B.C.'s university presidents are calling on the provincial government to close a $54 million system-wide funding gap which they say is eroding the quality of university education in British Columbia.
The educators are asking for a minimum five per cent increase in the provincial operating grant for 2000/01 and a reinvestment in research support with a 15 per cent research innovation grant for each federal research dollar attracted into the province by university researchers.
"If British Columbia is serious about increasing its capacity to be a national leader in knowledge development and innovation in the 21st century the empirical evidence indicates we are heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time," the presidents say in a report submitted to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Training and Technology.
A comparison with 16 other Canadian universities shows that while B.C. universities receive more than the national average in operating grants per student from their provincial government, they receive less in tuition per student, resulting in an overall shortfall of $440 for each of the 123,745 students enrolled this year, totalling about $54 million.
The report, a joint operating budget submission for 2000/01, was prepared by The University Presidents' Council, which represents B.C.'s six universities--the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, University of Northern British Columbia, Royal Roads University and the Technical University of British Columbia.
"The government has a right to set whatever tuition policy it wants," UBC President Martha Piper told the Vancouver Sun editorial board last month. "But we're saying that if they do that, they have to fund it properly. This is not a cost-free policy."
The results of this growing "investment gap" are becoming all too evident, the presidents say, and include inadequate spaces for qualified applicants, overcrowded classes at all levels, a rapidly deteriorating student/faculty ratio resulting from unfilled faculty positions, course cancellations and reduced course availability, and deteriorating lecture, lab and study environments.
The restored funding would address three main areas:
In response to this revitalized commitment to university education, the universities offer their commitment to an increase in enrolments within the university system of 1,000 full-time students in the 2000/01 academic year; a move to restore the student/faculty ratios prevalent in 1995/96; an increase in library and associated acquisitions; renewed emphasis on providing clean, safe and well-equipped classrooms, laboratories and study spaces; and a 25 per cent increase in federally funded research awards over the next three years.
The complete budget submission and a related document can be found at www.ubc.ca/news_events/news/1999-12-09.html