Research-intensive universities deserve more

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

If the President of University of British Columbia had his way, most Canadian universities would get little federal research funding.

In a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade last week, UBC President Stephen Toope said research dollars should be targeted primarily toward Canadian universities that can compete globally.

“If we hope to be influential on a world stage ... we must make sure to focus some resources on a limited number of globally relevant, research-intensive universities in this country,” Toope said.

He claimed some Canadian universities could compete the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Cambridge.

“Most people would agree that universities like University of Toronto, UBC, McGill University, and increasingly, University of Alberta are operating at a globally influential level … Other universities can be excellent in many ways, for example in creating a great undergraduate experience, but they aren’t looked to as global sites of innovation.”

Western was not included in Toope’s list.

Gerald Kidder, associate vice-president of research at Western, disagreed with Toope’s list.

“Universities aren’t all the same. Each university has strengths that others may not have.

“Research funding in Canada today is based on quality ... there is peer review of each research proposal.”

Canadian universities attracting more research funding receive less overhead top-up from the federal government.

Toope cited the example of Lakehead University receiving 45 cents in federal top-up for each dollar of research funding, versus UBC receiving 22 cents.

“The policy is to spread resources around, not to focus where Canada has a chance at global impact.”

“Research funding should be focused on research excellence, not on the size of the university, and definitely it should not be an entitlement for a small number of universities,” Rui Wang, vice-president of research at Lakehead countered.

David Simmonds, VP-university affairs with the University Students’ Council, said Western is a research-intensive university whose “Best Student Experience” campaign also encompasses its research excellence.

“Our institution is founded on research and teaching. We pride ourselves on that.

“I think we’re internationally recognized for some of the work that we do.”

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette