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If doing research makes you a better teacher and some have stopped doing research, why would you want them to do more teaching? Aren't they, by that assumption, likely to be worse teachers?

Jim - absolute v. comparative advantage? But, yes, I see your point.

In theory, at Calgary professors are obliged to do appropriate amounts of teaching, research/scholarship, and service. The collective bargaining agreement explicitly states that you cannot compensate for being inadequate at any one of these by doing extra on others. So, again in theory, profs who are no longer active in research should receive a zero grade (meaning, no merit-based salary increase) during the once-every-two-years performance review. Get two zeroes in a row, and your Head of Dept. has to write a letter explaining why you shouldn't be fired for cause, tenured or not. And since your Head is the person who just gave you two zeroes in a row, knowing full well the implications, it probably won't be a very strong letter, and you'll end up getting fired, even if you're tenured. In theory.

I think you can guess what happens in practice. It's very difficult to fire a tenured prof and a pain to try, the collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow assigning extra teaching (plus, people assigned extra teaching against their will tend to do it badly, and no one wants to inflict bad teachers on the students), and if you assign them extra admin they'll typically do a bad job at that, too. So in practice, senior profs whose research programs are winding down and who aren't interested in taking on heavy admin loads just coast towards eventual retirement. Which of course, is whenever they want it to be because there's no mandatory retirement.

My understanding is that things work differently in Britain, where if your research program isn't productive relative to those of your colleagues, you get saddled with all the teaching by your Head of Dept.

As for whether there'd be any "stigma" associated with being assigned extra teaching as an official acknowledgment of your lack of research, I'd say no. My impression is that senior faculty without active research programs feel they've earned the right to coast towards retirement because of what they did in the past.

More seriously, as Calgary prof indicates, it becomes less a matter of assignments and more a matter of how do you get people to retire now that there is no mandatory retirement. My impression is that although there are some that opt for the type of regime they officially have at Calgary, the norm is some kind of system of retirement incentives, phased out loads and so on.

Jim : "more a matter of how do you get people to retire now that there is no mandatory retirement."

Increase the individual's teaching load to 3 and 3, and schedule the three classes as follows:
Course A: 8:30 to 9:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Course B: 3:30 to 4:30 Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Course C: 11:30 to 1:00 Tues and Thurs.

Oh, and move the individual into a smaller office.

Calgary prof: My understanding is that most merit schemes are fixed sum games, i.e. the department only has so many "merit points" to allocate. A non-research active prof can look at the scheme, do the math, and compare the cost of effort*probability of effort leading to merit award with the size of the merit award. At some point, if the costs are high enough and the probability of effort leading to an award are low enough it's better to choose the corner solution of zero effort, especially if, as you say, it's too much work to fire someone.

One of the themes of the Drummond Report is the need to give greater status to teaching - to allow people to achieve career advancement through teaching instead of research. I just can't imagine how this could be achieved.

Actually we do that. You can't abandon research altogether, just as you can't abandon teaching altogether, but you can get to be Full Professor on the basis of excellence in teaching.

As you describe it the status hit, it sounds like a classic example of almost-but-not-quite common knowledge. If a professor is no longer research-active, this will quickly be known by all and (perhaps via gossip) known that it is known by all, etc. to every higher levels. But you are claiming that final step to common knowledge -- publicly declaring the fact -- so bruises the inactive professor's ego that the professor will fight to avoid it at all costs? I don't know whether this is true, but it is hilarious either way.


Yes, merit increments at Calgary are a zero-sum game. The Head of Dept. has a certain number to give out, which are allocated to him based on the number of faculty in the dept.

Re: status of teaching, at Calgary there are two types of tenure-track academic staff, professors and instructors. The latter are not expected to do any research or scholarship, except as necessary to remain current in their field, and have roughly 1.5-2x the teaching load. Of course, having instructor-stream staff doesn't necessarily mean teaching--by either instructors or faculty--will be a high-status activity. FWIW, in my dept. at Calgary we have several excellent instructors who are very highly valued by everyone--they are terrific teachers, organize informal teacher training programs for the faculty, do pedagogical research, and are often asked to take a lead role in redesigning key courses. And informally, everyone knows who the good teachers are among the professorial-stream faculty, and they're certainly respected for it. Although it is true that when it comes time to hand out the merit increments, you're not going to be among the real "high flyers" unless you have a really strong research program.

When I was in Physics at the University of Waterloo, course load was established by the number of papers in the previous couple of years. No papers was 5 half courses. 1 paper a year was 2 half courses. 2+ papers per year was one half course.

I thought it was a clever way to identify the research inactive in a reasonably objective manner. I can imagine some gaming, but the rules would be easy to alter to make the most extreme versions non-viable.

I can think of few things that would be more strongly opposed by the average academic, not just because of the greater workload that an increase in teaching would represent, but also because of the loss of status. The stigma of being designated "no longer research active" would be almost unbearable.

I'm really trying to have sympathy here, but I just don't have it in me Faculty in Ontario are paid for by and large by the province/federal government through grants, provincial transfers and provincial funding of tuition through OSAP et. al. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Go ahead, strike. I dare you. I double dare you. You'll lose in the court of public opinion. Watch the province start legislating contracts to control costs.

Everybody in other sectors has endured far more economic pain than faculty members with collective agreements have. Thousands, especially young people trying to start careers have been waylaid by the recession. The personal status of profs does not figure in my radar. Many of us have had to swallow our pride due to economic realities. If a research inactive prof chooses not to teach then he/she deserves to loose their position. Tenure is not an excuse to not perform. I find it laughable that economics profs in particular discuss productivity for other sectors yet get cold feet when they themselves are asked to be more productive.

Put simply, it is not the role of the government to pay for the vanity of faculty.

Joseph: "2+ papers per year was one half course." per term or per year? There's a huge incentive under that scheme to go from zero to one - but what counts as one paper? Adjusted for co-authorship/quality...?

Calgary prof: "FWIW, in my dept. at Calgary we have several excellent instructors who are very highly valued by everyone--they are terrific teachers"

Unfortunately I think terrific teachers are valued the way that mom and apple pie are valued - that is, everyone says things like "being a good teacher is the most important job in the world" - but it don't get respected the way that research gets respected. Of course if you can teach *and* do research then, yes, that earns you some respect.

blink: "But you are claiming that final step to common knowledge -- publicly declaring the fact -- so bruises the inactive professor's ego that the professor will fight to avoid it at all costs?"

Well, certainly the increased workload will be fought! Perhaps I'm wrong about the status thing - as you say, these things are almost-but-not-quite-common-knowledge now anyways.

