Unpublished Report Points to Administrator Bloat in Quebec

According to an unpublished report by the provincial professors foundations, administrative workers at Quebecois universities are making nearly $200 million more in salary than they did 15 years ago. The report attributes the change to the managerial bloat that has haunted the province’s education system.

Between the years of 1998 and 2009, the increase in administrative salaries was 154%. While in 1998 the total administrative payroll was only $129 million, by 2009 that number bloomed to $328 million annually. The data is available in a paper produced by Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU) and was supposed to be published by January 19th.

The revelation comes at a time when administrators have been decrying the underfunding of their schools. Two weeks ago, the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universities du Québec (CREPUQ) announced that the Quebec university system faced an $850-million shortfall relative to other provinces.

The sometimes lavish paychecks of top administrators drew fire during last year’s student strike as symbols of waste at a time when the government and administrators were asking students to pay more. As of 2008-2009, the last year for which accurate figures are available, 43 Quebec university administrators made over $200,000 a year, including 13 at McGill.

Between her base salary of $369,250 and an additional $200,000 in perks, Heather Munroe-Blum, who heads McGill, is the highest-paid administrator in Quebec.

Yet the author of the study, Michael Umbraico, says it is too easy to focus on top administrative salaries as the real problem when in reality, it is the swollen administrative ranks that are eating up the budgets of universities around the province. The salary hikes among administrators have been reasonable over the period studied – only between 4 and 5% total — yet the universities seemed to have gone on a hiring binge over this period, taking on non-instructional staff at an unprecedented rate.

“If the principals say they’re like the mayor of New York and their salary is zero point zero, that won’t change anything,” Umbriaco said in a phone interview with The Daily, referring to billionaire New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s refusal to accept his mayoral paycheck.

Rather, it is what Umbriaco calls “a new corporate class” of mid-level administrators that accounts for most of the rise. Often coming from management backgrounds outside of the university, rather than from within the faculty ranks, this new crop of administrators is not only responding to more unwieldy government requirements and bigger, more complicated schools, but in some respects “manag[ing] themselves,” Umbriaco said.