Hot! Ontario’s funding for universities continues to slide

OCUFA.on.ca – OCUFA Report/Data Check, Volume 7, Issue 17
May 7, 2013

If a government’s commitment to “innovation” can be measured by its support to the institutions that carry out innovative research and educate the people who put their own ingenuity to work, Ontario’s government support is on a downward slide. University funding as a percentage of GDP still lags well behind the rest of Canada, despite the government’s supposed interest in innovation.

2010-11 is the latest period in which we can compare Ontario with other provinces. That year Ontario government operating support to universities –as a proportion of provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – was about 15 per cent below the average in the rest of Canada.

Surprisingly, 2010-11 was still nearly a peak year for Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities operating allocations to universities as a percentage of provincial GDP. The percentage was magnified in part because the economy had shrunk during the course of the Great Recession.

By 2015-16, if current funding plans for universities are not changed and Ontario Budget 2013 forecasts for economic growth are borne out, the level of MTCU operating support to universities will have dropped to what it was in 2005-06 when Reaching Higher was first launched. In ten years, the government will have erased the positive effects of Reaching Higher.

Canadian Association of University Business Officers, Financial Information of Universities and Colleges
Ontario, 2013 Ontario Budget
Statistics Canada, Provincial and territorial economic accounts

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Professors and academic librarians to Premier: It’s time to invest in universities

Ontario’s 17,000 professors and academic librarians are calling on Premier Wynne to invest in the province’s universities after last week’s budget missed an opportunity to introduce new funding for higher education institutions. The 2013 Budget continues to impose small cuts on the university sector, leading to an overall decline in per-student funding.

“Ontario already has the worst level of per-student funding in Canada, and this budget continues this trend,” says Constance Adamson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). “We’re pleased to see that youth and youth employment are priorities for Premier Wynne. Investing in universities is a natural way to ensure that young Ontarians will find success in the job market and in their communities.”

Increasing the level of per-student funding in Ontario would bring many benefits to young people in the province. There would be more professors, improving student engagement and mentorship. Aging labs, libraries, and classrooms would be upgraded, contributing to an enhanced learning environment. Students would have greater access to the latest technology. Increased per-student funding would also help control rising tuition fees, keeping university affordable for Ontario families.

“We’re worried that the narrow focus on reducing the provincial deficit is crowding out other priorities equally important to Ontarians. Investment in universities helps reduce the deficit by stimulating economic growth and building a strong society,” said Adamson.

Austerity policies that seek to reduce the deficit through cuts to valuable public services like education are now widely seen as harmful to economic growth. The International Monetary Fund is now cautioning governments against aggressive deficit reduction.

“Austerity is based on sketchy research, and has failed to generate economic growth around the world,” said Adamson. “We should be investing in the things that we know lead to economic growth and social vitality, like our universities.”

Read OCUFA’s full budget analysis.

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