My worry is more that professors who feel snubbed will adopt a "if that's how you feel, I won't even try" attitude towards their teaching - not show up for classes, evaluate students solely on the basis of a multiple choice midterm and final exam, end classes half an hour early, not bother to prepare, get their TAs to do all marking and hold office hours....

Determinant: "I'm really trying to have sympathy here" That's good, since about 99.999% of the Ontario population won't be.

Jim - you raise an excellent point about allowing promotion to full on the basis of teaching excellence. Carrots, not sticks.

In Britain, university's research performance is appraised in periodic "research assessment exercises." In these assessments, universities are evaluated on the basis of number of publications divided by number of research active faculty members. Having a small number of research active faculty members who devote themselves entirely to producing a large number of publications is the way to maximize rankings under this system, and reclassifying less productive faculty into the "teaching only" category will also increase RAE scores.

My university had a formal policy for teaching-track profs. Physical Sciences in particular had a "hot and not" profile. Young profs engaged in lots of research as they effectively had one shot at glory, then it was over and the grants went to younger guns. The older prof who taught first-year chem was a teaching-track prof, I asked what his research was and he was over that phase. But he was a first-rate teaching prof and among the best in first year.

"Determinant: "I'm really trying to have sympathy here" That's good, since about 99.999% of the Ontario population won't be."

Ok. If the outcome is that certain, then I trust you (faculty in general) will be swallowing the bitter pill and accepting the forgone conclusion.

You could strike or resign but I suspect neither will have much effect.

Some schools of public health use soft money contracts and these are one way to alter post tenure incentives. Where I work, there are many different contractual arrangements. There are clinical faculty who do not do research at all and are paid for teaching and research. These are not tneure line positions but people do get promoted from assistant to associate to full clincal professors without tenure. Then there are reseach professors, who do not teach at all. These folks have to raise their entire salary through external grant funding every year. Again no tenure but promotions are possible. Presumably promotions are about status and pay increases.

Finally, the tenure line faculty have contracts In which some fraction of the annual salary is 'hard' and some fraction is 'soft'. You have to cover the soft money fraction using grant money. Junior faculty are sometimes shielded from this arrangement for a few years. When you get tenure the soft money fraction remains. So if you aren't raising grant money then you get paid less. How much less depends on the soft money fraction in your contract.

There are also big incentives based on summer funding. Academic salaries are for nine months. The summer months are a bonus period that ususally must be grant financed.

I will admit that this arrangement sometimes terrifies me -- it would be awful to fail to get enough grant money, or more likely to end up working on boring but well funded projects to avoid the problem. But from the system level the partial soft money contract seems like a good idea for a lot of academic departments. It might not work for the humanities because grant money is not much part of life in those fields. But remember that the soft money component is a contract parameter that could be 'tuned' to the right level. 100% soft money is too gruelling and forces people to chase money rather than ideas. But 0% soft money -- conventional tenure line contracts -- lead to bad post tenure incentives and also may encourage people to be overly disconnected with the direction of the field. Contacts that are 'interior' to these two extremes seem like a good idea.

"Unfortunately I think terrific teachers are valued the way that mom and apple pie are valued - that is, everyone says things like "being a good teacher is the most important job in the world" - but it don't get respected the way that research gets respected."

That's probably right.

Mind you, I think a key point underlying many of the recommendations in the Drummond report is that the cultures of many public sector institutions will have to change, and that attitude would be a good example. Moreover, I suspect that if departments are told that, for their budget, each professor is expected to teach, on average, X full course equivalents (the value of X, implicitly, being significantly higher than it is now), the esteem for the professor who is wiling and able to teach 2X will rise accordingly (as will the demand for his or her services from other universities). In a very real sense he or she is providing an input into the rearch of his or her colleagues - time.

Bob: "the cultures of many public sector institutions will have to change"

Bob, I agree with you that this is what the Drummond report says, but I think this is a classic kind of economist "assume you have a can-opener" solution. Cultures are a productive of history+institutional structures+incentives. Change those, and you will change culture. It's like in a law firm - the administrative staff person who provides the senior partner with time inputs is respected, but the two jobs are fundamentally unequal in status.

Or one can try this solution to the problem of dysfunctional organizational cultures!

cw: that's a US institution? In Canada there is just much less grant money floating about. Though one could imagine an all-powerful Ontario government saying "we'll reduce all academics salaries by 33% and put the money in a summer grant money fund. Research active faculty members can apply to get money back in summer grant money, otherwise you can earn it back by doing additional teaching."

Some economists spend a fair bit of time doing consulting work, and earn substantial sums that way. It would be fair enough to say, "we'll pay you for 9 months of the year, during which we expect you to teach and do academic research. If you want to consult, do so in the summer on your own time."

Yes -- it's a US institution. But there are surely some grant oriented departments in Canada too. I think the school of public health may use soft money contracts for some faculty. I'm not sure though.

Soft money contracts are not typical outside of schools of public health and medicine in the US. In a standard economics department, your contract would be 100% hard money. But I think the 9 month academic salary is a common arrangement at US universities regardless of the department. Summer money comes from grants, extra teaching, consulting, etc.

Your idea about the source of public money seems to the point. Maybe the whole thing can be thought of like a financing dilemma. Suppose you are the government and you want to fund research and teaching but you are wary of principal-agent problems and post-tenure incentives and the like. A key issue is what mix of financing mechanisms to employ. This is a bit like choosing bonds vs equity in the regular financial sector. I guess it's hard salary money vs soft grant money at universities. And the US has made different financing choices than Canada. Still, how do those Modigliani-Miller ideas work in academia? I am not sure.

Some other fairly random thoughts:

--Private research funding sources -- foundations -- seem to mostly provide funding for research projects using grants and contracts. But sometimes they also create endowed professorships and so both types of funding mechanisms exist even in the private sector.

--From the professor's point of view, is the whole arrangement something like an Edgeworth box? Put annual salary on the y-axis and the hard money fraction on the x-axis. A professor's contract is a point in that space. And the indifference curves for the professor will reflect the trade-off between money and risk. The University's preferences go the other way, I guess. But they are harder to think about if you think that very low rates of hard money coverage would have deleterious effects on overall performance.


Note: in the first line there, I meant: the school of public health at the University of Alberta.

(Always proof read before pressing post.)

In Texas public universities, budget cuts have led to increased teaching loads for most departments (lecturers were let go). Some departments, including one math dept I know of, responded by assigning 2 extra courses a year to faculty (i.e. professors of any rank, but not lecturers or instructors) who were not active in research. The criteria for "active in research" were determined internally within the Dept. I believe it was a fairly straightforward moving-window with "have you published at least X papers among our Dept list of journals in the last Y years?" Yes or no. According to my contact, given that they were required to teach more courses overall, faculty considered it a reasonably fair way to divide up the work load. (There were probably provisions for tenure track professors who are only starting their research program, but I don't know details.)

