allowance. It’s just not possible. I’ve had 4 weeks vacation in the past 6 years total, and even then I had to answer emails every day to keep up. Sick days? I’ve only missed two days when I had pneumonia, and even then I had to answer emails.
    –“Love of teaching” largely went out with “I’m totally burned out and exhausted and look! Before tomorrow’s class I still have to review 2 grants, read 3 journal papers, re-write that journal article that wanted revisions, submit a conference paper, meet with an industry rep (now required to get grants), sit on 3 committee meetings and meet with 4 students who cheated on the exam.”

    You clearly are ignorant of our job: that’s fine, most people are, but I can assure you that professors are overworked.

    As for overpaid? It takes 4 years to get your Bachelors, 2 for a Masters, 6 (average) for a PhD. After that you can expect another 2-3 years in post-docs, and another 2 as a lowly adjunct. Let’s round down and say 15 years to get a job. After you get the job, you’re on probation for 6 years… so it takes 20 years before you have a secure job. There are many professions where you can retire with full pension after 20 years (police, army, etc)! And with professors 20 years just gets you in the door. There is NO other profession that requires that kind of training and probation. Even the highest specialization of surgeons get less training. Most profs can make more in the private sector. Yes, even “English” profs, who can make more money in marketing, advertising, technical writing, etc.

    University’s rising costs have much more to do with administrative bloat and the increasing demands students place for services on campus. Take a look at all the services that are available now that didn’t exist 20 years ago, and all the increased numbers of bureaucrats at the top in positions that never existed even 10 years ago. Faculty pay has barely kept up with inflation.

  9. Laine:

    As Joe points out, it takes a long time (20+ years) to get a job as a professor. Each stage of that jobhunt requires an ever-increasing amount of ambition and competitiveness: it’s relatively easy to get into undergrad, but you have to compete more to get into a decent Masters and then PhD program. Then you have to compete for post-docs, then for a tenure-track job, then for grants and publications. The competition is *fierce*. There are currently c. 35000 PhDs in the USA on welfare. They all want the few jobs that get posted annually. There are no “slackers” left in the system (or they are very close to retirement) because once you’ve fought like hell for 20+ years to get a tenured job as a professor, it’s nearly impossible to step off the treadmill. There is no middle ground: You have to get grants to pay students to assist in research, but to get grants you have to find industry willing to invest in your work, you have to publish like hell consistently year after year, and you have to attract and graduate good students. There is no half way in this job.

  10. It’s worth mentioning that the “greying” effect is going to lead to a higher average salary. If universities slow down or cease hiring new professors at the low end of the pay-scale, all that will remain are those who have racked up several years of pay increases, thus driving up the average salary.

    Also, a professor can inflate their salary by picking up “overload” courses (courses taught above their regular teaching workload) that pay the rate given to sessionals ($6k-7K/1 term course). Thus, their salary might be around $85k but with a couple of overloads, might approach $100K. Those overloads are actually offer a savings to the university in that 1) the wage is far less than would be paid to another full-time professor hired to teach those courses, 2)the university won’t usually pay benefits on this work and 3) less time is spent by university staff processing paperwork to hire a sessional for the course.

    Meanwhile, those working as sessionals and adjuncts are paid very little for doing a near-majority of the university teaching.

  11. Articles such as these are dangerous because they hide systematic restructuring within the university. While permanent faculty are paid well, a very large and growing number of contract professors are earning at or below the poverty line. These employees work full time hours doing the same job, but are not counted as full time workers. Many lack any sort of pension plan or even health benefits. They have to reapply for their jobs every 4-8 months and have no guaranteed employment year to year. When you factor in these salaries, the salary averages drop significantly.

    Maclean’s has covered this issue before. But it’s really irresponsible journalism to write about the ‘average’ professor salary & exclude anywhere from 1/3-3/5 of those employees. They should, at minimum, be discussed in comparison with full-time professors to give a clearer picture of the academic sector.

  12. Reply to Joe,

    I did make the point about administration bloat being the first place to make cuts in my first comment so if you spent more time reading than rebutting, you might have saved some duplication. Since many if not most administrators are former academics themselves, there’s not exactly a clear line between teaching profs and administration.

    There is no way that the 60 hour plus work week is a believable year long average for senior professors whose actual teaching time is a few hours a week for two semesters of 4 months each and who need little prep time teaching the same subject year after year with marking and other scutwork done by TA’s. How are the regular paid sabbaticals every 7 years (I stand corrected) factored in? Most other professionals put in long hours of hard labor at relatively low pay until reaching a top level (talking about ignorance of other careers) but do not have pensions cushy enough to allow for early retirement if desired or free perks such as paid vacations (i.e. they get no taxpayer subsidies). What is the actual number of paid sick days that you’re allowed no questions asked? Is it really fewer than the 20 high school and elementary school teachers get during their 9 month work year? Where are university profs’ putative long hours going since they are certainly not being spent on undergraduate teaching, a group that is being progressively more under serviced and overcharged going by class size and actual contact time with their professor. Frankly, most people would love the privilege of writing up their own hours of work and after gaining tenure, there seems little point in tracking anyone’s work habits as they’re near immune to being fired, another unjustifiable perk based on the canard that profs need protection from political firings.

    Perhaps you yourself are every bit the work horse you describe but extrapolating that to the entire profession with no admission that there’s deadwood and abuse of privileges is unrealistic in the face of the wildly varying experiences students have with different professors and in different disciplines e.g. the hard sciences vs the social sciences. And those not teaching students well, yet claiming long hours worked should call themselves researchers, not professors.

    • Hi Laine,

      There are deadbeats in every job; ours is no exception. And yes, some profs teach the same old boring stuff year after year. I don’t, Joe probably doesn’t, and many of my colleagues don’t either. I constantly develop new courses, and spend my summer writing books. I then use my research work to develop innovative courses, mostly to do with early Islam and the Middle East (Josh, is that the kind of ‘frivolous research’ you like to slam us for?).

      I think we can find a point of agreement: there are deadbeats in every job. But to accuse professors of slacking off and having huge pensions is like saying that all high school teachers or all cops cost too much and don’t work. The problem is that what people see of most professions is skin deep – you see the teacher in the classroom for a few hours per week, but you don’t see the hours prepping or the hours spent writing a book (my last one took over three years, for example, to get right and satisfy the reviewers). Likewise we might think teachers have it easy with summers off, but they put in 150% during the school year (I know, because I am married to one).

      As for research: professors are teacher-researchers – the one can’t exist without the other. If we had teaching-only universities, how would any new information or research or innovation or ideas ever get put out there? Classes would become stale and dull very quickly indeed. How could we train people in the latest ideas, theories, approaches?

      So please don’t tar us all with your imaginary brush. If you really want to find out what it’s like to be a professor, make friends with one and find out.

      And no, I am not disclosing the amount of my benefits package to a total stranger – nor would I ask you to do the same.


  13. Laine, what professor killed your family causing you to feel that need to rampage.

    While I don’t think that anyone is saying that there is not one slacker in the teaching world, I don’t think there are proportionally more than there are in any other profession. If anything, I would think there are less. It takes a lot of work to get to the point of being a full professor and, unless you are a hard working person who is willing to do that work, you will not make it to the position of full professor. Period. Also, the fact is, if you are not a full professor, you really are not being paid the ‘big bucks’.

    Clearly you are frustrated at larger class sizes. I understand. That being said, it is not like a professor controls how many students they will have in a course. If they are teaching a beginner level class in a large department, guess what? That course will have a lot of students. If the professors had a choice in the matter, surely the class sizes would be smaller. The professors could have a more one-on-one relationship with students, less assignments to grade, less emails to respond to, etc., etc. In other words, those big classes mean exactly the opposite of what you seem to think: they make sure that the professor cannot be lazy.

    I am also a little disturbed at your emphasis of the idea that the only valid work that a professor does is teaching undergraduate courses. I can assure you, professors who do that and only that would likely never get tenure in the first place.

    Seriously, before going on (or continuing on) a tirade, perhaps ensure that what you are saying reflects reality. On April 2, 2012, in response to an op ed published in a major US newspaper, professors had a “Day of Higher Ed” where they listed what they did that day. Perhaps you should read some things that people wrote. One such posting (to get you started) is at Enjoy!

