Blog Posts


Editorial Matters: The reality of precarious academic work around the world

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On February 25, 2015, many adjunct faculty members in the United States walked out of their classrooms to protest their working conditions. Just days later, contract faculty at York University were out on strike. Across North America, reporters and media outlets began to wake up to a sorry reality: for thousands of professors across North […]

Congress 2015: The Canadian higher education data problem

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Every year at the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE) meeting, you can count on someone – or a lot of someones – complaining about the state of higher education data in Canada. And with good reason- Canada lags behind its OECD in the amount and quality of higher ed data produced. Researchers […]

Congress 2015: Dilemmas for PhD graduates and doctoral education

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The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences frequently offers an opportunity for reflection on the current state of an academic discipline and prescriptions for the future. The incisiveness of analysis can vary as can the questions asked. Particularly striking is this vein was a fascinating session hosted by the Canadian Society for the Study […]

Congress 2015: “Athens to the new Romes”

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Yesterday, the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston gave a lecture as part of Congress 2015‘s Big Ideas lecture series. The topic of his talk was “Education & Innovation,” but it was more of an exhortation for the assembled scholars and administrators to be innovative, rather than a prescription for how to bring innovation to […]

Congress 2015: The one-sided higher ed conversation

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There are missing voices in the public conversation around higher education, and it is hurting our ability to articulate alternative visions for the future of our universities. I’m at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Studies in Higher Education (CSSHE) at the excellent Congress of the Social Sciences in Ottawa. As usual, it’s […]

Performance funding: The burden of proof

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When a policy is proposed, the burden of proof lies with the people making the proposal. They need to explain why the new policy is better, and they need to provide evidence to support their claim. This is how sensible policy gets made. The Government of Ontario is interested in performance funding for universities. That […]

Register now for the first annual Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education

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Registration is now open for the first annual Worldviews Lecture on Media and Higher Education. The lecture, a spinoff of the popular Worldviews conference, will feature Simon Marginson, Professor of International Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. Prof. Marginson will deliver a lecture titled, “Universities, the plutocracy and the 99%: Is high […]

Havoc! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!

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By all accounts, February 10, 1355 began quietly enough in Oxford. It was the feast day of St. Scholastica, who, despite what her name might suggest, is the patron saint of nuns and ‘convulsive children.’ The townsfolk went about their business, while the scholars of Oxford University attended to their studies. A normal day. But […]

Alex Usher Needs to Consider Taxation

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In my previous Academic Matters blog post, I argued that there are five advantages to universal access to financial assistance for post-secondary education (as opposed to means-tested assistance for lower-income students).  They are:  1) lower administrative costs; 2) lower marginal tax rates; 3) greater transparency; 4) less opportunity for political trickery; and 5) greater social […]

Responding to Nick Falvo on tuition fees

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Recently, on my daily blog, I wrote an analysis (link to: http://higheredstrategy.com/whos-progressive/) of distributional effects of tuition reductions versus those of targeted grant programs and concluded that the latter were far more progressive in their impact than the former.  Grants can be designed to be as targeted as one wishes (entirely to the bottom quartile, […]

Alex Usher is Wrong on Tuition Fees

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One of Canada’s best-known post-secondary education pundits, Alex Usher, recently wrote a blog post suggesting that Canada’s status quo system of high tuition fees (and means-tested financial aid for students) is in fact progressive.  Specifically, he argued that lowering tuition fees would reward higher-income earners rather than lower-income earners.  Ergo:  no government that wants to […]

HEQCO distorts faculty teaching loads: News media play along

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In March, 2014, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), published a study purporting to show that Ontario professors only teach an average of 2.8 courses per year. The study went on to propose that professors who are not active in research should have their teaching loads doubled. News media such as the Toronto […]

University Governance: Reflections from the Future U Conference

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Last week, I spoke on a panel on university governance at a conference titled Future U:  Creating the Universities We Want, organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.  Also presenting on the panel were Professor Glen Jones and Professor Claire Polster. My speaking notes can be downloaded at this link. Points I raised […]

Do High Tuition Fees Make for Good Public Policy?

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Yesterday, I gave a presentation to Professor Ted Jackson’s graduate seminar course on higher education, taught in Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration.  The link to my slide deck, titled “The Political Economy of Post-Secondary Education in Canada,” can be found here. Points I raised in the presentation include the following: -Tuition fees […]

Liberal arts lead to good employment outcomes…just don’t tell the policymakers

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Last week, the AAC&U released the report How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment (for coverage, check out Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle, or the AACU release). Looking at both employment and earnings outcomes, the report is notable for two things: first, it actually looks at long-term data, not just a five- or […]