As for loss of status, I suspect it would depend on university or dept culture. In the above example, apparently it was not a big deal. Some faculty were essentially semi-retired, and they accepted teaching 2 more courses given that their research programs were not very active. This made it possible for the Dept's overall research output to remain competitive, with positive status externalities for all

Frances: No idea on how they determined what was eligible as a paper. I was a PhD student back them and saw the chart but never saw the implementation. The chart simply said "papers" and I know my PhD advisor was extremely concerned about slipping under the 2 papers a year threshold (the lab was in a tough moment at the time). But I was never 100% sure what counted, although given the pressure I was under to get a paper out I was pretty sure a senior authorship counted.

I think the paper would have to be in a physics journal, and at the time the faculty all seemed to know what that meant.

cw: "A key issue is what mix of financing mechanisms to employ." Yup, and how to get there from here. You're pretty familiar with both the Canadian and US systems - do you think there's a way of changing the Ontario mix without bloodshed (by which I mean strikes, union busting etc)?

Jack: "Some faculty were essentially semi-retired" - this is a key issue, also getting back to Jim's point above also - without a standard retirement age, we can't just let the no-longer-research-active professors cruise along until retirement, because retirement might be decades away.

I can see the teaching-stream appealing to conscientious people who don't like the idea of shirking, but are fed up with the publishing game. Especially in math, which really is a young person's game.

cw: "A key issue is what mix of financing mechanisms to employ." Yup, and how to get there from here. You're pretty familiar with both the Canadian and US systems - do you think there's a way of changing the Ontario mix without bloodshed (by which I mean strikes, union busting etc)?

They have visited most other sectors.

This is probably a heretical thing to say, but what's wrong with maybe relaxing the pressure on research (or at least the publishing end of it, they aren't the same thing)?

Are the results we produce really all that important in the overall scheme of things? Are they really all that necessary even if we believe the research / teaching mix story? Is this the best use of the resources society pays us to exercise on their behalf?

I can see from an institutional context that there might be an incentive to keep up the pressure - both from a competitive reputation point of view and because government funding in Canada has shifted noticeably over the past decade or so from operating grants to research grants. But does that make it right, or should we change the incentives?

Frances: I posted a reply earlier. But it did not get posted for some reason. Anyway, here's a new copy.
First, I should note that I'm pretty new to game by any measures. So we should all take my comments with a grain... With that in mind, I think there's something to be gained by thinking about winners and losers and compensating differentials here.

---> Indifference curves are an over simplification but perhaps still informative. Professors like contracts with higher salaries and more hard money coverage. Employers like contracts with lower salaries and less hard money coverage. There are probably some mutual gains from moving away from corner solutions. You would need to compensate people for taking on the soft-money risk. Maybe you make 100k under the 100% hard money system but 150k under the partial soft money arrangement. I doubt serious changes would be Pareto improvements. But perhaps Kaldor-Hicks? With a base salary bump at least some people will be better off. And these types of changes might result in less bloodshed.

---> People have to be convinced that the changes involve the mix of funding streams and not the overall level of funding. If everyone thinks this is a backdoor way to cut funding to universities then it's hard imagine avoiding bloodshed.

---> The switch can happen over time. Use the new partial soft money contracts for new hires. That's how we do it when we raise the retirement age and it works pretty well.

---> Much depends on the external grant money situation. Receiving grants has to be high status. The process of awarding grants can't be viewed as too rigged or corrupt. The level of funding for the granting agency has to be pretty stable. And the amount of money has to be scarce enough to actually induce people to not shirk. You might need schemes for teaching young faculty how to succeed... And the money has to be plentiful enough that at least some people are willing to accept a soft money contract.

--->The NIH plays this role in the US, I guess. The Canadian counterparts to the NIH don't really operate at this level. But I could imagine a move in that direction over time.

---> Faculty unions are -- I think -- less common in the US and that probably matters a lot. Why did faculty unions form in Canada but not the US? I have no idea.

---> I think some universities have changed over time in the US. Mostly public health and medical schools, I'm guessing. Even in Canada, aren't there special rule for tuition and salaries at business and law schools? Did these changes lead to bloodshed? The University of Michigan is a public university but it is apparently almost totally privately financed in practice. I don't know how that went down. But maybe there is some lesson to be learned.

I guess another approach is to use course reductions ("buy outs") as a kind of automatic stabilizer. Your contract could require a 3-3 teaching load. The price of buying out of courses could be pretty small for the first course or two. The goal would be to ensure that people are still "research active" rather than to encourage people to bring in huge amounts of external funding. If you let your research portfolio wind down then you automatically teach a bit more.

cw: "Indifference curves are an over simplification but perhaps still informative" - you just said that to make me happy, didn't you? :-)

It might also be useful to put teaching and research on the axes, and think about the Drummond report's aim to increase incentives/rewards for teaching as an attempt to change the relative price of those two things.

"The process of awarding grants can't be viewed as too rigged or corrupt."

This is one key difference between Canada and the US - Canada is so small that everyone in a field knows pretty much everyone else working in that same field, and adjudication becomes really tough.

By the way, if you post a long comment and it doesn't appear, odds are it's stuck in spam.

Jim: "Are the results we produce really all that important in the overall scheme of things?"
You know, I bet there's a really nice post one could do on "overconfidence bias" and academic research. I suspect a lot of academics think other people's research is pretty useless - but think their own is of vital earth-shattering import!

Question for you: if an article published in a journal never gets read, does it count as knowledge?

@cw: I think this is exactly the right approach, in principle. Framing matters, as Kahneman & Tversky showed. People respond better to "teach 3+3 but you can reduce this to as little as 1+2 if you publish a lot in top journals" than they do to "teach 2+2 and publish well, otherwise we'll up it to 3+3". Implementation can be difficult though, when a field is heterogeneous. Is the 3rd best econometrics journal equal to the 2nd best public economics journal? There are ways, but it's not easy.

The other issue is bird-in-the-hand hypothesis. The first universities to adopt this approach will be at a disadvantage with respect to the status quo, i.e., universities following the 2+2 & publish well model. Job candidates may be hesitant to sign up for 3+3 with the promise of course releases for excellent publishing.

I agree about faculty unions, that they make it harder to break the status quo. That said, in a "thin market" like Canadian academia, faculty unions may well be a good thing. If I am poorly treated in a US university, it is fairly easy to get up and go elsewhere. In Canada, less so.

