To Improve Our Universities, Let the Best Teachers Teach More Courses

Blog, Education, Ben Eisen

Recently, the Conservative Party of Ontario released a White Paper on how they would like to reform the province’s post-secondary education system.

The paper includes several good reform ideas, many of which are applicable in jurisdictions across Canada. One suggestion that is particularly worthy of attention is the party’s proposal to “encourage the effectiveness of full-time, teaching only faculty members at the undergraduate level.” In other words, they propose encouraging universities to employ especially good teaching professors while requiring them to do little if any original research, so that they can spend their time and energy doing what they do best- teaching.

The paper notes that exceptional researchers at Ontario’s universities are already able to reduce their teaching time so that they can use their talents as productively as possible. Some of the best researchers aren’t especially good teachers, and it is only sensible that these individuals spend their time on their research projects. It is equally true that some of the best teachers are not necessarily gifted researchers. The two talents are not as strongly correlated as some believe.  Just as it makes sense to let the best researchers spend their time researching, it makes sense to encourage the best teachers to spend their time teaching.

One of the key strategies for increasing the cost-effectiveness of higher-education systems across Canada should be taking advantage of specialization within university faculties. It does not make sense for all professors to spend the same proportion of their time teaching and researching regardless of their unique strengths and weaknesses. By letting some university faculty members specialize in either teaching or researching, we can boost the quantity and quality of both teaching and research in Canadian universities. The Conservative Party of Ontario deserves credit for highlighting these possible productivity gains, and their proposal to encourage specialization within the higher education sector should be embraced by governments across the country.