Student-faculty ratio released

Laurier’s administration has, in collaboration with the registrar’s office, released a finalized student-to-faculty ratio for the 2009-10 academic year.

This ratio reflects total student enrolment over both the fall and winter semesters and all hired full-time equivalent faculty.

The ratio provided, calculated from enrolment numbers on Feb. 1, indicates a decrease in the number of students to each faculty member at Laurier, with 21.8 students versus 22.9 in 2008-09.

As well, every faculty from arts to the Brantford campus saw the ratio drop from last year’s levels with the most recent numbers.

This information comes ahead of the mandated date of March 1 for reporting a finalized ratio to faculty as required in the current collective agreement between the school and the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA).

There had been pressure from both faculty and student groups for the information for some time leading up to administration disclosing the figures.

The collective agreement in place is unique with this requirement among Canadian universities, vice-president of finance and administration Jim Butler noted.

“That’s a unique requirement in a faculty collective agreement, I’m not intimately aware of all the faculty collective agreements but to my knowledge it’s the only one in Canada,” said Butler.

A reason so much focus has been placed on this calculated ratio – as opposed to other indicators of change in the classroom environment – is the fact that the collective agreement with the university’s faculty requires that a 25:1 ratio be maintained. The ratio is very broad and doesn’t necessarily directly depict the classroom experience, but it gives a general idea of how many instructors there are to contend with enrolled students in a given year.

WLUFA president Judy Bates explained that, “It isn’t a great indicator; there are other measures of how students are experiencing changes in their class sizes.”

Bates noted that WLUFA does scrutinize the ratio and that the association would spend some time checking and verifying their accuracy before making any comments.

Butler noted the conditions that affect the current issue of class size at Laurier, including a change in the number of courses required to be taught by each faculty member and funding issues on a provincial level.

He added that additional funding to Laurier “would enable us to hire additional faculty and address some of the class size issues. You can’t do that if the government’s not going to give you the money for the growth.”

The numbers indicate a better situation from last year, at least in terms of the number of faculty responsible for the student population.

However, at press time it could not be confirmed that the 2008-09 ratio was calculated using the same formula as this year’s ratio, leaving a possibility that the numbers do not give a complete picture of this year compared to last year.

There was also a change in the way full-time equivalent faculty, specifically contract academic staff, is factored into student to faculty ratio calculation between the previous and current faculty collective agreement.

Since the current collective agreement was due to come into effect July 1, 2008, but in reality was not ratified until February 2009, it remains unclear whether comparing the 22.9 students to each faculty member with this year’s 21.8 students is an accurate and useful comparison.

Bates assessed the situation, admitting that the numbers provided by the university were low, possibly lower than expected.

“It’s marginally lower that what we saw last year, but these are numbers that WLUFA will check.”