"---> I think some universities have changed over time in the US. Mostly public health and medical schools, I'm guessing. Even in Canada, aren't there special rule for tuition and salaries at business and law schools? Did these changes lead to bloodshed? The University of Michigan is a public university but it is apparently almost totally privately financed in practice. I don't know how that went down. But maybe there is some lesson to be learned."

Tuition and salaries are two very different things. Medical degrees are still regulated though they are among the most expensive in terms of tuition in Ontario.

Law degrees are deregulated and law faculties have nearly as much independence from their overall institutions as divinity schools have, which is to say a great deal. Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto is affiliated with York University but in practice has very little to do with York. Osgoode Hall is its own world.

Commerce and Engineering are also deregulated but Engineering undergrad tuition is only $6,000. There is a limit to what the market will bear and these past years have not been conductive to Engineering graduates. I missed out on a $1,500 tuition increase because Dalton McGuinty decided to freeze all undergrad tuition when he took office. The howls from the Dean of Engineering's office could be heard across campus.

General Arts and Sciences degrees are still provincially regulated.

But undergrad tuition has no bearing on faculty pay and salaries to my knowledge except in a very general way.

More to the point, there is no public/private split to any degree in Canada, private universities here are generally small, religious institutions. We don't have a state/private split either. The big-name universities were all started by churches. UofT became a federation when the Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics agreed to join their colleges in Toronto. Queen's originated as a Presbyterian and then United Church university. York was Jewish, in the 1970's one could not get a ham and cheese sandwich (a very non-Kosher thing) in its cafeterias.

Carleton was the first non-religious university founded in Ontario.

Comparing my workplace: anyone earning what a prof earns is in at 7AM and doesn't get out until 5PM at the earliest, regardless of how old they are (but mostly the senior middle managers and up are 45+, at least). Maybe I'm being harsh, but it seems to me that a prof teaching undergrad courses (which they've taught MANY times before and presumably requires little prep time and they have materials ready to go) for 6 hours a week, fall and winter, is just not working that hard. OK, I'll grant that doing all that talking and standing is a little unpleasant, but compared to the private sector y'all have it pretty sweet. And they have these nifty inventions called microphones and stools to mitigate the ill effects of talking and standing.

In any case, if any prof really feels hard done by, then feel free to throw in the towel and do some of that lucrative consulting Frances mentions instead - though you'll find that being self employed doesn't come with tenure, a union, a DB pension, or EI eligibility.

So I guess you can count me in the 99.999% who aren't that sympathetic.

Ooops, meant to say 9 hours a week.

Since you aren't sympathetic anyway I suppose I don't have anything to lose by pissing you off - so no, I wouldn't call your comments harsh, I'd call them uninformed. Really offensively, stupidly, uninformed.

Jack: Can't you compensate people for these new schemes (partial soft money or 3-3 teaching load or whatever) by setting the base salary a bit higher. The incentives work are important at the margin not at the level. Also if the scheme works and productivity increases then the universities who adopt the model will be more productive than the universities who don't adopt them. Remember that the goal is not to have everyone teach 3-3. It's to have everyone remain research active. I like your point about framing the issue carefully. Gains vs losses. Rewards vs penalties. That stuff can matter.

Frances: Rewarding good teaching vs good research seems really tricky to me. Even harder than this post-tenure incentive business.

However, most (but not all) of the good teachers I had as an undergrad and masters student were relatively research active. I was not very aware of the distinction at the time though: they were all just professors to me. Sometimes people imply that there is a negative correlation between teaching ability and research ability -- "Those who can't do...teach" and all of that. But looking back I don't think that has been my experience at all. I can think of some exceptions in both directions, of course.

Is there any evidence that providing incentives for good research leads to worse teaching? It may lead to less teaching, of course. But worse teaching? I'm not so sure.

This blog post has finally convinced me that tenure has got to go.

There are legions of unemployed PhDs drowning in debt who would jump at the chance to do research, and professors are worried about *status*?

tyronen - Tenure is fading away in the US, and I think Canadian academics are in for a serious wake-up call. But don't judge people too harshly because they're concerned about status - it's a universal human obsession.

cw - interesting thoughts.

Patrick - we can agree that the status quo in Canadian academia is unsustainable. The question is: how to implement change? A Thatcher v. the coal miners or Reagan v. the air traffic controllers long drawn out face-off? A Caterpillar style "accept a 50% wage cut or else we're closing the plant and moving elsewhere?"

Or is there some kind of better way?

Geez, you're thin skinned. Look, I'm the kind of uninformed moron who pays the taxes that fund the schools that pay the salary and the DB pensions, so you better be prepared to explain (using small words and short sentences) how teaching 9 hours a week for 2x13 weeks (or whatever the term length is) merits guaranteed employment, six figures and a DB pension all paid for by members of the great unwashed (like me).

And there is a delicious irony here: unionized econ profs working for publicly funded institutions pissing and moaning about how much the gov't is going to make them work? Good gawd, you couldn't make this stuff-up. When longer hours, lower wages, and job insecurity happen to someone else it's efficient markets, but when it happens to you it's injustice. Hilarious.

Patrick: Professors are supposed to teach, conduct research, and (usually) also participate in some aspects of running the university. In your description, the professors only teach and the teaching is easy! 6-8 hours a week and they even get a microphone and a projector for powerpoint slides. Professors are just high school teachers with more years of education on their CVs.


This view seems a bit extreme. Frances' initial post and this entire (fun) discussion is about how to design contracts and institutions that will produce a better balance of teaching-research-service activities from university professors. The current system seems to have some incentive problems. And there are reasons to think it is less than ideal in some ways.

But you should not get the wrong idea about the whole thing. Professors are not a uniform group of huge slackers. At a lot of places the workaholics are more common than the deadwood. Many professors are pretty self-motivated: they are happy to spend a lot of time on research and teaching because they find it interesting. Also: the university systems in Canada and the United States seem to me to be pretty successful. There is a surprising amount of good and diverse research. Undergraduate students seem to leave and the evidence suggest a university education improves people's lives in a whole bunch of ways. And these are causal claims not mere correlations. There may be room for improvement, but it's not like the university system is some sort of disastrous waste of money.

Frances: I don't know what is sustainable. The big problem is the willingness of the members of the great unwashed to fund what is, relative to the average person's terms of employment, extremely lavish compensation and working conditions. It's not just picking on university professors, it's everyone who has a good deal in whole or in part on the public dime. It's human nature to ask "why, when I have no prospect for ever retiring and can be fired at any time for any reason, should I pay taxes to fund guaranteed employment, high salaries, and DB pensions for *anyone*". Close the gap between what the average person gets and what profs get, and profs will, I think, get less heat for having a sweet deal.

Maybe some schools will just privatize? I dunno.

