Public Values

Budget's piecemeal approach to education sidesteps real needs

Modest student debt relief, low research funding to granting councils show a political choice.

Turk: Government spending 50 percent more on ten research chairs than on thousands of researchers.March 22, 2011: The organization representing Canada's university and college educators, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), says today's federal budget is a disappointment that does relatively little to strengthen post-secondary education and research.

"The government has again taken a piecemeal approach to education and research that sidesteps the real needs of the sector," said James Turk, CAUT executive director.

Turk says he welcomes the new funding for Genome Canada, climate science, and the Indirect Costs Program for university research, but is troubled by the low level of new money for the three granting councils that fund most of Canada's vital basic research. "The small increase does not fully cover inflation, let alone restore the cuts made to the granting councils in the 2009 budget," Turk notes. "In fact, the government is spending nearly fifty percent more on ten new Canada Excellence Research chairs than on the tens of thousands of researchers that constitute Canada's academic research community."

  Research priorities are best set by the scientific community, not by politicians.

Turk is also concerned that the government has made a political choice to provide new research funding to centres like the Perimeter Institute and the Regional Research Institute in Thunder Bay, bypassing the granting councils altogether.

"Research priorities are best set by the scientific community, not by politicians," Turk stated.

Turk says the budget also contains a host of new investments in programs intended to commercialize university and college research.

"One lesson we've learned again and again — a lesson that seems lost on the government — is that the most fundamental advances in knowledge that lead to innovative applications have their origins in basic scientific research with no predicted commercial outcomes," he said.

CAUT is also disappointed that while there are some initiatives aimed at expanding eligibility for student loans and grants, the budget overall provides only modest relief for students and their families struggling with high debt loads and rapidly rising tuition fees.

Links and sources
  2011 Federal Budget: Another missed opportunity for post-secondary education and research

Posted: March 24, 2011

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