Martin Hicks – Extra, extra, read all about it

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Sustaining Quality in Changing Times, Funding Ontario Universities, A Discussion Paper

We’re gonna quote right out of the newspaper.  That way, you won’t have to worry that we’re making it all up.  These are verbatim quotes about the Ontario university funding model review.  The headline reads:

“Sustaining Quality in Changing Times”

“Persistent deficits and a growing debt burden limit the ability of governments at every level to fund public institutions.  As a result Ontario’s public institutions cannot continue to do business the same way.  They must seek new ways to provide improved service with limited public resources.”

 “Greater differentiation and increased interdependence have the potential to increase both quality and accessibility to Ontario’s universities.”

 “There must be a stronger emphasis on teaching in our universities.”

 “The universities must be part of an integrated educational system which permits easy movement from one sector to another.”

 “There is a need for some reasonable measure of stability and predictability in funding systems.”

You’re not surprised at these themes.  They are the very ones underpinning this summer’s consultations on funding review, led by the accomplished Suzanne Herbert.

But I bet you did not know there is a newspaper story about funding review.  Yes, for real.  It was published in 1994, two decades ago.  The quotes you just read are extracts from then Minister Dave Cooke’s Letter of Reference to the Ontario Council on University Affairs (“OCUA”) … launching the last review of the university funding mechanism.

Don’t get depressed.  It’s not like nothing happened in the intervening 20 years.  This happened:  OCUA was disbanded shortly after tabling its recommendations for a new funding formula.  And so we got the same old.

The same old is broken.  We have enrolment grown ourselves into a corner.  Everyone knows it.

Let’s make sure that history does not repeat itself.  We don’t want to be quoted 20 years from now … at the next review of the same old university funding model.

Changing up the way $3.5B a year is apportioned is a scary thought.  But not changing it up even more so.  It helps to break the task down into manageable questions.  HEQCO’s latest advisory paper on funding review can be found here.

-Martin Hicks, HEQCO’s executive director, data and statistics

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