Increase in university funding urgently needed: McGill
In an appearance today before the Commission parlementaire sur la qualité, l'accessibilité et le financement des universités, McGill University called for a public policy framework that encourages universities to diversify and expand their sources of revenue beyond government funding and that recognizes the vital role of research-intensive universities.
Quebec should aim to match Canadian average levels as first step
Quebec City, February 17, 2004: Appearing before the Commission parlementaire sur la qualité, l'accessibilité et le financement des universités today, McGill University called for a public policy framework that encourages universities to diversify and expand their sources of revenue beyond government funding and recognizes the vital role of research-intensive universities.
"Since the start of the Quiet Revolution," noted Dr Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University, "successive provincial governments have recognized the critical importance of universities in the development of modern Quebec society and have invested in expanding excellence and access to higher education. Yet our university system is fragile because of chronic underfunding.
"In addressing this critical issue," continued Dr Munroe-Blum, "we need to acknowledge that the public purse is not deep enough to support, all by itself, a university system which is both excellent and accessible."
Quebec universities are funded at a level far below the Canadian average: $375 million less for the fiscal year 2002-2003 alone. The gap has been building for more than a decade.
The impact on McGill University is profound. While the competition among research-intensive universities is increasing for the best and brightest students and faculty from around the world, its buildings and classrooms are falling into disrepair. McGill can offer adequate financial aid to only a fraction of academically qualified students and is handicapped in the recruitment of talented graduate students and faculty as a result of low levels of funding.
McGill maintains that direct government support should continue to provide the core of university operating budgets and should be committed at effective levels, within a dependable multiyear budget model. At the same time, universities should have the freedom to tap other sources, without undue restrictions and penalties. Core government investments should be supplemented with philanthropy, enhanced research successes including partnerships, higher tuition fees combined with improved student financial aid, as well as with federal research grants and graduate student support. The overall goal should be to raise the level of funding of the Quebec university system to at least the Canadian average and to be the Canadian leader in the medium to longer term.
"We strongly believe that no academically qualified Quebec student should be denied the opportunity to study at university because of a lack of finances - something we cannot currently achieve," added Dr Munroe-Blum. "In Quebec, some people argue that low tuition fees enhance access to higher education. Yet, it is interesting to note that despite having the lowest tuition fees in Canada, the proportion of Quebecers who attend and who complete university is below the Canadian average."
McGill also called for a public policy framework which recognizes that universities have different missions and roles, each with its own value, and therefore different funding requirements. "The funding needs of research-intensive and medical-doctoral universities such as McGill, Laval, the Université de Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke are greater than universities with primarily undergraduate missions," concluded Dr Munroe-Blum.
McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities. The 21 faculties and professional schools offer more than 300 programs, from the undergraduate to the doctoral level, and our professors have received their education from leading academic centres around the world. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse student bodies in North America. There are approximately 18,000 full-time undergraduate students and 5,000 full-time graduate students.
Please see the University Relations Office website to download a copy of the brief.