Patrick - I agree that teaching 9 hours a week doesn't justify guaranteed employment, six figures and a DB pension, any more than you private sector types taking three martini lunches and collecting stock options while your interns do all the work justify what you get. Problem is neither description is close to the truth.

Patrick - we can agree that the status quo in Canadian academia is unsustainable. The question is: how to implement change? A Thatcher v. the coal miners or Reagan v. the air traffic controllers long drawn out face-off? A Caterpillar style "accept a 50% wage cut or else we're closing the plant and moving elsewhere?"

Or is there some kind of better way?

I'm sorry, I can't believe I read this. Where were you (vous, faculty, economics faculty in particular) when Inco's miners went on strike to keep the DB pension open for new entrants, and lost? Where were you when private sector employers eliminated their DB pensions? Where were you when the private sector started to hire legions of contract workers for the same work with no job security, no pension, no health benefits, no disability coverage and no bargaining power?

The Left has been trying to talk about a better way for 25 years and mainstream economists have consistently ignored the demands of labour and said "such it up, this is structural readjustment".

Or is employed one of those irregular verbs, I'm employed, you are unproductive, they are impeding structural readjustment?

If I was one of the few who even tried to understand you then you are rapidly losing me. Believe me, clergy face the same accusations but the pay hardly gets above $50K and the United Church of Canada has one of the best clergy compensation packages in North America.

@cw: Maybe I should have prefaced my original comment with more context. I thought I had, but obviously I got Jim's hackles up. It was really in response to Frances "how to force a prof to retire" recipe I was imagining a prof who had thrown in the towel on research, who was an admin slacker, and who would quit/retire in a snit if they had to teach 9 hours a week. Obviously, most profs don't fall into that category.

When I was in school, I noticed the older profs who didn't do much research themselves anymore tended to teach a few plum undergrad courses (where the TA's did most of the marking), and maybe run a lab or research group of some kind. Some tried to get their names on papers that way, but mostly they seemed to get a lot of satisfaction out of mentoring their favorite grad students and tormenting the undergrads with impossibly difficult exams.

BTW, I NEVER would claim universities are not worthwhile.

This conversation has taken a strange turn. But is this characterization of professors vs taxpayers really the central debate? Does the public really take such a negative view of university professors in Canada?

Prior to this exchange, I was thinking about a labor dispute between universities and professors about the kinds of performance incentives that are part of a typical employment contract. As a rule, universities don't seem to dislike professors or question the value of their work in the abstract sense. It's hard to imagine a university administration that spends time campaigning about how faculty research is a waste of time that isn't worth the money. This kind of bad press would surely erase the gains from any contract re-negotiation.

If the campaign is motivated by the sentiments that Patrick is expressing then it's a different story altogether. But is the Canadian public really in favor of substantial cuts to its university system because it considers professors lazy and overpaid? Sociologist sometimes do these rankings of the professions in terms of public respect. Being a lawyer is less respected now than in the past. Medical Doctors are highly respected. But what about professors? What's their public image like? I don't know. Is Patrick's view typical?

What cw said: this post is about figuring out ways to make the university sector better. Unconstructive comments will be unpublished.

On relative pay of the public and private sector, read this post by Tammy Schirle Are public sector workers all really over paid?"

The public sector pay scale is much flatter than the private sector one, so clerical workers are well paid relative to their private sector counter-parts, and but Deans are poorly paid relative to comparable private sector managers.

Determinant, my next post in the Globe and Mail's Economy Lab will be a less parochial look at the Drummond Report. In that I highlight the job losses that will be experienced by clerical, administrative etc workers, and the downloading of care onto unpaid care givers. If all of the recommendations are implemented, tens of thousands of jobs will be "shed."

Ok: so Patrick's view is less strong than we initially thought. Fair enough. But still I wonder what public support for university professors is like?

Determinant: You are distressed about how workers in these other sectors have been treated and suggest that it's pretty rich of an economist to want to avoid bloodshed once the structural adjustment forces hit the academic sector. Perhaps. But some "adjustments" are a good idea. And some changes are probably a good idea in the University system too. Surely it's good to try to come up with ways to make the adjustment process as smooth as possible. The changes mentioned -- Regan, Thatcher, etc -- were not smooth. The question is whether we could have made some version of these changes without the giant fight. Is a giant fight inevitable in the Ontario university system?

First, the Cost/Benefits/Productivity Fairy has visited most sectors since 1980. The fairy is often unwelcome and his effects resented, especially by labour. Now it's academics turn. Fair's fair, it's your turn. Why put "shed" in scare quotes? That's just falling back on the use of irregular verbs.

Second, the Public Sector is incredibly diverse. As a good friend observed after years of working for the Public Service of Canada, different Departments have vastly different cultures and work practices. They are not a monolithic entity at all and to think so is wrong, wrong, wrong. The Public Service is much more like a string of employers linked together through common pay arrangements, pension and benefit plans and the fact that they all report ultimately to Parliament. Often times two departments are only linked by Parliament and nothing else. What's the link between Finance and Health? They are pretty orthogonal to each other 99% of the time.

Lastly as a person who has tried to enter the Public Service I can say that the reason I want to do so is primarily public service. I like risk and regulation is a good way to get exposed to meaningful risk. Widgets just don't interest me. Sure it's a good package and I like it, but my health won't stand the uncertainty of the private sector. Diabetes likes routine and a nice drug plan. The fact that I do well in the process and have got to very advanced stages just reinforces the point.

When you anticipate the Estimates so you know what will happen in Departments of interest to you in the next year, you are showing signs of Public Servant. It goes along with bilingualism and knowledge of when and how to use the magic word "clarification".

I didn't leave the private sector, the private sector left me.

I've seen a few surveys of public attitudes to trust of various professions, and we don't do too badly there (much much better than lawyers and business executives, though lower than regular teachers and policemen, doctors and nurses). CAUT does a lot of surveying of public attitudes to post-secondary education, and it has always been quite favorable, though with any interest group like that you wonder a bit if they're getting what they've paid to find. I also wonder how strong that support will be when push comes to shove, as it seems to be.


Two results worth noting. Somewhat more support for us not being overpaid than being overpaid. And if we need to cut the consensus is cut administration.

Just to clarify: tenure is a perk. (And not even really job security, since Universities can close entire Depts and force out tenured faculty, as they've done in the USA.) If you remove it, faculty salaries will have to increase on average (simple economic market-clearing), so if our objective is to save public funds, tenure is actually a good deal, since most faculty work very hard and, if anything, there is a problem with workaholism in academia: poor work-home balance, burnouts, etc. When you combine teaching, supervising grad students, grant-writing, research papers, and admin, it is typical for faculty to work 60 hours a week, and more like 70-90 during tenure-track or in top research universities. Moreover, consulting gigs are mostly concentrated in a few fields like engineering and finance. An English Lit professor is unlikely to have many such opportunities. Lastly, faculty often do not get their first real job until they are well into their 30s, so they have to work later in life to be able to afford to retire.

