This is part one of a series exploring AASUA’s bargaining goals. To view a summary of AASUA’s main goals, please go to

Dear Colleagues, 

In this round of bargaining AASUA is calling on the Employer to protect the University of Alberta by ensuring academic staff compensation is competitive with the other top Canadian research and teaching intensive Universities. Doing so will ensure the U of A can maintain its position as a top-4 Canadian research and teaching university. 

Falling behind our comparators

To understand how we are falling behind our comparators in terms of compensating front-line teaching and research, we must look at our comparator universities in Canada. This means looking at the U15: the 15 top medical-doctoral research universities in Canada. 

Below is a chart comparing average faculty salary at the U15 universities in Ontario and BC with the average faculty salary at the University of Alberta. The Alberta Government’s 2019 MacKinnon report on Alberta’s finances pinpointed this as Alberta's comparator group for public sector salaries. The chart is based on Statistics Canada data and shows the data associated with the academic years 2010-11 to 2022-23 (the latest academic year with complete average faculty salary data). 

AASUA and the Employer look at Statistics Canada average faculty salary (as opposed to other categories of academic staff) as this data set is the only objective and consistent national academic salary data set available.   

The U of A’s average faculty salary corresponds to the black line in the chart shown above. From 2010-11 to about 2015-16, the U of A’s average faculty salary made the top 25th percentile, or top three or four, of all the U15 universities in Canada (and was often top two). 

Since about 2015-16, however, the U of A’s average faculty salary has steadily decreased compared to our competitors. In 2022-23, the U of A’s average faculty salary is dead last compared with all other U15 universities in Ontario and BC, and has dropped to the number nine position in the overall U15 average faculty salary comparison. This is true for all faculty ranks.

One possible explanation for this trend is that the U of A does not allocate a similar fraction of its Operating Budget toward academic (i.e., front line teaching and research) salaries as at other public U15 universities in Canada. Our analysis shows that the U of A now allocates the smallest fraction of its Operating Budget toward Academic salaries of any U15 university in Canada. 

Chronic under-investing in academic staff

Since about 2016, the U of A has allocated, on average, about 2.6% less annually of its $1B+ annual Operating Budget toward Academic salaries as compared to the average allocation across all other Albertan public universities. With respect to the seven Ontario and BC U15 universities shown in the above figure, our analysis shows that since 2016 the U of A has allocated, on average, 6.4% less of its annual Operating Budget toward Academic salaries.

The cumulative result of this chronic under-investing in academic staff, since about 2016, has taken its toll on average faculty salaries at the UofA. To catch up, academic staff would need an immediate 17% salary increase to have nationally-competitive salaries.  
This is precisely AASUA’s Across-The-Board (ATB) salary increase proposal — the compensation increase we argue all instructors, researchers, faculty, academic administrators, faculty service officers, and librarians at our university  require to maintain our world-class education.  
The Employer's concerted lack of investment in academic staff is putting the U of A’s high-quality education and research at risk. Not only does the Board of Governors claim to want to maintain the U of A’s excellence, they say they want to advance its position by becoming a Top-Three Canadian university.  
If this is indeed a real goal, the Employer must go beyond branding and invest the dollars needed to achieve academic excellence. Otherwise, top academic staff, and their students, will not come to the U of A and those academic staff at the U of A will go where their academic work will be competitively and appropriately compensated.  

The Employer’s opening proposal

A 17% ATB salary increase AASUA is proposing is not a “nice-to-have.” It is an essential in order to preserve our top-tier research and teaching not only for current but for future Albertans. The Employer is offering a 2% ATB for July 1 2024 and July 1 2025, respectively, and a 1.75% ATB for July 1 2026 and July 1 2027, respectively. This offer would not only fail to adequately address inflationary costs — it would guarantee that the U of A remains bottom-of-the-pack in the U15 in terms of compensation. We won’t be able to attract and retain the best and brightest researchers and educators with insufficient compensation.  
As our lead negotiator highlighted in her opening remarks to the Employer’s bargaining team: 

“For many years at this University, the Board and Association shared the goal of ensuring that the average faculty salaries at the U of A were in the top 25th percentile of the U15 medical/doctoral universities in Canada. Even when this express goal was replaced by a commitment to ‘competitive compensation,’ the same shared goal was met until approximately 2014-2015. After that, regrettably, it has been a downhill slide for the past 10 years.” 

Teaching and research was once clearly U of A administration’s spending priority. But approximately 10 years ago, these priorities switched. Instead, the U of A began to prioritize high-paid upper-level administrators and management.  
In this round of bargaining, AASUA is calling on the Employer to return to the budget-allocation model that allowed U of A to recruit and retain the academic staff necessary to become a globally successful public university.  
If university administration is serious about remaining competitive on a global stage, we can’t afford to wait any longer to make front-line teaching and research a priority. We must catch up to the other U15s by obtaining an ATB increase of 17%.  
At this stage in bargaining (June 4, 2024) discussions about compensation have yet to begin. We will update members when this conversation moves forward.


Gordon Swaters
AASUA President