  14. @Laine: Actually, it’s very clear to make a distinction between admins and faculty.
    2. Like I said, study after study after study has shown profs work 60+ hours a week. Teaching in-class is such a small part of our job. There is outreach, grad teaching and supervision, service work and research on top of classroom teaching. All those senior profs whose classes are prepped have to do a majority of the service work since most committees require you to have tenure, and most external reviewing requires you to be senior also.
    3. At every university I’ve worked at, we wouldn’t get a TA until after 50 students, so most profs do their own marking, and in large sections mark at least 50 students.
    4.I’m aware of other training requirements: What profession has 20 years of training? Oh that’s right, there ISN’T another one.
    5. Sabbaticals are granted only at a maximum of once every 7 years, and are provided to finish major research projects like writing a book, etc. that require the headspace away from the classroom. It is not a year off, but a year off from undergrad teaching (Grad supervision still takes place during one’s sabbatical). Moreover, it is not paid at a full rate (my university pays 50-85% of salary depending on circumstances) and it must be applied for: it is not by any means a given that you can just take every 7th year off for research.
    6. Where are the putative long hours? If you are so clearly so ignorant of the job, here you go:
    -undergrad classroom teaching
    -grad classroom teaching
    -grad supervision
    -guest lectures, teaching outreach activities, training activities, etc.
    -grad committee work
    – reading and providing feedback on theses and dissertations
    – serving as external reviewer on theses and dissertations (often requiring a lot of international travel)
    -grad recruitment and undergrad recruitment activities (open houses, meetings with potential grad students, etc.)
    -preparation (yes, even if you’ve done the course before it still requires a lot of prep in advance to order textbooks, read over one’s notes, incorporate the latest research findings, etc.)
    – office hours, answering student emails, providing other outside assistance to students
    -dealing with student grade appeals
    – dealing with plagiarism cases and cheating, etc.

    -internal departmental committees
    -internal faculty and university level committees
    -curriculum and program committees
    -internal and external hiring committees
    -reviewing grants
    -reviewing conference papers, journal papers, book manuscripts, etc.
    -serving on external adjudication committees
    -outreach to the press
    -serving on editorial boards, advisory committees, and industry groups (including doing very exciting things like mediating between companies on file formats, etc.)

    -writing grants
    -finding and forming partnerships with industry (requiring an in-depth knowledge of the latest in the field and industry needs)
    -keeping up with the massive body of research in one’s fields, sub-fields, and related fields
    -writing and revising papers, books, etc.
    -data collection, data analysis, etc.
    -ethics reviews
    -supervising students in the lab
    – lab maintenance
    -equipment purchasing and maintenance, including the many times students break or steal the equipment dealing with insurance claims.
    – commercialization activities (patent applications, licensing questions, etc.)

    And it’s worth mentioning that everything we do requires about 4 people to sign off on it, an abundance of form-filling and waste of our time in the name of public accountability because people like you are too ignorant of what we do to believe we’re actually working.

  15. And by the way, teaching is less than half of any professor’s job, but those engaged more heavily in what you define as research are always very much engaged in teaching, as grant money is nearly exclusively for student training.
    We spend far more time working with students outside the classroom than we do inside the classroom. The 6 hours a week inside the classroom barely scratch the surface of the teaching activities we do.

    • Exactly Mat.

      “We spend far more time working with students outside the classroom than we do inside the classroom. The 6 hours a week inside the classroom barely scratch the surface of the teaching activities we do.”

      And this is why people sometimes say “professors only work six hours per week”, because, not understanding what anybody’s job actually entails, let alone ours, they assume that after our class, we go home and snooze in the sunshine.

  16. Laine

    You are correct that the salary is just a small fraction of the total compensation package. Josh did fair and honest reporting on the Statscan findings.

    In additional to the health benefits and all the fringe benefits pensions are the biggest cost. For example the University of Toronto is short $1.3 billion on its pension plan and this is a future cost to be picked up by future students and taxpayers never to be shared by current profs as suggested by Andrew.

    Last year the employees at the U of Toronto contributed $38 million into their pension plan and the university $243.1 million. Considering the employees contribute 8.4% of salary and the total contributions for the university were 6 times higher the actual pension contributions added another 48% right there. This is before health benefits.

    Then there is the fact that the pension is “deferred income”. This means that during the retirement years the pension pays for life up to 70% of final average salary. For many employees this is in the million and for some in the multi-millions. Amortize this over the working career and the true compensation cost is easily double what is reported.

    Then there are the benefits that are paid to employees after they retire and include: health care plans with retiree contributions adjusted annually, such as extended health, semi-private and dental care. These add another non-reportable benefits worth $379 million.

    That is why Margaret Wente reported Canada has the highest paid university professors in the world and the highest paid teachers to boot.

    This does not even take into account the DBRS pension rating shortfall.

    Yes the profs work hard and dedicate their lives to their jobs. You can see from the comments above it is a challenging job that demands a lot. But then again so are a lot of careers many Canadians have.

