« Why has the Bank of Canada "done nothing" for 4 years? | Main | Money, prices, and coordination failures »

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Am I right in thinking that Ontario governments are slowly exerting more and more control over universities, while at the same time paying a smaller and smaller percentage of the costs (while students are paying slowly more)?

The underlying problem for the government is that they want to put a cap on their total spending, while also leaving universities free to compete.

But that "stewardship vs autonomy" contradiction is just terrible. How can (presumably) educated people (on both sides) sign off on such total BS. I can understand them wanting to agree on something a bit fuzzy, so it's not clear just how much autonomy universities have. But there's something that just feels corrupt about playing about with words like that.

Nick:
I don't have the exact numbers but generally over the last 20 years, the share of university revenues from government grants has declined and that from student tuition has grown. Oddly enough, universities were more "autonomous" when government was footing a larger share of the bill.

Interventionist government is the reason

Livio: that's what I thought. It's a new twist on "he who pays the piper chooses the tune". The government has been decreasing share of the piper, but wants an increasing share of choosing the tune.

"But there's something that just feels corrupt about playing about with words like that"

Welcome to the legal profession.

In fairness, I think there's a way of reading "stewart" and "autonomy" in a way that is not inconsistent.

Consider the definition of Stewartship (per Merriam-Webster):

"the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care "

I think that definition (particularly the "especially" portion) is probably a fair and accurate definition of the provincial government's role vis-a-vis post-secondary education. Legally, the regulation of post-secondary education falls within the provincial jurisdiction, and there's little doubt that if the post-secondary education system were to go to pot, the provincial government of the day would be held accountable for failing to carefully and responsiblity manage it. Let's not kid ourselves, universities are - and always have been - creatures of the provincial government.

Mind you, careful management of the post-secondary education system doesn't mean that the universities don't have substantial autonomy in how they run their affairs. But "management" can be a very high-level thing. One can manage a system while still providing participants in the system with substantial autonomy. No doubt the administration of most universities think of themselves as stewarts of the university, but I doubt many professors would disagree with the proposition that they have a fair degree of automony in how they run their affairs.

"In both these cases, the universities are laying out their strengths in the internal metrics that they use. Of course this does lead me to wonder why my own institution in this category set out the ratio of students enrolled in Professional Programs to students enrolled in Arts and Science programs as a metric [...]"

This is the inherent problem with metrics defined by a narrow team: That team will set metrics which recognize the priorities they already hold. I'm guessing that this particular metric was either defined by an administrator from Professional Programs, or by an administrator who loves the higher (I assume) tuition fees charged for Professional Programs.

For a more extreme example of self-serving metrics, consider Simon Fraser University, where IT Services is assessed based on "Ratio of ITS Operating and Project Resources to Total Operating Resources" -- the bigger the budget, the more successful IT Services is considered to be. Clearly this aligns very well with the priorities of the Chief Information Officer; how well it aligns with the priorities of the rest of the university is quite a different matter.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this site

  • Google

    WWW
    worthwhile.typepad.com
Blog powered by Typepad