Raising the teaching and research productivity of their public university

On cherchait de meilleures méthodes pour améliorer la productivité de nos universités.

L’institut Mowat compare la performance des universités ontariennes avec celle de la Californie.

Au lieu de crier au meurtre, car nos universités sont sous-financées, il serait peut-être préférable de penser à changer le mode opératoire, pour en avoir plus pour notre argent.

«This policy idea may not be popular elsewhere in the university community.

But taxpayers and students should welcome the prospect of raising the teaching and research productivity of their public university system

Extrait de: Looking to California for higher-education policy inspiration, Ian Clark, Mowat,

The Ontario government has asked for policy ideas to make its universities more productive.

Here is one: Allocate a quarter of the province’s $3.5-billion university grant on the basis of faculty research performance with a view to getting closer to the teaching and research productivity of public universities in California. California’s public university system is not much bigger than Ontario’s.

Although California has 2.8 times Ontario’s population, community colleges provide the first two years of baccalaureate education for many students there, and the state has many private universities. Its public university system – the combination of the University of California and California State University – has only 31% more students than Ontario’s.

·         The California grant per student ($7,900 annually) is nearly the same as Ontario’s ($7,700 annually), and revenue from tuition is about 50% higher in California ($8,400 per student compared with $5,700).

California gets more teaching per dollar than Ontario.

Universities receive 22 percent more grant and tuition revenue per student and have a comparable number of full-time faculty per student, but full-time faculty on average do 32 percent more teaching. Semesters are two weeks longer.

As a result, the average California student receives 55 percent more teaching from full-time faculty than her counterpart in Ontario.

In California, a much lower proportion of faculty is paid to spend as much time on research as on teaching. Does this hurt its comparative research performance? California has five public universities – Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Davis – in the Times Higher Education top 40; Ontario has one.

California’s professors have earned 27 Nobel prizes since 1995; those in Ontario, none. California’s public universities appear to produce substantially more research than Ontario’s. Yet, remarkably, the total cost of faculty time for research is lower.

Academic Transformation: The Forces Reshaping Higher Education


In Ontario examines the developments that are re-shaping the province's post-secondary system, including higher enrollment, further development of a knowledge-based economy, and ncreased demands for research focused on competitiveness and productivity. Universities and colleges are also adjusting to internal changes in the composition of the student body and staff, faculty work profiles, and funding arrangements.


The authors suggest changes in the system's structure, policy, and funding to respond to these developments

Academic Transformation The Forces Reshaping Higher Education

Given Ontario faculty’s 40-40-20 split between teaching, research and service, the cost of faculty time for research calculated as 40% of compensation for full-time faculty comes to $850-million.

In California, if one assumes a 40-40-20 split for the 8,452 tenure-track faculty at the 10 University of California institutions, and a 60-20-20 split for the 9,502 tenure-track faculty at the 23 California State University institutions, a similar calculation comes to $830-million. Ontario could get more value for its money by redirecting dollars for faculty research time to the most productive researchers. Research performance differs dramatically among faculty.

A preliminary look at Ontario publication, citation and grant data for Ontario professors of the same rank in the same field suggests that 70% of the research is produced by the most productive 30%.

Ontario would get more research and more teaching for its tax and tuition dollars if, like California, it adopted a university funding model that encouraged the minority of faculty who are productive researchers to do more research and the majority to do more teaching. It could do this by allocating up to a quarter of the operating grant among its 20 universities on the basis of the research contribution of their faculty.

A process for calculating research contribution is sketched out in my submission to the government, available at www.academicreform.ca. The contribution of each professor could be assessed from publication, citation and grant-success data normalized by field of study. The calculations could be made in a transparent manner by a small research assessment unit using publicly available data.

This policy idea may not be popular elsewhere in the university community.

But taxpayers and students should welcome the prospect of raising the teaching and research productivity of their public university system.

The California example shows that it can be done.

Ian D. Clark is professor of public policy at the University of Toronto. In 2011 he co-authored, with David Trick and Richard Van Loon, Academic Reform: Policy Options for Improving the Quality and Cost-effectiveness of Undergraduate Education in Ontario