Elite universities need more cash?
Recent comments made by the president of the University of Toronto suggest a support for differentiation in funding for Canada's research-intensive and non-research intensive universities.
The comments were made during a speech at the Empire Club of Canada, a speakers' forum, in Toronto last Thursday. President Robert Birgeneau said the leading research universities in Canada occupy a special place in the public's educational needs.
"In my view, the top universities give equal value to teaching and research and they combine research, scholarship and education in a unique way," Birgeneau added.
He said there is a belief in Canada that equity can only be achieved if every institution is treated the same. "This is equity for 'institutions' rather than equity for 'people,'" Birgeneau explained.
By treating institutions all the same, the government has allocated funds under "rough justice," he said, adding this has led to "injustice to our institutions."
Canadians should not be averse to "differentiation" of funding, as equal treatment can impede on a healthy and internationally competitive Canadian system of higher education, Birgeneau explained.
Western President Paul Davenport said he did not fully agree with Birgeneau's comments.
"I believe in a competitive system for universities in which part of the funding is based on performance," he said.
Research grants are distributed on an individual basis, Davenport said. "[However], no university has a right to the number of research grants [they receive]."
The distribution of operation grants on the basis of research performance has already begun, Davenport said, adding this does not mean the [government] designates funding for universities.
"Rather, we let the universities compete for [research] grants, then recognize the competitors [by] providing additional support," Davenport said.
Josh Morgan, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, said funding differentiation would act as a push towards a two-tier education system.
Just because certain research universities are perceived as more prestigious doesn't mean they should get a disproportionate share of funding, he said.
"It is the government's responsibility to provide quality education to all students, no matter where they study," Morgan said.
According to Birgeneau, true equity would mean having schools in Canada that can compete with Oxford University in England or the Sorbonne in France. "It is simply not practical or even possible that every university in Ontario and Canada be everything to everyone," he said.