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AUCC makes pitch for more research and international funding

Universities recommend investing in granting councils and international collaboration in pre-budget submission.

BY PEGGY BERKOWITZ | NOV 28 2012

A boost in the core budgets of the research granting councils is the first recommendation made by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada in its pre-budget submission to the federal government, submitted to Minister of Finance James Flaherty Nov. 23, 2012.

AUCC recommends an increase of $110 million to the research granting councils in 2013 to strengthen core discovery research programs, including the indirect costs of research, while “recognizing the particular strength that the social sciences and humanities provide to society.”

AUCC represents Canada’s degree-granting universities and colleges through their president, rector or principal, and is also the publisher of University Affairs. Submissions by advocacy groups are traditionally made to the finance minister to reflect on as his department prepares the federal budget, which is often tabled in the first quarter of the new year.

“Our vision for a prosperous Canada,” said AUCC in its submission, “continues to be one that leverages our research and innovation through the training of students and the quality of research on our campuses, often in collaboration with the private sector and international partners, and with more active engagement of Aboriginals in higher education.”

In its submission, the association describes the pivotal role played by universities in advancing knowledge and how this role can lead to innovations. Five other recommendations emphasize more investment in research, in international collaborations and in Aboriginal education. It asks the federal government to:

  • provide an additional $40 million to the granting councils to increase emphasis on international research collaboration through their existing programs;
  • invest $15 million, to be matched by private sector investments, in internships and work experience programs such as the kind managed by Mitacs, to better connect graduate students to private sector companies;
  • intensify international research collaboration by initially committing $75 million – $25 million each to India, China and Brazil – to be delivered through a new mechanism that “is nimble, responsive and based on excellence and peer review”;
  • invest $20 million in 2013 for international education marketing, to add to the $5 million the government already committed;
  • fund the proposal of Indspire, a Canadian non-profit that is seeking $20 million from the federal government for postsecondary scholarships for Aboriginal students, to be matched by the private sector (with another $30 million to be matched by the private sector when the first $20 million has been raised).

Several of the requests by AUCC follow closely the recommendations of two reports delivered to the federal government earlier this year: the Council of Canadian Academies’ report on the state of science and technology in Canada, released in September 2012; and the expert advisory panel on a strategy for international education, released in August.

AUCC observes that Canada needs to “focus on actions we can take to maximize opportunity and mitigate risk” at a time of global economic uncertainty. In light of this ongoing economic weakness around the world, it says, “Should contingency measures be needed to stimulate the economy, Canada’s universities stand ready, as with 2009’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program investment by the federal government, with projects that can generate lasting value quickly.”

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