Yesterday, Alex Usher blogged at the Globe and Mail’s web site about the salaries of Canadian university professors. He argues that professors in Canada are now paid better than professors in the United States. He also suggests that, in Canada, “professors are getting world-class pay without producing world-class results.”
While I’ve never argued that tenured Canadian university professors are underpaid (contract instructors are another story, of course), I do have three concerns about Mr. Usher’s position.
First, his argument isn’t as strong when and if the loonie drops in valueÂ down the road.
Second,Â even if the case can be made that Canada’s professors are better paid than their American counterparts, that doesn’t suggest to me thatÂ Canadian universitiesÂ should necessarily change course.Â Good remuneration forÂ university professors should be seen as a goodÂ thing, not a bad thing.Â
Third, there’s a long (and increasingly expensive) road requiredÂ of a young person toÂ obtain a PhD, and then hit the job market, and then take on contract jobs, and thenÂ (hopefully) obtain a tenure-track job as a professor, and then get tenure. In fact, 50% of people who start a PhD in North America never finish. Moreover, when student groupsÂ raise concernÂ to politicians and senior university officialsÂ about rising tuition and student debt, they’re often told to stuff it because, when they graduate (they’re told), their earningsÂ will be higher on account of theirÂ degrees.Â Surely, if we want good people to persevere and become professors, we should try to have well-paying jobs for them at the end of that tunnel.
I think my professors are worth what they’re paid.Â And I’m not just saying that because they read this blog.