Low wages and lower job satisfaction: Number of sessional lecturers raises quality concerns

Sessional lecturers, who are hired to teach on a course-by-course basis, are becoming prevalent in Canadian universities. It is hard to know how much of the total teaching sessionals actually do at universities because there are very few statistics kept on them. Canadian statistics are non-existent and the University of Waterloo does not centrally track how many sessional instructors are hired to teach across campus.

At Wilfrid Laurier University, the Laurier Faculty Association told the <em>Toronto Star </em>that sessional instructors in 2012 taught 52 per cent of Laurier students, up from 38 per cent in 2008. Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, echoes the number in a blog post published earlier this year. In it he states, &ldquo;In large Ontario universities, it is not uncommon for certain faculties to have 40-50 per cent of their total credit hours taught by sessionals.&rdquo;

Stephane Hamade, Feds vice-president of education said, &ldquo;Students are concerned about Ontario&rsquo;s increased reliance on sessional and contract faculty. Sessional faculty are typically less experienced than tenured faculty and report lower levels of job satisfaction than other instructors.&rdquo;&nbsp;

One concern surrounding sessional lecturers are the low wages they earn compared to full-time faculty. A survey done in 2013 by University Affairs found that at McMaster University they received about $13,000 per full year course they taught.

Some sessional lecturers teach at multiple universities in order to make a living, limiting the time they are able to spend helping students. The lack of attachment to the institution also means that students aren&rsquo;t able to get the informal time with instructors that can help to enrich their university education.

Hamade raised the impact of quality or lack thereof of post-secondary education when it comes to the impact sessional professors have on students. &ldquo;We are concerned that the quality of instruction given by sessional instructors may be lower for those reasons.&nbsp; Given their low wages and lack of job security, sessional and contract staff are often employed for only short periods of time with a university, meaning students are often unable to rely on these faculty members for mentorship or graduate school references.&rdquo;