Report: not enough funds allocated for grad expansion

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Monday, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations released a report outlining concerns with the provincial government’s goals to expand graduate enrolment over the next two years.

In a report entitled “Quality at Risk: An Assessment of the Ontario Government’s Plans for Graduate Education,” the association identified a $388-million operating funding gap needed to hire the 2,205 tenure-stream faculty OCUFA believes the province needs to meet its graduate expansion targets.

“We commend the government for its vision,” said Michael Doucet, president of OCUFA. “Expanding graduate education is absolutely the right thing to do, as we’re deficient in the number of qualified Ontarians who have master’s or PhD degrees.

“Our point is, the ministry hasn’t invested enough money to do the job correctly.”

Under the McGuinty government’s “Reaching Higher” plan, the province has invested $170 million in operating costs to create 12,205 graduate spaces by 2007-08 and $220 million to open 14,000 spaces by 2009-10.

While the targets set out by the province are ambitious, Chris Bentley, minister of training, colleges and universities, said it remains every university’s discretion to determine how many students they can take on.

“We’ve made it quite clear to the universities that we want them to proceed at a pace that they are comfortable with,” Bentley said.

“If an individual university is unable to take on as many students as they thought they could, I’d rather they go at the pace they’re comfortable with.”

Bentley added the province has consulted with every school to ensure additional graduate students admitted are fully funded.

“When we indicated to universities that we were prepared to increase graduate education, they all came forward with their expansion plans,” Bentley said. “When we distributed potential envelopes to every institution, we said attached to every master’s or PhD student is funding.

“So if you take the student on the funding flows, and if you don’t take the student on, the funding doesn’t flow. That way we can ensure the students that institutions take on are properly supported.”

While there are no immediate plans for OCUFA officials to meet with the ministry, Doucet said Bentley met with representatives during OCUFA’s board meeting Feb. 3 and had a question-and-answer session.

Since 2001, enrolment in doctoral programs at Western has grown by 60 per cent and the additional funding will be used to create 815 new spaces for graduate students in the near future.

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