Trends in Higher Education series

Dear Colleagues;Today, OCUFA released a research paper examining recent proposals around increasing university productivity as part of its Trends in Higher Education series. The paper finds that the current discussion in Ontario is plagued by unclear definitions, problematic assumptions, and troubling policy ideas. Reviewing the available evidence, the paper argues that:
  • The discussion in Ontario has no clear definition of productivity, which makes serious or useful discussion of the issue difficult.
  • Ontario’s universities have already made significant productivity gains – decades of under-funding and rising enrolment have meant that professors are already teaching many more students with much less public funding.
  • This productivity increase has done little to improve the quality of education at Ontario’s universities – in fact, by many measures quality has come under threat even as productivity has increased.
  • For professors and academic librarians, the most meaningful measures of productivity are attainment rates and research output.
  • Proposed productivity enhancements, such as increased faculty teaching loads and increased use of online learning, are properly seen as secondary to the broader goals of greater student success and research effectiveness.
  • Over-focusing on these secondary elements – like teaching loads and online learning – is ineffective and may harm larger productivity goals.
  • A productivity agenda focused on reducing government investment in higher education will have a negative effect on higher education in Ontario.

The complete paper is attached to this email. It can also be accessed at

OCUFA plans to release a series of papers over the coming years that examines – and challenges – the emerging “productivity agenda” advanced by some policy observers in Ontario. This agenda, closely linked with austerity policies, manifests in a variety of ways, from calls for faculty to teach more, to the need for “teaching only universities”, to calls for greater university differentiation. In all cases, we are concerned that the primary objective of the productivity agenda is to obscure the need for sustained public investment in Ontario’s universities, thereby compromising the quality of education received by students and the quality of research produced by our institutions.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at 416 306 6033 or at [email protected].

Best Regards,


Graeme Stewart
Communications Manager
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations
300-83 Yonge St. | Toronto, ON | M5C 1S8
416 979 2117 x232 | [email protected] | @OCUFA |

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