Seneca Declines Further in Province Wide Key Performance Indicators

| 18/06/2017

Seneca Declines Further in Province Wide Key Performance Indicators

Seneca finishes last among Ontario Colleges in 3 of 5 published metrics; grad employment rate 5% below GTA college average

 

Figuring out how well Seneca College is doing is difficult. Last December, for instance, Seneca was (as usual) listed among the top 100 employers in the GTA. There were pats on the back all-round as college administrators celebrated such things as paid vacations, parental leaves and defined-benefit pensions for employees.

(These benefits, of course, were won through our concerted support of the Collective Bargaining process and through changes in legislation backed by Unions―often against significant push-back by the employers.)

Then, this past April 19, Colleges Ontario released the annual Key Performance Indicator results for Ontario colleges (available online at http://www.collegesontario.org/outcomes/key-performance-indicators/2017KPIreport_Eng_final.pdf). Not much has been said by Seneca management about them; not much needs to be.

The Results

Of the 24 Ontario public Colleges, Seneca placed dead last in graduate employment rates (75.6%), in overall “student satisfaction” (72.5%), and in graduation rates (60.4%). We were tied for last in student perception that they are getting “useful knowledge and skills,” came in 23rd of 24 in student assessment of “quality of service,” and tied for 22nd in student assessment of quality of the learning “experience.”

There are, of course, explanations and mitigating circumstances. For example, students in the GTA may be a little jaded or perhaps have higher expectations and/or more challenging job prospects.  But even bearing that in mind, Seneca still performed worse than all other GTA Colleges in several metrics.

Strikingly for any discussion of our performance as a College, our graduate employment rate dropped 3.2% since last year’s KPIs (at a time when the provincial average dropped only 0.6%), and the satisfaction rate of their employers who hired our recent gradutes dropped another 1%, for a total drop of 3.7% since the introduction of the 2012-17 Academic Plan. 

Certainly, KPIs are unreliable measures of educational quality—they aim to measure perceived satisfaction, which is very different from measuring quality. But, whatever the methodological faults of the KPIs, it remains true that Seneca was once among the most admired colleges in Ontario. Now? Apparently not so much.

What is to be done?

Our situation may be serious, but no one should panic. The matter deserves serious reflection and sober judgement, not a hunt for scapegoats. We should take a breath. We should also consider becoming authentically “innovative.” We should consider genuinely “thinking outside the box.” of hyper-managerialism. Seneca didn’t invent it, but it has embraced it more than any other Ontario public college.

A corporate culture imposes increasingly authoritarian hierarchies and impedes genuine creativity for both faculty and students.  A discount department store model transforms professors into the academic equivalent of Walmart Associates, and treats students as objects on an ever-more-crowded assembly line.

Under this ever-evolving “business plan,” precarious workers comprise over 60% of the daytime teaching staff, yet their labour is mercilessly exploited and they are denied liveable wages and even the most limited rights and benefits that they deserve.

Seneca’s dismal performance performance in the KPIs inspires concerns about the erosion of the classrom learning experience we provide to our students and of our graduates’ skills.  This erosion is not the result of insufficient marketing or branding, and it can’t be solved through more or better marketing or branding.

Having seen the quantified impact of a top-down, hyper-managerial model in which faculty are denied any meaningful voice in academic decision-making, it may be time to suggest a better way.  From top to bottom, there must be more transparency, collegiality and co-determination.  If Seneca wants to merit “top employer” status, and to start clawing its way back up the KPI ladder, it could do no better than to redesign management-faculty relations.

Managerial apologists (as well as demoralized faculty who have abandoned hope) will dismiss such goals as idealistic, unrealistic or, worse, nostalgic. This is nonsense! Nothing compels Seneca management to disregard its greatest asset and the ultimate source of its value to the province: the expertise of its teachers. Fighting for collegial decision-making and meaningful faculty authority is not idealistic posturing; it’s Seneca’s last, best chance for success.

 

Category: Colleges

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