So as Prof. Woolley originally said (I'm paraphrasing), the question is about how to make the best use of faculty in the later years and how to provide the right incentives. All this is ultimately about improving the student experience and use of public funds.

Jim: "And if we need to cut the consensus is cut administration."

I should look at what the Drummond report says about university administration - IIRC admin costs have been increasing faster than other costs. But I don't see how all of the accountability, monitoring, assessment, evaluation of teaching etc that the Drummond report envisions can be done without having even *more* administrators.

"Is a giant fight inevitable in the Ontario university system?"

It depends how pliant Faculty Unions are. My political nose says they don't have much to stand on.

As a paid-up member of the NDP, I fully admit that "adjustments" can and do happen, in fact they need to. The reason I am a lefty is that I believe it is our responsibility to make such adjustments as humane as possible and to make the labour more robust to accommodate these changes, for instance eliminating employer health plans in favour of a public drug plan along the line of the NHS. Count the costs of failure and make it fail gracefully.

But many economists were on Reagan's and Thatcher's side (and other cost-cutting initiatives, how about when Air Canada tried to roll back its DB pension for flight attendants?) and it will be hard to miss the "shoe on the other foot" observation.

Jack, it is not self-evident that faculty salaries will rise if we eliminate tenure. That assumes there is a shortage of faculty. Given the number of grad students who want to be profs, I doubt if it will cause any financial rise. Benefit cuts in other industries and sectors have not led to overall compensation rises, quite the opposite in fact. Welcome to cost-cutting in the presence of unemployment.

@Determinant: I agree, here I was assuming we wish to maintain quality of professors constant. If you believe faculty are interchangeable drones, then, yes there is slack. But there is good reason why many ABD grad students never get a faculty job. They are good, but not good enough. If you cannot complete a dissertation, how do you hope to publish every year on top of teaching, supervision, grant-writing, and admin?

I also agree that it would vary by field. In some fields, faculty salaries are above market-clearing, so cutting perks need not lead to higher wages. But in other fields, salaries are below market-clearing (e.g., engineering, finance, computer science, maybe law and medicine too?), and cutting perks without increasing average salaries would lead to a brain drain.

I imagine faculty salaries are the biggest piece of the pie when it comes to costs? If so, that might explain why Drummond focused there.

P.S. A little Googling seems to confirm this, but I'm looking at OUSA report and I'm inclined to be sceptical....

Patrick - Canadian Association of University Teacher's Almanac on www.caut.ca (just google CAUT) is the best source for university finance stats.

My point was that admin costs (and senior admin salaries) have been growing relative to faculty salaries. Faculty salaries are still a big piece of the pie however.

Jack - the rising Cdn $$ is making it much easier to hire academics. Topic for another blog post!

Frances: could that growth be attributable to competition with equivalent private sector positions? Senior management positions in the private sector have grown much faster than the rank and file workers wages.

I wonder if Canada might want to consider something more radical than just trying to tweak around the edges of the system. Based on my own experience at McGill in engineering and CS, it was a huge waste to have the professors I had teaching the likes of me. So, it's really no wonder they didn't want to be doing it. It's like getting Feynman to teach kindergarten - sure he could do it, perhaps well but is it a good use of resources? All I and most of my fellow students really wanted was to get a piece of paper that would enable us to get a reasonable job. Maybe we need a system that does that, and thus free the Universities to go back to there work of educating the truly brilliant (or wealthy) students and doing research.

Patrick - this is what the whole idea of "teaching stream faculty" is about, to have people who are solely dedicated to teaching the likes of you!

In Ontario there seems to be a move to making entire Universities teaching oriented and keeping a few large research institutions.

Chris J - U of T is right next door to Queen's Park. This maters.

Here's one scenario: U of T St George slashes undergrad enrolment, admitting a small number of undergrads and charging top dollar 'market fees' to the elite who can afford to pay for the UC/Trinity/Vic etc experience (they can't get rid of the undergrad colleges, the alum would riot). This would work, financially, for U of T St George if if the 'market fees' are high enough *and* they can divert research funding from other universities towards U of T - and extract sufficient rents from U of T Mississauga and Scarborough etc. Meanwhile other universities/degree granting colleges take up the slack, teaching those who would be in 1000 seat lectures at U of T, and leaving research to our betters.

One slight problem with this scenario: U of T St George has enough deadwood to start a rip roaring bonfire.

Moreover, if status as 'research' or 'teaching' oriented is fixed, there are no incentives for effort, let alone excellence.

"If you remove it, faculty salaries will have to increase on average (simple economic market-clearing)"

Not necessarily. That would depend on the demand in the marketplace. For some university disciplines, demand is not so great outside of the iniversity sector itself; there might have to be a heck of a lot of 'market-clearing' first. In some disciplines, wages could fall by quite a bit.

I expect that tenure will either disappear or be greatly modified in the future. In addition, I think we will eventually have to see a great deal more collaboration among universities / community colleges in terms of who offers what programs (reducing duplication) and how teaching is 'delivered'. Perhaps some of the unis now known primarily as undergrad 'teaching' universities will morph into 2 yr institutions offering local and internet-based courses. Graduates would move to 'research' universities specialized in their areas of interest.

Insofar as the way the public views profs, I'd say there's a mix of respect for the institution, envy of the perceived working conditions, and appreciation for good teaching and research. As tax dollars become tighter, however, there is bound to be a feeling that universities have too great a slice of the pie, and there will be more of a demand to see the value in the cost.

Are there synergies or economies of scale to be had by keeping teaching the masses and research shoved together? 'cause I'm thinking more along the lines of creating new institutions for the purpose of teaching the masses and completely freeing research oriented institutions from the burden of dealing with the mess of teaching huge numbers of students.

Salary levels overall might not have to rise if tenure is eliminated, but there would have to be a wholesale levelling of the salary grid, as faculty could no longer trust that their early years of being underpaid would be compensated by higher salaries later - especially if we also bring in systems to eliminate those who under-perform. You end up with something like the world of finance, where you bring young hotshots in at high salaries and burn them out.

That would also in my mind undercut much of the built in incentive structure to perform - why bother getting promoted if you don't get paid more?

Tenure isn't just a perk, I think it's an integral component of an incentive system that has evolved to give faculty, who are difficult to monitor, reason to continue to perform. You can replace it with assessments and administrative oversight, but as Frances has suggested that requires resources.

