Rich pickings follow forced cuts

December 3, 1999

MONTREAL

Canadian universities have received their highest revenues ever, despite two decades of declining government spending.

The increase, say the authors of a recent report, has been earned on the backs of students and has hurt universities' independence from commercial influence.

Despite having seen Can$800 million (Pounds 340 million) taken out of higher education in the past five years, Canada's 48 universities earned Can$12 billion last year.

Their combined earnings have risen 20 per cent in ten years.

The windfall was almost entirely because of increased student fees, commercial partnerships and investment income, says the Canadian Association of University Teachers, who presented the report, Not in the Public Interest.

Based on figures released by Statistics Canada, the report shows a public university system shifting away from public funding.

Government grants last year accounted for just over half of universities' general revenues, down from three-quarters in 1978. Meanwhile, student fees have become the largest and most rapidly growing source of non-government revenue for universities. Canada's percentage of university research funded by industry, at 12 per cent, is twice as much as in the United States.

The CAUT says the government has been pushing an agenda to make the university a less public institution.

The report also gives evidence of widening student-teacher ratios and a fall in professor salaries, which account for per cent of non-capital expenditures, down from 34 per cent in 1973.

"The traditional functions of the university, services performed mainly by academic staff, can thus be shown to have declined in priority for the university," says the report.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has been uncharacteristically silent, and told The THES that they did not have the time to "plough through" the 20-page document as the union was busily preparing for an appearance before the House of Commons finance committee.

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