    Sorry the system is horribly broken.

  17. Hi Bill,

    In response to:

    “In additional to the health benefits and all the fringe benefits pensions are the biggest cost. For example the University of Toronto is short $1.3 billion on its pension plan and this is a future cost to be picked up by future students and taxpayers never to be shared by current profs as suggested by Andrew.”

    The shortfall at many institutions was partially caused by administration taking “contribution holidays” in the 1990s and early 2000s. Employees of all sorts continued to contribute, while the matching employer contributions were suspended. With markets collapsing after 2008, and people still retiring, the result is a shortfall. Now that shortfall is being made up by both employees and employers together – and while this is indeed taxpayers’ money, budgets have not increased in order to fund the shortfall. Rather, departmental and faculty budgets have been cut. The budget of my own faculty has been cut 3.5% in two years to allow that money to be diverted to the pension fund.

    I should also correct you by stating clearly that current profs are paying more, as are employers, as well – I pay an additional 2% of my salary into the pension fund for the next 10 years, that I wasn’t paying previously.

    Secondly, you are absolutely correct when you state:

    “Yes the profs work hard and dedicate their lives to their jobs. You can see from the comments above it is a challenging job that demands a lot. But then again so are a lot of careers many Canadians have.”

    What profs object to is the poor-quality journalism, sadly represented by Josh DeHaas’s work (especially sad because he is editor of Macleans on Campus) which relentlessly tries to portray our profession as overpaid and lazy. In fact, DeHaas’s articles reveal that he has little understanding of academia, particularly the vital function of applying research to the university classroom. Again, this is a problem for someone who is editing an online university magazine. He attempts to conceal his lack of understanding by attacking professors over and over and over again.

    Most people are ignorant of what we do, but then I am mostly ignorant of what other jobs are like – hence, I would never write articles which attack firemen, teachers, investment bankers, soldiers, or crossing guards as x, y, or z – at least not without making a genuine attempt to understand what they do, and have the facts to back up my argument. Profs are easy targets, because most people only see the classroom side, and not the rest, but, as I have suggested above, the same can be said for just about any job.

    Have a good day –

    • Andrew

      While I appreciate your comments, please refrain from defaming me. I have a solid understanding of how universities work, including how professors spend their time. I have never portrayed professors, on the whole, as lazy. If you got that impression, I want to correct that here. I’ve seen several studies about professors’ workloads and it’s safe to say that the average work-week is between 50 to 60 hours. Professors I know personally work very hard. They deserve to be paid well.

      At the same time, most Canadians work hard too. The difference is, most Canadians earn a lot less money than professors. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to question how much professors’ contributions are worth to the taxpayers and students who pay the bills.

      And contrary to your assertion, there has long been a debate about how much the research that profs do outside the classroom contributes to their teaching. It’s a debate which I have followed for years and I can tell you, it is by no means settled. Some studies show that research contributes greatly to teaching. Some show it contributes nothing at all. But even if actively-researching professors make better teachers, that doesn’t mean the world will end if teaching loads are greater than 40 per cent.

      Also, please understand that in blogging and journalism, we need to write things that are concise and timely enough that people are interested in reading them. Unlike professors, we don’t have the luxury to entertain every single possible argument and then have it peer reviewed for weeks or months before publication.

      In sum, I’m interested in your arguments and I respect what professors do, but I will not sit back here while you attack my qualifications. I suggest we both get back to work.

      Josh Dehaas

      • Dear Josh,

        If you feel that I was defaming you, then you have my apology. And thank you for your correction of my misinterpretation of your articles. I would appreciate it though if you might refrain from calling us “eggheads” and saying that most of the research we do is “frivolous” (“Why I am skeptical…” May 7/12). That is also not helpful if we are trying to foster a dialogue to improve the quality of postgraduate education – something that I imagine we both want.

        You are absolutely correct that the questioning of how much professor’s contributions are worth to taxpayers is absolutely legitimate, as it is for Members of Parliament, local officials, administrators, and so on. But I really do wonder why I am consistently reading articles on Macleans which are so relentlessly negative towards academics. The impression I get is that professors are the problem, rather than potentially part of the solution.

        Respectfully yours,

        • Thanks Andrew. I will refrain from using the term eggheads. (That was just bad writing.) I hope you will continue to read the site.


      • Dear Mr. Dehaas,

        I’m not a professor (just an undergraduate student), but I would like to take an issue with one of your statements:

        “At the same time, most Canadians work hard too. The difference is, most Canadians earn a lot less money than professors.”

