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Dalhousie is using more money to pay fewer teachers

Dalhousie is the largest university in Halifax, and it pays its professors correspondingly. According to the most recent public sector compensation disclosures, Dal employs 834 members of faculty and 171 administration staff who receive more than $100,000 in annual compensation, making 1005 such staff overall.

“Nova Scotians expect government to be transparent and maintain a high standard of clarity and consistency in reporting,” said Michelle Stevens, Communications Advisor to the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Treasury Board, in an emailed statement.

“The purpose of the public sector compensation disclosure is to enhance accountability and transparency in the use of public funds. Government requires public sector bodies to report compensation of $100,000 or more, paid to persons during the fiscal year.” she added.

Those numbers are up from the 2012/2013 academic year, when Dal paid 830 staff $100,000 or more. The next biggest university in Halifax, Saint Mary’s University, had only 183 professors and 27 administrators making that same amount or more this past academic year – a total of 210 staff.

Dal says it’s proud to have such a large list of employees who are thusly compensated.

“People are the cornerstone of Dalhousie University, performing and supporting the institutions’ key areas of teaching, research and service,” said Janet Bryson, Senior Communications Advisor at Dalhousie, in an emailed statement. “It is important to attract and keep dedicated and talented people. This means providing competitive salaries that not only reflects their contributions to the university, but also compares well with other universities.”

In 2016/2017, the total salaries for employees on Dal’s public sector compensation disclosure list amounted to over $140 million, with almost $120 million of that going to faculty members. Based on Dalhousie’s registration of 16,574 full time students at the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year, that amounts to $8,645 dollars per full-time student spent on paying salaries of employees making $100,000 per year or more.

Dal has 16.5 students for every employee making that much money, and 19.9 students per faculty member in that pay grade. The ratio of faculty members to administrators at Dalhousie was 4.7:1, and the amount of money going to those top earning staff members was almost exactly 50% of the total budgets for academics and administration. That 50% is compared to less than 45% in 2012/2013, meaning Dalhousie is using more money to pay less staff compared to four years ago.

So, how do these numbers stack up to other schools in Halifax? It all depends on what you’re looking for. Bryson noted that Dalhousie has a reputation to maintain.

“Being the only U15 leading research university in Atlantic Canada, we often need to recruit for researchers, faculty and staff across North America and internationally, and we have to stay competitive,” she said in her statement.

From that point of view, it makes sense that Dalhousie pays more for top-dollar talent. Saint Mary’s has almost 35 students per highly-compensated faculty member, while fellow Halifax universities Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Mount Saint Vincent University have 30 and 26 students per faculty member in that pay bracket, respectively. The University of King’s College, another Halifax university, does not break down its public sector compensation disclosure by employee type.

As a U15 University, Dalhousie has by far the highest ratio of top teachers to full-time students.

But what does Dalhousie sacrifice by paying so much for these staff members? The school has 834 professors who make $100,000, and 999 professors in total. Saint Mary’s, on the other hand, has 183 professors making $100,000 and 558 full-time and part time faculty. Based on their enrolment of full-time students, that means Dalhousie has about 16.5 students for every professor, while Saint Mary’s has just over 11 students per professor. By paying its good professors more, Dalhousie isn’t able to provide its students with as many teachers per capita as a school like Saint Mary’s.

These statistics aren’t necessarily good or bad in a vacuum. As Bryson said, Dalhousie prides itself on being the only U15 school in the region. Being a top Canadian university means ponying up for the best professors. Many students at Dalhousie know that they will never receive the same kind of attention that their counterparts at smaller universities do. Even so, it’s important that they know exactly what they’re paying for when they attend Dal.

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