Nov 22, 2017 at 4:12pm ET By Joanna Hughes

The push for diversity in higher education is a global phenomenon. Universities in Canada may have even more incentive to boost diversity, however, thanks to diversity targets set by a court settlement for the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program. To that end, many schools are debuting term limits designed to facilitate the entry of new academics into the prestigious positions. Here’s a closer look at the trend, as recently reported by The Globe and Mail.

The Diversity Disparity

As the result of a 2006 legal settlement, the CRC program was mandated to set equity targets corresponding to the number of eligible academics. And while data indicates that universities have consistently fallen short of fulfilling these targets, the government has now threatened to take action.

Specifically, universities have until mid-December to propose action plans aimed at increasing diversity across gender, visible minorities, Indigenous people, and people with disabilities, and up to an additional year to implement those plans. The consequence for not following through? Loss of research chair funding.

Correcting Course

The CRC program provides between $100,000 and $200,000 in annual funding for research projects to 1,600 chairs within the country’s universities. Nominated by schools, these academics are currently divided into two categories: Tier 1 chairs with seven-year, indefinitely renewal terms and Tier 2 chairs with five-year, once-renewable terms.

In an effort to meet equity targets and safeguard their funding, universities are now opting to cap Tier 1 chair terms in order to clear the path for new chairholders. Said one university vice president of research and innovation of the benefits of limiting CRC terms, “It’s our view that if we don’t have everyone that can be engaged in the research engaged, we’re not going to have the most excellent research.”

According to insiders, this approach aligns with how the positions were initially envisions. Said David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, “The intention of the program was to ensure that there was some rollover in the chairs, and it wasn’t just the same people who were appointed and reappointed all the time.”


At the same time, Robinson cautions that the government must make good on its ultimatum. “There does need to be a stick that they’re going to be able to wield,” he told The Globe and Mail. 

Read more about studying in Canada.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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