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Margin Notes

Statistics Canada discontinues key source of Canadian faculty data

When the agency says “final” data, it really means it this time.


I received Statistics Canada’s Daily bulletin this morning, which included data on “salaries and salary scales of full-time teaching staff at Canadian universities, 2010/2011.” The release refers to “final” data, as opposed to “preliminary” data, which was released back in August 2011. However, in this instance, the data really is final as Statistics Canada also announced in this morning’s bulletin that it has discontinued the University and College Academic Staff System, or UCASS, from which the salary data is derived.

This is very disturbing news because UCASS kept track of much more than just faculty salaries. The annual survey collected more than 20 data points that gave governments, higher education institutions and policy analysts an intimate portrait of full-time faculty members in Canada. Among the data collected included gender, age, department, principal subject taught, salary and administrative stipends, sabbatical leave, unpaid leave, province or country of degrees earned, citizenship, and on and on (see the UCASS manual for survey respondents here). Much of the faculty chapter in Trends in Higher Education, published by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, is derived from UCASS data.

There is simply no other single, reliable source in Canada for this information. Individual institutions collect some of it, as do some provincial departments, but it would be no small feat to put it all together in anything resembling the UCASS survey. And I’m not even sure it would be possible, due to potential privacy issues, multiple jurisdictions, etc.

How will we know what’s happening with Canadian faculty from now on? Your guess is as good as mine – and a guess it will certainly be.

Update: I forgot to mention that Statistics Canada’s Education Matters publication, which offers “insights on education, learning and training in Canada,” has also been discontinued. The latest issue was released on May 1, and I suspect that was the last.

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is a former editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Maureen / May 3, 2012 at 21:29

    This is not surprising. A former student of mine–an upper-level bureaucrat with the federal government–told me shortly after the present government got a majority, it started systematically dismantling all the sources bureaucrats relied on to make policy recommendations (which, of course, he found very frustrating). His analysis was that, if the government didn’t know what was actually needed, they could put all our tax money into their pet projects and no one would be able to obtain the necessary information to call them on it.

  2. JoVE / May 4, 2012 at 09:55

    I came to the same conclusion as Maureen by logical deduction from the range of things happening.

  3. Stephannie / May 4, 2012 at 11:07

    I work in one of the offices that produces this data for UCASS and who relies on this data for my job which is to provide evidence based advice to senior administrators. We will be forced to rely on the goodwill of institutions and set up our own data sharing (which we already do) in order to get this and other information.

    I agree with JoVE’s post. Shortsighted, nasty and anti-intellectual forces at work here.

  4. Glen A. Jones / May 9, 2012 at 11:39

    I find this decision quite shocking. I think that it is important to note that the UCASS data are an important national resource that are used in a multitude of ways at every level of the system. Provincial governments need this information in order to understand the demographics of the professoriate (age, rank, gender, fields of study) and the need for faculty renewal. It has allowed institutions to do comparative analyses of professoriate profiles and salary arrangements. It has allowed a wide range of stakeholder organizations and scholars to explore issues of gender equity, salary arrangements, hiring practices by area of study, etc. In short, cancelling this initiative leaves yet another huge gap in our national policy research infrastructure for higher education – one of the largest areas of government expenditure in Canada and generally regarded as a key sector for the social and economic development of our national – but a sector of activity where we have remarkably little national capacity to understand what we are doing and how to improve what we are doing.

    Glen A. Jones
    University of Toronto

  5. NH / May 22, 2012 at 11:00

    Oh, the irony. Clearly, for this government, education does NOT matter….