        This line of reasoning really, really bothers me, because while there is no doubt that most Canadians work hard, it is also obvious that most Canadians don’t spend 10+ years in post-secondary education just to get the necessary qualifications in order to enter their chosen profession. I certainly don’t begrudge the financial compensation professors are given for being so well educated and well qualified for what they do, just as I firmly believe that other white-collar professions, such as medical doctors, deserve to make a good salary too.

        I’m one of those “students who pay the bills” that you claim to be writing in defence of, and I think I get my money’s worth when it comes to my professors. There is plenty of waste in the university system, to be sure, but attack the bloated bureaucracy before you attack the people who actually make the system work and make university the (generally) great experience that it is.

  18. @Josh
    You’re missing the point of research: It’s all about training students! Most “research” time is spent teaching students skills and having them work on projects. A lot of it involves supervising graduate studnets. “Research” IS another form of teaching on campuses. As was said upthread, most profs spend more time training students outside the classroom than inside.

  19. An observation from the US by an American who has taught in Canadian universities. On both sides of the border there are several trends in university operations having significant impacts on faculty work, all of which tend to lengthen the average work week.

    1) expectations for research. Forty years ago this was the domain of faculty at major universities and a few star performers elsewhere. Today few faculty even survive to a tenure decision without (A) research and publication and (B) “funded” research, meaning paid for by some entity outside the university. This is universally recognized.

    2) participation in institutional governance. The burden of committee work has increased substantially over the past several decades as universities become increasingly complex. We spend exceptional amounts of time looking for ways to stretch education dollars and meet new needs, especially when taxpayer support for teaching and research gives way to other preferences. Mat’s post above recognizes this in his comments on service, much of which escapes the public eye. Right now I am investing around an hour a day six days weekly on a stream of unending reports and assessments of a major university program undergoing its regular seven-year review. From the standpoint of research and teaching this is wasted time but if we lose accreditation it diminishes the value of the degree and chances for external funding.

    3) technology creep. Applications of technology to higher education range from highly useful tools for learning and research to bright, shiny objects dazzling senior administrators but of questionable value. Legislators and administrators love technology packages vendors assure them will increase productivity and/or cut costs. At my institution these have an average life of three years, after which time they are replaced by others. The change means time invested in re-training faculty, revising learning packages, and helping students understand why the preparation they used the first three years of university seems almost useless the fourth year.

    4) student prepping. Far from replacing faculty with one-size-fits-all technology effective student preparation these days requires considerable-one-on-one investment in time and energy to identify and nurture high-potential talent. As mat notes in a recent post many of us spend far more time with students outside class than in. I am about to invest three days taking two high-performing students to a conference in Canada where we will each present recent research because this is an essential part of building cross-border networks. In terms of time this is a major investment in two students. In terms of developing the next generation of productive scholars and faculty it is an essential investment.

    5) vacations. Here Canadian and US practice may vary on an institution-by-institution basis, but across four decades of university teaching I have never had one day of paid vacation. Most American faculty work on nine-month contracts with no summer income. As far as our financial well-being is concerned the university could care less whether we drive taxis or starve in the streets. If anything it looks for ways to extract unpaid labor by expecting continued research, attention to grant possibilities, and other non-classroom activities. Typically breaks at the end of term, e.g., Christmas holidays, are when students bombard us with thesis drafts and requests for letters of recommendation for employment or bursaries.
    The notion of leisurely faculty time off is as quaint as the notion that canoes still serve as the principal form of long-distance transport in Canada.

    It is perfectly reasonable and legitimate to question everything from faculty salaries and benefits to how we spend our time. In general such questioning appears to emerge less from an honest interest in understanding the often-obscure dimensions of the academic world than in titillating non-academics with tales of how faculty have a great deal while the average reader suffers. Of course to the average faculty member the work life of magazine editors, which we all “know” consists of long lunches paid for by their employers, countless cocktail parties trading ill-informed gossip, pandering to advertisers and investors, and other socially-useless activities is probably as wide of the mark as their understanding of ours.

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  23. This is a shame for the country. These people don’t do anything – other than organizing mediocre committees and seminars to justify their salaries. The ordinary canadian worker struggles with so many issues on a daily basis for a salary which is incommensurate with a “Professor” s salary. Canadian universities are a real maffia. You don’t believe me? Ask Christiane Rousseau, from U of Montreal: zero mathematical knowledge, but – as any good French- quite sneaky as a rat.