Jim: "You can replace it with assessments and administrative oversight"

And sometimes the cure is worse than the disease!


I am not convinced by these arguments that removing tenure would lead to lower wages for professors.

First off, I don't think it's true that there are very many "professor quality" unemployed PhDs floating around in the economy. If there are so many of these people out there then why aren't faculty wages already falling? Why don't these unemployed PhDs offer to perform the quality-constant research-teaching-service duties of professors for less money? In Canada, unionization might make it hard for universities to respond. But the academic market is international and in the US the universities would surely be willing to pay less if they could.

Second, I think people have been confusing the idea of "removing tenure to alter contractual work incentives" with the idea of "a negative shock to the demand for professorial labor services". If we get rid of tenure but we don't shrink our demand for teaching and research then why would there be downward pressure on wages? I can think of lots of negative demand shocks for professorial services, of course -- large scale online teaching could be a big deal, for example -- but these things are separate from the effects of the tenure.

Tenure is a perk that employees like to have. It's part of the total compensation package. Workers will mostly "pay" for tenure with lower wages than they would have in its absence. What if I offer you a) a job at 50k per year with employment at will, or b) a job at 49k per year with lifetime tenure? If you want the tenured job then you see my point. Tenure is worth giving up some salary. Like many perks and in-kind transfers, tenure has implications for ex post effort levels. And so maybe we should reconsider the way that tenure works. Maybe we should keep it. Maybe we should leave it behind or alter it. Whatever.

But I don't think you can make a very good case that the causal effect of tenure on prevailing wages for professors is positive. It just doesn't seem to make sense. Other factors may lead to falling professor wages. But removing tenure would increase wages, other things equal.

I don't think tenure is as simple as that.

We don't get a 49k or whatever k job with lifetime tenure, we get a job with a steep gradient that significantly underpays us to start and arguably overpays us later. We accept the low pay to start on the promise that if we perform and get promotions we will be overpaid st the end. Tenure is our guarantee that the sneaky bastards in administration won't take advantage and cut us off before we get payback.

Without getting into why we do that, which I think is related to setting up incentives so that we self motivate to produce without having to spend a lot of resources on monitoring and enforcement, if you get rid of tenure you will have to up the ante for people to start, and might well see wages at the upper end reduced. I don't know that overall wages will be higher or lower, but they should be leveler, and I think experience bears that out.

Plus as I said you lose the incentive structure and have to hire a bunch more administrative people to breath down our necks and evaluate us.

Perhaps what you say is true. But to me it seems like the age-earnings profile is pretty flat in the academic sector. There are only three major promotion periods,right?

Maybe you are counting graduate school wages as the underpayment period. But lots of people have graduate degrees and end up working in the private sector without tenure. These people face a pretty steep age-earnings profile over careers with more than three promotion cycles. To me it still seems like the offer of tenure will shift the lift-time age-earnings curve down and should not simply change it's tilt. Still...this part is complicated.

(I really should go back to trying to get tenure now.)


There are only three promotion periods (plus tenure) but the scale at least in Canada goes up hugely within each rank. For a job that has virtually the same responsibilities at beginning and end, it has an overall scale that more than doubles. Might be a bit flatter for economists and those that have outside alternatives but for average faculty it's quite steep.

Frances, I have looked at some http://www.heqco.ca webpages and reports and it is pretty clear what direction this is going in. This is not to say UofT will cut the number of students but smaller Universities will have a tougher time getting grad programs approved or getting money to support researchers in their first year. etc etc.

To be clear there are some great undergraduate liberal-arts schools. A friend is a prof at Harvey Mudd. There are some great ones in the Maritimes, Bishops...

This thread seems to illustrate a confirmation bias among economists. When other sectors have their perks (pensions, tenure, whatever) removed, it is "restructuring" and economists generally go out of their way to justify firm behaviour. In a field that utilizes utilitarianism so much, firms are assumed to be more utilitarian than individuals, particularly individual workers and even unions.

There is no a priori reason to assume this, it is a fallacy. But when the perks and benefits of academic faculty are attacked, many economists here have adopted the "let's adapt and try to keep what we can" and make appeals to "humanity" and "kindness" that when others (such as myself) make them are dismissed as so much special pleading.

I am struck by the cognitive dissonance going.

Whatever happened to "blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy?"

Determinant: I have not noticed many arguments on this post that are about how academics can manage to keep all of their "perks". Rather, the discussion has been about how best to design tenure and other incentives in order to promote better research and teaching. And about how to avoid costly and disruptive dispute resolution processes like strikes.

I do not see the pleading for "humanity and kindness" that you keep mentioning in your posts.

From what I can tell a lot of the conversation has been about how to improve productivity, how various universities have tried to align post-tenure incentives, what type of conflicts and arguments were involved, and about whether there are win-win solutions that are possible in the Canadian setting.

None of this seems very different from the way that economists interpret "restructuring" in other industries. Further, plenty of economists have studied and are concerned about how "restructuring" and other structural economic changes have affected individuals and families in negative and positive ways. The labor and public economics literatures provide loads of examples.

Your characterization of economists as wild hypocrites seems unjustified to me. But maybe we just read different papers?

The Caterpillar thread shows what I mean.

As a more general example, when a manufacturer terminates its DB pension it is controlling costs. When a provincial government moves to demand more teaching from academics, it is endangering research and its incentives. How many times have economists actually listened to labour instead of management in other contexts? When an economist seeks tenure it encourages research, when a labourer seeks secure manufacturing employment it is a rent. Actually the two are the same. How much does it take to actually get an economist to think critically about firms and employers? Barrie McKenna's recent article in Economy Lab illustrates this criticism.

How about Frances' recent assertion that the federal Public Service Pension Plan may be cut generates no criticism from the economists around here, but when economists' pensions and benefits are discussed, it generates much interest. The source of funds for both are taxpayer dollars, but the treatment and view of their costs and benefits by the academy is very different.

My issue is with those whose arguments concerning faculty are at odds with their analysis of other sectors of employment. Those who are consistent for all sectors including their are innocent, but the party who switches views is inconsistent and this is the group I take issue with.

I'm not an economist, I'm an outsider and as I like to say a member of the Maple Leaf Peanut Gallery, just like Patrick is.

cw - thanks for putting things so articulately.

Determinant - If you have problems with Mike's thread on Caterpillar, take it up there, not here. Stay on topic.

I have no problems with that thread other than the general take on restructuring and the lack of empathy and attempts at justification of Caterpillar's actions contrast with the empathizing and justification of existing faculty benefits that exists here. It was mentioned as an example of contrast with reference to this thread, a point that is about this thread.

