Canada scholarships face uncertain future

September 22, 2006

Treasury review poses threat to Commonwealth bursary schemes, write Philip Fine and David Jobbins

Canada has put a flagship Commonwealth scholarship scheme on hold only months before ministers are due to discuss how to celebrate the scheme's 50th anniversary in 2009.

A decision by Canada's Treasury Board to suspend its C$13.5 million (£6.4 million) a year funding in June 2007 also applies to the prestigious Fulbright Awards.

Scholarships for the 2007-08 academic year are under threat, but the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper ordered the Treasury to review its decision. Officials stressed that a decision on long-term participation had yet to be taken.

But John Kirkland, secretary of the UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, said: "Given the timescales involved, it now appears unlikely that any Commonwealth Scholarships will be available for UK students in Canada starting in October 2007. "It has been stressed to us by the High Commission, however, that no such decision has been taken for future years."

In 2004-05, 40 UK scholars held Commonwealth scholarships in Canada, with 44 Canadian students on scholarships in the UK. Despite the decision, the UK commission decided to invite nominations from Canadian students for scholarships in the UK in 2007. There was some optimism in Canada that the Government would restore the funding, perhaps as early as next month.

Jim Fox, president of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, said people close to the decision-makers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the Treasury backed the schemes and predicted that the suspension would not last.

"When we first heard about this, our suspicion was that they were going to be cutting international scholarships," Mr Fox said. "But when we started lobbying and going into various offices, we heard completely the opposite."

Mr Fox, whose association handles C$5 million of Commonwealth scholarships each year, spoke to an influential member of the governing Conservative Party, Senator Hugh Segal. Mr Segal told him he believed academic exchange programmes had fallen under a wide range of grants and contributions the Government was committed to look at.

Mr Fox suggested that the Government could not guarantee funds until the spending review was complete. He believes that a statement from Mr Harper and other G8 leaders this summer, committing them to "enhance existing programmes of exchange", was "out of synch" with cutting these programmes.

Education ministers are to discuss how to mark the Commonwealth scholarship scheme's 50th anniversary in 2009 when they meet in Cape Town in December.

Mr Kirkland said: "The scheme was very much designed in Canada, and we hope they will continue as active members."

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Elderly woman looking up at sky

A recent paper claims that the quality of researchers declines with age. Five senior scientists consider the data and how they’ve contributed through the years

Otto illustration (5 May 2016)

Craig Brandist on the proletarianisation of a profession and how it leads to behaviours that could hobble higher education

smiley, laugh, happy, funny, silly, face, faces

Scholars should cheer up and learn to take the rough with the smooth, says John Tregoning

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration 19 May 2016

Tim Blackman’s vision of higher education for the 21st century is one in which students of varying abilities learn successfully together

James Minchall illustration (12 May 2016)

An online experiment proves that part of the bill for complying with the Freedom of Information Act is self-inflicted, says Louis Goddard