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In a US vs. Canada race, Canada totally wins:

Average salary for a humanities prof without tenure in the US? Under $60,000. This is roughly comparable with wages across the board in some US states. At the high end, the median for all discipline and all universities is just over $100,000, and in the humanities, it’s still only five figures. (Play with the charts! It’s fun!)

In Canada? Over $130,000 in 2008/9 (and it’s certainly not getting lower — check out the numbers from 2012/13, which put the average full prof’s salary, across the board, at almost $140,000, and the starting salaries at $86,000).

This differential in pay — really, the enormous inflation of professorial salaries — has led to the increased use of contingent faculty since the 1970s. Although many stakeholders on all sides — faculty, students, the media — are eager to blame the administration, administrative costs are only part of the “faculty and staff” bundle. I agree that university presidents are overpaid; the problem is that senior faculty are often overpaid, too.

Meanwhile, despite the data referenced in this article, the government shells out for “studies” from not one, but two management consultancies. (I wonder how many contract faculty that would have funded?) This waste of money makes me think that the provincial oversight of labor contracts isn’t going to help any. In fact, even CUPE seems unable to do some basic math:

“Teaching-track jobs are part of a broader structural reform of universities,” said Ahmed, noting the 24 new jobs will start at about $80,000, a far cry from the $7,600 per course that contract profs at York earn on a piecework basis.

I’m pretty good at arithmetic. A teaching-track job is usually a 3-4 or 4-4 load. Let’s assume the former, to be as generous as possible. A 7-course load at $7600/course is just over $53,000 — about as much as an American professor makes for the same amount of teaching. This should tell us something about what the university system really needs: a salary adjustment downwards. A Canadian professor earns 1.3 times as much as his American counterpart, for the most part with a similar tax burden and job description. That means that every three professors could fund a fourth professor, should they accept an American wage.

There’s a lot to be considered here: Canadian universities, for example, all seem to think that they are on par with major research universities (because we all think of Western as the Canadian Harvard?). In general, as the above data show, US teaching-focused universities and colleges pay their professors less. Despite this, I haven’t noticed decreased respect for the tenured professor in the US.

Maybe it’s time for Canada* to reconsider what it values in its postsecondary experience. Since there is very little innovation in Canada, research really shouldn’t be the major goal. In fact, one could argue that a better-educated workforce with better access to startup funding would yield more innovative ideas anyway. Such education is generally associated with a broad-based, liberal arts (that includes math) education, which is typical for the US, but not Canada.

If not, at least the business sector would know how to spell and punctuate — so we all win.





* Apparently other nations are to blame, too — here is an example from Australia.