Universities are calling on the federal government to invest in three key areas to meet some of the challenges facing Canada.
In a brief to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty leading up to the 2008 federal budget, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada proposed that the government increase financial support for graduate students, contribute more to the institutional costs of research (also known as the indirect costs), and continue providing resources to increase access for groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
“Canada is a wealthy, highly developed country with enormous promise, but realizing its potential depends on the education and skill levels of Canadians,” said AUCC president Claire Morris.
AUCC estimates that there will be jobs for half-a-million people with advanced degrees by 2016 and that by then Canada will need to produce 35 percent more graduate-degree holders than it does today.
In its brief, AUCC recommends the federal government allocate $369 million over three years to increase the number of graduate students (including $156 million in fiscal 2009). The association suggests the money be used in four areas: to establish an international graduate scholarship program to attract top international students; to create an additional 4,000 Canada Graduate Scholarships; to fund more faculty research grants so that students can participate in research projects; and to expand co-op internship placements.
Increasing the number of graduate students also requires an adequately funded research enterprise, said Ms. Morris, making a pitch for increased funding for the institutional costs of research. The brief recommends $70 million in immediate investments and $270 million by 2011 to bring that funding up to internationally comparable levels. The association has long identified this under-funding as “the greatest gap in Canadian universities’ overall research competitiveness,” she noted.
The third request addresses measures to increase the university participation rates of underrepresented groups. AUCC wants to at least maintain the $350-million federal investment in needs-based, non-repayable assistance, now provided through an endowment to the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. The foundation is scheduled to distribute its final grant in the next fiscal year.
“It is very important that the government make a decision in the 2008 federal budget to continue to provide at least current levels of non-repayable, needs-based student assistance,” said Ms. Morris.