$42 million in funding cuts
Late last week undergraduate students across Ontario found out they will be getting 30 per cent of their tuition refunded. However, the week didn’t bring good news for everyone in the university community.
As the provincial government proudly unveiled their tuition rebate program which will grant undergraduates $1,600 per year, reports surfaced that the Ontario Liberals had cut $42 million in university research funding.
However, the timing is merely a coincidence. The $42 million in research funding will be diverted into economic development projects in eastern and southern Ontario, not put towards subsidizing the $423-million tuition rebate.
“It actually comes from a separate ministry,” explained Sean Madden, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. “It may have just been some poor timing, or maybe the Liberals didn’t handle the PR strategy effectively.”
No matter where the funds are being diverted, the cuts will take certainly take a toll on the research community, said George Dixon, vice president of research at the University of Waterloo and chair of the Ontario Council of University Research.
“There will be an impact on research pretty much across the board,” said Dixon.
“There’s going to be reduced opportunity for research funding by university by faculty put forward for grants.
You have to remember, a lot of that money goes to support graduate students and their initiatives for their graduate degrees.”
According to Dixon, Ontario universities were made aware of these cuts in early December.
The $42 million is being taken out of a program that awarded grants to university research projects on an annual basis.
That program started five years ago and was supposed to continue for another two.
Dixon added that losing the provincial money will certainly be a blow to research projects as, previously, the private sector and the universities would match the contribution from the Ontario government.
According to Dixon, this news is especially disappointing because research funding from the federal government has “been increasing pretty steadily over the past three or four years.”
“With the federal government increasing their research funding and the provincial government decreasing their research funding, there’s a very mixed message there about the relative importance of research within the university community,” he said.
However, despite these cuts, which will be felt in areas from natural science to engineering to arts and social sciences, Dixon says there’s no need for panic.
“Don’t get the impression that this is the end of all research at Ontario universities,” he said.
“This is one pot of money that we draw on.”