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The Canada Research Chairs Program: the good, the bad, and the ugly


Drawing on 60 qualitative interviews with Canada research chairs (CRCs), we explore their careers in context. We develop a model to understand the intersection of individual and institutional factors that shape the everyday experiences of the CRCs. The model shows the dialectical relationship between faculty identity, research, relations with colleagues and students, and institutional practices and structures. We classify individuals’ experiences as “good,” “bad,” or “ugly.” The interviews show that while a majority of CRCs have a positive experience, others have a negative experience that is prone to becoming ugly when institutional practices and systemic factors impede the work of the CRC. We discuss the perceived problems with the CRC program from the standpoint of Chairholders, and the implications of our findings for the CRC program and universities. As well, we propose that additional research on the professoriate is needed to determine whether or not the model from our study is generalizable beyond our sample.

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Fig. 1


  1. The classification of universities is based on the Maclean’s magazine rankings of Canadian universities. Medical–doctoral universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs in a wide range of disciplines, as well as medical degrees. Comprehensive universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs, and some professional programs. Primarily undergraduate universities generally restrict their programs to the undergraduate level, although some do offer a limited number of graduate programs. The Maclean’s categories are not the same as those used in the US (e.g., the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education).

  2. This paper is based on 60 interviews. Of these, four (7%) had resigned their CRCs. According to the CRC Secretariat, a total of 82 persons have resigned their CRCs during the tenure of the award (Carmen Gervais, personal communication, June 15, 2006).


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This study was supported by the University of Manitoba, Research Grants Program and the University of Windsor, Women’s Research Grant Program. We would like to thank the Canada Research Chairs for their participation in our study.

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Correspondence to Karen R. Grant.

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Grant, K.R., Drakich, J. The Canada Research Chairs Program: the good, the bad, and the ugly. High Educ 59, 21–42 (2010).

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  • Canada
  • Higher education
  • Research chairs
  • Academic careers