"From what I can tell a lot of the conversation has been about how to improve productivity"

I don't agree. We are likely entering a period where we will see the same re-structuring pressures on universities that we have seen on, e.g. manufacturing. I see no evidence here that university staff recognize the implications of that.

"As a more general example, when a manufacturer terminates its DB pension it is controlling costs. When a provincial government moves to demand more teaching from academics, it is endangering research and its incentives. How many times have economists actually listened to labour instead of management in other contexts?"

If the point of the observation is that people's tune changes when they're personally affected, it's a fair, if obvious point. Then again, that merely highlights that academics are human, not souless automatons. Moreover, I think that many of the arguments made against restructuring in academia have the exact same merit as those made by the CAW or CUPE (i.e., not much).

That said, I don't think many of the posters here are arguing against restructuring in the academia. The suggestion that, if possible, it should be done smoothly is a reasonable one. Is that inconsistent with the purported support of "economists" of the Thatcher/Reagan battles? (I say "purported" because, in practice, economists are far less monolithic than you seem to believe) No, actually. The Reagan/Thatcher battles occured because smooth change wasn't possible IN THOSE CONTEXTS. In those cases there were conflicts between newly elected governments and powerful entrenched labour unions - unstoppable force meet immovable object, not an atmosphere condusive to gradual change.

Indeed, the view that you ascribe to Frances and others of "let's adapt and try to keep what we can" isn't inconsistent with the views of economists in those disputes or, say, the EMD dispute. Quite the contrary, that's precisely the advice that the people on this blog suggested that the CAW should heed (and I suspect, if asked, that would have been the advice given. Had they listened to the economists, the CAW members in london would still have jobs, albeit at reduced pay rates.

We'll see whether a smooth transition is possible here. I'm not obtimistic because I don't think the McGuinty government (and the broader public sector, on both the management and labour side) have the gumption to act in a timely fashion to make that possible (if it isn't already too late). The end result will
likely be that universities will be told that their per student funding is getting cut and that if they don't want to see hefty salary and benefit cuts, they'd better figure out a way to start getting more teaching from their professors. That will involve strikes (because there is a segment of the academic community who see themselves as members of the oppressed proletariat, despite the fact that their pay grade puts them pretty close to the 1%), disruptions and all sorts of nastyness. And the thinking that Frances has initiated here will be important for both management and labour in that dispute to ensure that they structure their reformed compensation scheme in way that doesn't create perverse incentives for either teaching or research.

Sorry missed a sentence in the second to last paragraph: "(and I suspect, if asked, that would have been the advice given by economists in the winter of discontent or the air traffic controllers strike as being the best possible outcome for labour)

By the way, my post on the Drummond report is currently up on Economy Lab under my tab. It should meet with Determinant's approval.

I wouldn't discount the politics. Google is telling me that higher ed isn't that big a chunk of the budget in ON, but like it or not, profs are an easy target. Undergrad degrees are the new high school leavings. Viewed from the perspective of the average working shlub, the question will be framed as "why does a glorified high school teacher needs 6 figures and guaranteed employment for life?"

Look, I'm not trying to piss anyone off here. But if it comes to a fight university profs will have an uphill battle. One I suspect they're unlikely to win. Try and economy lab article on this topic. It would draw some, umm, interesting comments I'm sure.

If it was me, I'd be inclined to just take my ball and go home; take the plum private sector job that pays more and be done with it. Or privatize the schools - it doesn't seem to do your US counterparts any harm.

One very interesting point that I completely agreed with. University Professors who stop doing as much research or book writing can indeed be deployed into other areas. After publishing a number of books and doing quite a bit of research, this is exactly what my father did. He went to a whole new department in fine arts that had poor facilities and poor funding. In six years, he completely revamped it - more funding, new facility and two more professors added. He also took on a more active role on committees etc. He loved it, and it was good for both him and the University.

When profs stop being research active .... they get sacked:


Patrick - Wow!

"Letters were posted to researchers on Monday 20 February, informing them their positions were being terminated because they hadn’t published at least four “research outputs” over the past three years, Michael Thomson, branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union, told Nature. It is unclear which research fields the academics work in."

I wonder what counts as "research output"? How are disciplines where many short articles are the norm treated in comparison to disciplines where a smaller number of longer articles are usual?

I also wonder - given the uselessness of much academic research - about the merits of introducing such draconian publishing incentives.

From U Sydney article: "The move is part of wider cost-cutting plans designed to pay for new buildings and refurbishment to the university". This tells you everything you need to know about why higher education inflation. Faculty salaries are a small part of it, to be sure, but mainly it is admin and their pet projects. Where I used to teach in the US, I "brought" $224,000 in student credits to the university, and cost the uni about $40,000 net (subtracting research soft money that I brought in), and not including summer salary that I had to get myself. Since tuition was roughly matched with public funds, it means my cost to the university was less than 10% of the budget (pro rata). Where did the other 90% of the money go??

Re: productivity, I agree with the principle of expecting researchers to publish (else, teach more!), but measuring research output is difficult, and any system will be gamed. For a researcher, the same effort over 2 years might yield either:
- 10% chance of a publication in an A journal, otherwise ending up in a B journal, or
- 2 articles in B journals, or
- 10 articles in D journals (!)

As a researcher, I would prefer the first strategy, because research will be more meaningful, more widely read, more influential. But if the University only counts beans, then I will publish 10 weak papers in obscure journals that no one reads. A sad outcome for all.

Jack, a few books have been written about this recently, including Why Does College Cost So Much? I did a little post about the rise of the professional administrative class in universities here

Wow. I hadn't thought about the professional administration angle. Stupid of me. This seems to parallel my claim that professional management is really the common enemy of labour and capital. Has d^2/dt^2 (administrators salaries) been increasing? Once you get a professional administrator class, you're hosed. They'll set their salaries by bench marking (e.g. everyone says "our administrators must be the best, therefore we pay 10% above median"). They'll gut the institution to pay their salaries while telling everyone it's necessary to retain the best 'talent', and therefore you should be grateful.

Man, if this is what's happening the academics union should find a way to short circuit the dynamic, 'cause it doesn't end well for anyone.

Patrick: Has d^2/dt^2 (administrators salaries) been increasing?

Not sure from your notation whether you're talking first or second derivative. Admin salaries have been increasing much more rapidly than regular faculty salaries, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that they're increasing at an increasing rate.

Yup, second derivative w.r.t time. Maybe \frac {d^2} {dx^2} is more familiar :)

BTW, I just found mathurl.com. It's too cool. You enter latex and it gives you a png to reference in an img tag. I'll try it below ...

Seems to work (at least it did with preview).

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