Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

The Academy in the 21st Century Editors' Introduction

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

The Academy in the 21st Century Editors' Introduction

Article excerpt

AT THE TURN OF THE LAST CENTURY, universities were just beginning to emerge as state institutions. Academic self-governance was in its infancy, and funding for universities was mainly in the form of government grants, along with some private contributions (Cameron, 1992: 170). Fifty years later, universities depended largely on state funding, the last vestiges of religious control had been shed, and the Canadian system was largely secular and publicly owned. The federal government actively funded the rapidly expanding post-secondary education system through direct grants and capital funding (Cameron, 1992: 171).

Seventy-five years into the century there had been notable changes in the governance and funding of Canada's universities. On the governance side, the Duff-Berdahl Report (1966) called for the recognition of university autonomy and collegial self-governance through academic senates and more representative governing boards. Faculty representation on senates and boards was recognized as a democratic principle of governance. A division of labour between governing boards and senates was also recommended and was generally accepted, although recently there have been concerns that boards are treading on the business of academic senates and threatening collegial governance (Booth, 2001; see also Newson and Buchbinder, 1988). In terms of financing, the picture was not so rosy. Despite growing enrolments, government spending on universities was sharply curtailed in the 1970s. At the same time, under pressure from the provinces, the federal government gave up its direct role in post-secondary education, except in resear ch. Increasing financial restrictions led to a curtailment in the hiring of new tenure-track faculty, brought rapid growth in the part-time complement, and worsened faculty working conditions in general. In the face of a declining system, many faculty associations reorganized themselves as certified unions.

At the dawn of the 21st century in Canada and much of the western world, universities are again at a significant crossroad. The pressures on universities are diverse and sometimes contradictory. These pressures resonate in the professoriate, raise challenges to our work and social relations, and affect all aspects of the institution's functioning.

This introduction and the papers in this volume describe, in part, the transformation of the Canadian university system in the past 20 years. The larger story is yet to be told. It would have to begin with the right golden age, that brief postwar period of expansion when the borders of education seemed unlimited. The early seventies, however, brought an abrupt end to the university expansion of the sixties. The faculty hired in that great surge have now seen three decades--their entire professional lives--of freezes, cutbacks, minor accelerations, and hiring increasingly tied to government objectives.

Does the history of Canadian universities since 1970 reveal more than the onslaught of "rationalizing" corporate management allied with ideas about measurement and "outcomes"? We can point only in some general directions. First, in old-fashioned but absolute terms, we have focussed here on the objective proletarianization of academic work. But faculty members' outlook has always mixed the individualism of the petite bourgeoisie with the strong customs of a profession. Disciplinary commitments frame faculty thinking and debates and the academy continues to be split by conflicts between science and arts and business. Unlike the galvanizing issues of the sixties--academic freedom, Canadianization and tenure--there has been little public debate among faculty outside of our provincial and national academic organizations on the implications of the issues we raise here. The unionization of faculty that began in the 1970s was a defensive response to managerial and rationalizing forces that acknowledged not so much th e loss of faculty power, but its isolation from newly constructed centres of power. …

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