« Attack of the health care zombies | Main | Eurozone to issue yuan bonds??? »


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


As I think I tried to imply in your other post, I'm not sure I agree with your suggestion that underfunding is less of an issue than its made out to be. Per capita numbers may be fine when looking at the spending on a sector in terms of what society's priorities are and what's sustainable, but as far as what apse can deliver to students, per student is more appropriate. I'm not sure what Ontario's numbers are, but from 1990 to the present here in PEI student numbers have grown much faster than population. I'm fairly sure real growth in per student PSE finances has not kept up with GDP growth and I'm not sure is even positive. And I think the two other Maritime provinces are likely similar.

I think you are on the right track in looking at the mix of funding, with operating grants lagging and more money coming in from tuition and research money. And I think you're right in pointing out that the extra money coming in isn't finding its way to operating and things students benefit from.

Not too sure about the causality being suggested. Like others, I think you don't put enough emphasis on the role the feds have played since the mid 90's in shifting their funding to student aid on the one hand and research on the other. They want credit for the money they spend and want to do it directly (and more recently seem to want to direct it as well). Problem is a lot of this money just goes to non teaching expenses generated to create it, or to 'soft' categories of money that can't possibly be used to hire more faculty to teach because they can't count on it. (No hesitation to hire more administrators though).

Bottom line, I think a good number of our problems exist because of the twisting of funding and incentives federal funding policy for PSE over the past decade and a half have wrought. I'm not convinced we can look to them for a reformed vision, and in the absence of changes to their funding model, I'm not sure we can push change from the bottom.

Those are good points. The Federal role in research funding certainly has affected priorities within universities but then so have provincial government funding initiatives in accessibility, research and capital projects. However, even the Federal research funding role probably does not account for the fracturing of the university mission into so many different objectives. That is partly a function of societal and business expectations, partly government policy and partly the fault even of academics in universities, some of whom liike to see universities become a more direct agent for societal change and transformation as opposed to an indirect role. However, in the end what do I know? I'm just a simple country economist who is usually content to harvest data and then reap the results.

"And I think the two other Maritime provinces are likely similar"

I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that much of the increase in student numbers in the Maritimes vis a vis the general population is due to out-of-province students. If those are Americans, then the costs of tuition in the US might be a factor. Seems to me that US students should be paying something closer to the actual costs when they attend school in Canada. Perhaps student numbers and funding per capita should be recalculated on that basis.

There is also, IMHO, some obligation on the part of the universities to see what they can do to reduce costs. Are universities sharing resources sufficiently? Is there too much of a focus on brick and mortar and not enough (when it comes to teaching) on the use of internet technologies? University staff and admins would be expected to be biased against such changes (as they might reduce employment) so it might be up to external funders to apply pressure in those directions.

The out of province thing is a long run constant actually. Numbers might be up a bit on that front, but if you're comparing to 1990 there's some domestic increase there as well. Foreign students are another source of increase, though they're unevenly distributed - places like St FX, Mount Allison and Acadia seem to have fewer. They do pay a bit more, but they tend to cost as well - though in my experience the extra money shows up in admin and student services and not more money for teaching.

Not sure why people think using the internet somehow lowers costs and requires fewer faculty. I don't think that's the experience, which is why it hasn't been pursued more. As far as the Maritimes go, bricks and mortar and the whole real life interaction thing is probably our comparative advantage. We have a product we can sell, and places like St FX and Mount A do it well. How we could compete with big online places like Athabasca and University of Phoenix isn't clear to me.

"Not sure why people think using the internet somehow lowers costs and requires fewer faculty."

Well, suppose you have one excellent Biol 101 lecturer at UNB. Why not deliver that course via internet to other maritime unis straight to the students computers? Makes a few lecturer positions redundant, doesn't it? Those funds can then be used for tutors, labs, etc.

The idea is not to compete with online unis, although I think Western Governor's Univ is perhaps a better example of what those could do (and perhaps has some ideas our unis could borrow).

One could also ask why we have so many independent unis in the Maritimes, rather than more coordination via a Maritime univ system. Again , I think there is too much self-interest at stake, plus a fear on the part of politicians of taking on the alumni propaganda organs (always at the beck and call of the univ President).

As far as enrolments go, both foreign student levels and totals are pretty flat over the past few years:
so I don't see much evidence of a great product to sell (or at least, not much evidence many are buying).

Where universities in the Maritimes are under-utilized is wrt R&D. That is the real benefit of universities to regional economies - creating innovation that generates high-paying jobs. That would favour university consolidation, IMHO.

That one excellent lecturer in Biology is probably already more busy with teaching than they want to be. Interacting with added students by email, marking, or even co-ordinating the marking of a horde of TA's (and we don't have huge grad schools here so those aren't that plentiful) takes up a huge amount of time. From what I've seen and heard from people who actually do this kind of thing, it's not the panacea its made out to be. Most of us probably also don't have the facilities necessary to do a good job of this and I'm not just talking studio equipment. My university's email system is such a joke that most people roll their eyes when some technophile starts going on about some new e-learning initiative. If we can't even maintain a decent email system....

As far as enrolment numbers go, I don't think growth or a lack of it is the point for what I was talking about. The small universities I mentioned don't really want to grow, or at least that's my impression. (Acadia is maybe a bit of an exception here as they seem to have messed up big time with their overpriced "Acadia Advantage' thing a few years back and now they want their numbers back). So a lack of growth is not an indicator of a lack of a good product. We're also in a shrinking market area, so even staying flat is an achievement in a way. (and the time period the data you reference covers is a bit problematic as well I think - the start point would have been in the bulge created by the Ontario double cohort).

I agree with you about the lack of co-ordination, things could really be better that way, but the way incentives are set up and given the history of how this kind of thing has been handled by government its not hard to understand why things are the way they are.

But I'm not sure I agree on R&D. It is important for the region, but where I am I don't get the impression its underdone. My university, UPEI, I think has almost gone overboard on R&D. Something like 15% of our budget is coming from research funding now.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this site

  • Google

Blog powered by Typepad