Contract jobs now account for majority of university faculty appointments in Canada

November 1, 2018

New study examines reliance on precarious jobs on university campuses; Ontario, Quebec and B.C. have contract faculty rates above national average.

OTTAWA—Canadian universities are relying heavily on precariously-employed faculty on campus, according to a new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Once among the most secure professions in the country, by 2016-17 contract jobs in the sector accounted for the majority (53.6 per cent) of all university faculty appointments, according to data obtained through Freedom of Information requests to all 78 publicly-funded Canadian universities. The findings show that reliance on contract faculty is a foundational part of the system, and has been for at least a decade.

The report, Contract U: Contract faculty appointments at Canadian universities, is the first-ever snapshot of the prevalence of university contract jobs, where they’re located, and what departments are more likely to offer contract work instead of permanent, secure academic appointments.

“Our findings suggest the significant reliance on contract faculty in Canadian universities is a structural issue, not a temporary approach to hiring,” says Chandra Pasma, co-author of the study and Canadian Union of Public Employees researcher. “And we know that impacts workers in the sector and the quality of education students receive.”

Among the study’s key findings:

  • Part-time work accounted for nearly 80 per cent of all faculty contract appointments in 2016-17;
  • Quebec relies on contract faculty appointments far more than any other province, at 61 per cent. Ontario (54 per cent) and B.C. (55 per cent) also have rates of contract appointments above the national average (53.6 per cent);
  • Overall, there are 13 universities in Canada where contract appointments are more than two-thirds of all faculty appointments;
  • In all subject areas besides agriculture and veterinary medicine, contract jobs represent more than one-third of appointments. 

“There are a number of excuses offered for the dependence on contract faculty: as a cost-cutting measure, as a response to job and marketplace demand, or as the personal choice of individual professors,” adds report co-author Erika Shaker, CCPA senior education researcher. “However, the data suggests that this reliance has far more to do with institutional choice than anything else.” 


Contract U: Contract faculty appointments at Canadian universities is available for download on the CCPA website. For more information or to arrange interviews contact: Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations Officer, at 613-563-1341 x 307, cell 343-998-7575 or [email protected].

The most recent information available regarding faculty numbers, including both new and revised information from universities, can be found in the online database of contract faculty at