McGill's Perspective

On this page:
On quality | On financing | On accessibility | On governance | On impact

In anticipation of the upcoming Summit on Higher Education, this section lays out McGill's position on the role and financing of higher education in Quebec.  We invite you to browse through our positions on accessibility, financing, governance, impact and quality, and then to read through different perspectives from other organizations.

In broad strokes however, McGill's senior administration believes that:

On quality:

  • Any constructive conversation about higher education in Quebec must start with an agreement that high-quality universities are absolutely imperative for Quebec's future in a modernizing world.  Quebec cannot succeed without them, and the stakes—our future well-being and prosperity—are too high to make the evaluation of quality into a political exercise.
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On financing:

  • Our universities need a partnership model for financing, in which all beneficiaries of higher education pay a fair share:
    1. Government must provide solid support, and in the long term will see the benefits of its investment: increased tax revenues and decreased spending on social services like welfare and employment insurance.
    2. Students who come from more affluent backgrounds and can afford to pay more tuition should do so.
    3. Students who come from less affluent backgrounds should get more generous aid—to pay not only their tuition, but their living expenses.
    4. Industry, which benefits from a highly educated workforce, should also contribute through philanthropy.
  • There is overwhelming evidence that Quebec's universities are underfunded—including studies done by neutral observers with no stake in Quebec education or politics. With debts that total $183.4 billion—and the highest per capita debt of any Canadian province—Quebec's government simply can't afford to cover the full cost of higher education on its own.
  • Higher education comes with a price tag, but it's a price worth paying. On average, university graduates earn about $1 million dollars more over their lifetimes than non-graduates.
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On accessibility:

  • Surprisingly, a great deal of research shows that access to university doesn't have much to do with tuition or income levels—so long as sufficient student aid is in place to help students from less affluent backgrounds. 
  • As well, research shows that your socio-economic status doesn't affect your likelihood of going to university nearly as much as your high school grades and reading ability, your parents' influence and attitudes, and the quality of the high school you attended.
  • Quebec's extremely-low-tuition experiment hasn't worked. In spite of decades of low tuition, Quebec’s graduation rate remains below the Canadian average and below the average for OECD nations.
  • McGill has dramatically increased the amount of student aid we offer. In 2012-13, we expect to spend $25.1 million on financial support for students—that’s nearly 600% of what we spent in 2006-07, and it’s made a real difference for our students. It’s also helped us attract top-notch students from a wider range of geographical origins and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • For lower-income students who are Quebec residents, tuition is already free—because the government pays for it through bursaries.
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On governance:

  • McGill is well-governed and responsibly managed—and we can prove it.
  • We provide thousands of pages of reports to the Quebec government each year, and we're routinely recognized by credit ratings agencies and other organizations for our sound governance practices. We're not asking for less oversight—we're asking for oversight that ensures transparency without sacrificing autonomy.
  • McGill is a transparent institution and accountable to all Quebecers, and we're proud to make our finances publicly available for all to see.
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On impact:

  • Each year, McGill attracts some of the world's top students and researchers to Quebec—to learn, to create new knowledge within our borders, and often to put down roots and help with the long-term work of building an innovation-driven economy that can compete with those of other provinces and countries.
  • We train badly needed doctors, reach out to aboriginals and marginalized Quebecers, and make huge contributions to Quebec in a vast number of ways.
  • A 2010 study found that each year, McGill has a $5.2 billion impact here in Quebec—a huge return on the government's annual $470 million investment.
  • Canada's federal government estimates that 75% of new jobs in the coming decade will require post-secondary education. This further highlights the importance of the choices that Quebecers must make about funding higher education—and the grave risks of choosing poorly.
  • Higher education benefits everyone:
    • A well-educated population is healthier, needs fewer costly social services and contributes more tax dollars to the public good.
    • A university education also benefits the individual, through significantly higher wages, personal happiness and increased employment opportunities.
    • Industry and social organizations need a well-educated, adaptable and creative workforce to power their work.
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