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Once Again, Without Data

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jason Haslam, President, Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE)

It has become a common complaint, across the board, that statistics relating to Canadian higher education are sorely lacking or, when they do exist, are misleading–ACCUTE past-president Stephen Slemon has written about this matter on this very blog. Whether it’s in terms of faculty hiring (and of what sorts), student outcome, or relative growth in funding and expenditures between capital projects, administration, and teaching, we’re operating with few details, and often with far fewer facts to work with than our American cousins have at their disposal. Of course, we can still learn from some of those American data points, but we do have to keep the multiple different contexts (between nations, between states and provinces, between educational systems) firmly in mind.

And so it’s with that caveat in mind that I wanted to bring to your attention two different surveys being conducted.

The first is being run by (the much cut) Statistics Canada (the real one, not the twitter parody): an invitation-only survey, “Research and Development in the Higher Education Sector.” I’m in the middle of it now (had to stop to shovel, and then chip ice, and then get ready to shovel some more), and I’m feeling ambivalent about it.  The survey addresses primarily the work-balance between research, teaching, and administration. I’m finding some of the questions relatively science- and lab-specific, and it also draws a hard-and-fast line between teaching and research, one that seems… problematic. (I may have gone on a wee rant in the comments, too, regarding the need for a proper, long-term analysis of hiring trends, by discipline, in the Canadian academy…)  How many of you are also filling this out (I wonder, for example, what range of faculty–CAF, tenure-track, etc.–were sent the survey, and how that was decided)? And those who are filling it out, what do you think of the questions?

The second survey is one you can all fill out, sent to us by our colleagues at the MLA. Many of you will have seen their email: it’s a survey about Work Roles and Workforce Models, and you can find it here. This project is being run by the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success  From the first question, however, you’ll discover that this is not aimed at faculty teaching in Canadian colleges and universities, and so we’re back to my opening caveat.

Getting detailed, Canadian statistics on postsecondary education is clearly necessary, and yet seems to not be happening. This is something ACCUTE has discussed with the CFHSS and CAUT before, and we will again, but maybe we should all also be raising it with our federal and provincial representatives? What research projects out there are doing this work? What do you think?

This piece originally appeared on the blog of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) on February 18, 2015. 

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LearningTeachingFederal policyEducation