Once again a picture helps us diagnose one of the difficulties that the University of Alberta is currently experiencing: ever since the early 1980s, the student:faculty ratio has been steadily worsening, so that the current ratio of students to faculty is now worse that it was during the Great Depression and through the very bleak decade that followed.
* This chart is available on the University of Alberta’s Strategic Analysis Office website “Statistics about the U of A.”
The times at which the student:faculty ratios have been at their best were periods in which Canada was most deeply committed to pursuing social policies that privileged the well-being of the many over the enrichment of the few (the 1960s and the late 1970s).
The slight improvement at the very tail-end of the chart is the result of the hiring of new faculty over the last few years — the result, that is, of the very gains that the University Administration is poised to reverse, if it goes ahead with its plan to permit faculty “lines” in the Faculties of Arts and Science close in order to remedy the budget deficits that the University’s President, Indira Samarasekera, has declared “modest.”
Unless we can produce a different outcome to the budgetary crises currently before us, everyone should expect to see the ratio rise to approach what it was at its absolute worst, in the last 1940s.
Imagine what we might achieve if the University were to reverse various negative trends (including the growth of the Administration) to achieve the kind of student:faculty ratios the University had in its first quarter century. Let us call for the Administration to ensure that professors who retire are replaced, so that we can reverse the negative statistics for the immediate benefit of all students enrolled at the University and the students planning to enrol over the next few years.