CAUT has expressed disappointment that last month's throne speech provided so little for post-secondary education. "It presented a surprisingly modest vision for the next century," said CAUT president Bill Graham, "a vision that does not seem to include repairing the damage to Canada's ailing post-secondary education system."
Of principal interest for universities was the announcement that funding for granting councils would be increased by an unspecified amount. The next day, the government indicated it will be establishing 1,200 Chairs for Research Excellence at Canadian universities. While CAUT was clearly pleased at the creation of the new positions, it raised several serious concerns.
Graham said the money promised for the research chairs does not even come close to offsetting the deep cuts made in recent years and nor does it address the problems stemming from the lack of core funding.
The new chairs will be strictly researchers -- with no teaching responsibilities. "Students, it seems, will not benefit from the expertise of these people in the classroom," said Graham. "This is troubling because the real strength of universities lies within the link between research and teaching."
He added that the new money will not address the sorry state of university facilities, equipment and other infrastructure. "What good will it do to hire researchers if there is antiquated equipment or if the library is inadequate? These are real problems faced by university researchers right now as a result of government funding cuts."
Ottawa has indicated that the bulk of the new funding will be directed to medical and applied scientific research. This follows on a host of recent policy initiatives that have increasingly pushed university researchers into producing work that allegedly has more immediate commercial benefits. "But what will become of research that is important even if it may not have an immediate commercial appeal?" asked Graham.