Canada revels in C$1.7bn boost

February 28, 2003

Canadian universities have won back much of the research funding lost in the devastating cuts of the mid-1990s in a federal budget that has also poured cash into student scholarships.

The budget, announced last week, injects C$1.7 billion (£710 million) into higher education over the next three years. This reflects a robust economy and an outgoing prime minister keen to leave a legacy.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has been pressing for the increased spending in a series of briefs for the federal government and was gratified that its efforts had paid off.

The main elements of the budget are as follows:

* C$35,000-a-year scholarships for 4,000 graduate students

* Ten per cent extra for each of the three research funding councils

* Indirect research costs permanently instated at C$250 million a year, roughly 25 per cent of the direct research costs

* More debt relief for students

* Refugees made eligible for student loans

* Increased funding for First Nation students

* Canada's Northern researchers receive C$16 million

* The Canadian Foundation for Innovation gets another C$500 million, giving researchers an infrastructure fund of C$3.65 billion, and Genome Canada another C$300 million

* C$100 million for establishing the Canadian Learning Institute, dedicated to educational statistics and best practices.

Robert Giroux, president of the AUCC, said: "We're very pleased." The best news for him was the now permanent indirect research cash, the graduate student scholarships and the increases for the funding bodies.

Mr Giroux's enthusiasm was echoed by University of British Columbia president Martha Piper, who survived an austere provincial budget on the same day. She said the indirect research funding would increase British Columbia's basic research.

Even Ian Boyko, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, not one to gush over federal government initiatives, was pleased with some aspects of the budget, including the distribution of the new scholarships in line with discipline make-up.

But Mr Boyko and David Robinson, associate executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, pointed out that the government had not increased transfer payments to the provinces, which are responsible for still-underfunded university operations. It had also done nothing about reducing tuition fees, which continue to soar.

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