News, The Tribune Explains

Tribune Explains: The three types of professors you’ll meet at McGill

Think that all professors are the same? Think again. There are three different categories of professors at McGill: Course lecturers, contract academic staff, and tenure/tenure-track staff.


Course Lecturers

Minimum Salary: $7,800 per course


Course lecturers are professors who instruct at least one undergraduate or graduate course on a contractual course-by-course basis without being required to conduct research. Also referred to as “sessional lecturers”, they are represented by the McGill Course Lecturers and Instructors Union (MCLIU) and act in accordance with the union’s terms and conditions.

According to MCLIU President Raad Jassim, course lecturers teach approximately 35 per cent of all the courses at McGill.

“[MCLIU] has about 800-900 course lecturer members per semester and about 1,500 course lecturer members per year,” Jassim says. “[Course lecturers] might vary from one semester to the following. Throughout the year, [some] might teach in more than one university.”

Jassim feels that course lecturers enhance the university learning environment.

“Course lecturers come in with specific designations to teach a [specific] course [or courses],” Jassim said. “They enrich the university in experience and academic progress.”

Course lecturer Karen McAllister believes that the position is a great way to experience the joy of teaching even though the pay is not as high as it is for tenured professors. She believes that sessional lecturers may not be able to put as much time into each course as a result of the flat pay rate per course.

“You get a lot back from teaching and you feed off the energy,” McAllister said. “It’s nice to teach when you have a good energetic group of students who are thinking about new ideas. [But] the more hours you put in as a [course lecturer], the less you are getting paid. You aren’t going to put that amount of work in when you also have to be doing other things to pay the bills.”


Faculty Lecturers

Minimum Salary: $50,000 per annum


Faculty lecturers are a type of ‘Contract Academic Staff’ and are hired to teach on a yearly contractual basis. They are not required to do research and are not eligible for consideration of tenure. At McGill, faculty lecturers are represented by the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT). Since MAUT is an association, faculty lecturers are not unionized. Assistant, associate, and full professors can also be contract academic staff on contracts shorter than or equal to three years–too short to be eligible for tenure.

The lack of unions for faculty lecturers can sometimes create non-transparent hiring. According to Jassim, the administration does not always hold open calls for faculty position jobs.

“There rarely are postings for faculty lecturers,” Jassim said. “At Concordia, [the faculty] will announce [the postings], but at McGill they don’t. They will just choose someone to become a faculty lecturer. The chair of the department assigns that faculty lecturer who gets approved by the dean and then the provost.”

According to McGill’s hiring rules, however, faculty lectureship must be advertised. The exceptions to mandatory advertising are clinical appointments that are primarily related to clinical teaching of medical and dentistry students, professional appointments that are similar to clinical appointments, and adjunct professors. Adjunct professors are employed by the government, industry, or an institution other than McGill for at least one academic term.



Assistant Professor Minimum Salary: $65,000 per annum

Associate Professor Minimum Salary: $77,500 per annum

Full Professor Minimum Salary: $90,000 per annum


Tenure and tenure-track professors are hired to conduct their own research while teaching at the university. Tenure-track professors usually begin at the assistant professor level and are normally considered for tenure in their sixth year. Once tenure is received, professors are guaranteed their position until retirement age, which is 60 in Quebec, except under dismissal with just cause. At McGill, associate professors have obtained tenure or will be considered for tenure in their fifth year at McGill and full professors have been promoted from associate professorship, either already with tenure or automatically considered for it in their fourth year.

According to Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity) Angela Campbell, the tenure/tenure-track positions have a highly vetted screening process.

“We have the call for applications and then people apply and then we have long lists and short lists and interviews so the person comes here and gives a talk,” Campbell said.


Professors applying for the tenure/tenure-track positions must submit a CV, recommendations from their department, three letters of reference from outside of McGill, and an optional personal statement.

Share this:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Read the latest issue