Higher Education

, Volume 70, Issue 5, pp 787–805 | Cite as

Contract faculty in Canada: using access to information requests to uncover hidden academics in Canadian universities

  • Jamie Brownlee


In Canada, universities are undergoing a process of corporatization where business interests, values and practices are assuming a more prominent place in higher education. A key feature of this process has been the changing composition of academic labor. While it is generally accepted that universities are relying more heavily on contract faculty, to date, there is a lack of data to substantiate it in the Canadian context. This paper addresses this gap through reporting on a unique longitudinal dataset I have created on academic staff for 18 universities in Ontario collected through access to information requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I analyze these data to address two key questions. First, to what extent have there been changes in the composition of academic labor in arts-related disciplines within Ontario universities? Second, to what extent are past claims that administrators have been unable and/or unwilling to provide these kinds of data legitimate? I conclude that there has indeed been a significant increase in part-time and full-time contract appointments relative to tenure stream positions in Ontario universities. My research also suggests that the reluctance of universities to share data on contract faculty has been motivated by both political considerations as well as the nature of university data management, which has been made more problematic by the precarious relationship between universities and their contract employees.


Academic labor Contract faculty Casualization Access to information Corporatization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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