Comprehensive Faculty Count
Student-Faculty Ratios and Counting Faculty
Student-faculty ratios are a common metric referenced both internally by universities and externally by media, government, ranking organizations and others. The ratio is sometimes portrayed as a proxy for ‘educational quality’, on the grounds that a lower ratio connotes more opportunities for students to interact personally and directly with their teachers. It is also sometimes presented as a measure of how institutional resources are being deployed.
Unfortunately, the interpretation of student-faculty ratios is anything but straightforward.
First, student-faculty ratios are not direct measures of educational quality. At best these ratios are input measures. They may not correlate closely with student experiences or learning outcomes. Other measures such as student survey results and graduation rates provide more meaningful information to assess the quality of the learning environment.
Second, as noted, the ratio depends on accurate and meaningful counts of both students and faculty.
Student Enrolment is relatively straightforward to measure with data readily available through student information systems. Enrolment can be counted in terms of headcounts or, for a more precise measure of activity, in Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) where 1.0 FTE represents the equivalent of one student taking the full course load for his/her program. One caveat is inclusions – for example, ranking agencies typically look at the degree seeking population only.
Counting faculty, however, is significantly more complicated. Historically, the University of Toronto (along with many Canadian universities) has relied upon the former Statistics Canada faculty survey (UCASS) and its classifications in presenting our faculty counts. However, these counts were developed in large part to facilitate collection of salary data of the professoriate and exclude thousands of other faculty that contribute to the teaching and research mission of the university.
There are many different categories of academic appointees and many ways to count them. The range of categories is greatest for institutions with professional schools or affiliated research institutes. Faculty can be categorized by appointment status (e.g. tenure-stream, teaching-stream, short-term contract, adjunct), by rank (e.g. assistant, associate and full professors), by time commitment (full-time, part-time), by job description (e.g. research scientists, clinical faculty), or by salary source (university or affiliated institution). What these categories mean in terms of contribution to the teaching and research mission of the University also varies from one institution to the next.
Inclusion/exclusion of the various categories of faculty has a significant impact on the resulting student/faculty ratio. Our Performance Indicators for Governance reports include two indicators that look at the impact of the various categories of faculty on our student/faculty ratio.
Common definitions are particularly important because a lack of clear and shared definitions for variables leads to both random and systematic errors in simple and composite measures. These errors can occur even in what, on the surface, should be straightforward items such as counting faculty and students. In response to this problem, the U15 group of universities undertook a project to develop common definitions.
U15 Comprehensive Faculty Count Project
In 2008, through our participation with the U15 (then called the U13), representatives from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia (UBC) undertook a project to develop a more comprehensive and common methodology for counting faculty. Dalhousie University and Université Laval subsequently joined the project during the pilot phase and the project has since been expanded to include all U15 members.
The following general points guided the project:
- The counts should capture all faculty engaged in teaching and/or research at the institution regardless of pay source.
- Clinical faculty contributing to the education of our students but paid by/through teaching hospital partners or other clinical settings should be included.
- The counts should exclude Research Fellows and Teaching Assistants. While these individuals contribute to teaching and/or research at the university, they also usually function as students or trainees within the university.
- While actual FTEs are available for most categories, exact information necessary to calculate individualized FTEs is not always available for some of the categories (e.g. sessionals and some clinical appointees). Rather than omit FTE information, factors should be applied to headcounts based on reasonable estimates of the contribution of faculty in these types of categories. These FTE estimates are intentionally conservative and defensible.
- The President and Vice Presidents should be excluded from the counts.
Comprehensive Faculty Count Categories
The project team developed a classification and counting methodology that groups faculty into five distinct groups:Professorial
The Professorial group includes Tenure/Tenure Stream and Non-Tenure Stream appointed professors.Teaching Stream
The Teaching Stream group includes faculty lecturers and instructors with continuing appointments in teaching focused roles with little or no research responsibilities.Term-Limited Sessional and Stipendiary (charges de cours)
This group includes casual instructors teaching one or more courses.Clinical
This group includes clinical faculty contributing to the education of Medical students located at the University and other clinical settings such as hospitals.Other
The Other group includes Research Associates, other faculty with graduate appointments and faculty who hold status only appointments with the university for research purposes.
University of Toronto Results
Our most recent results are also provided below.
University of Toronto Comprehensive Faculty Count, Fall 2012
|Faculty Category||Full time||Part time||Total||Total FTEs|
|Term-limited Sessional and Stipediary||-||1,217||1,217||243|
President’s Statement to Governing Council
In November, 2006, then University of Toronto President David Naylor made a statement on University Report Cards, Ratings, Rankings and Performance Measures to the University’s Governing Council. In this statement, he highlighted some of the challenges with rankings and interpretation of the results. While there has been progress in some of the areas that he highlighted, this statement provides a number of caveats that remain relevant. His statement can be found here.