Montreal, February 26, 2013 – Generally speaking, the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities (CREPUQ) welcome the proposals made by the government at the Summit on Higher Education in Montreal.
“These proposals are encouraging overall and will help make higher education a priority in Quebec. They confirm the government’s intentions, announced several weeks ago, to make accountability procedures more efficient, more transparent and more strategic, as the university heads had long been demanding; to create a Conseil national des universités that will advise the government on how best to develop Quebec’s university network, while respecting the role of university boards of directors and ensuring that the government fully assume its responsibilities; and to review the university funding formula. With regard to this last point, we believe, as stated many times before, that it is very important for this complex review process to be supervised by a team of experts. We also intend to cooperate fully with the “work sites” (chantiers) that will be set up over the coming weeks and we applaud the choice of individuals chosen to chair them, all of them people of great experience,” said Luce Samoisette, Chair of the CREPUQ Board of Directors and Rector of Université de Sherbrooke.
“We welcome the government’s commitment to ensure stable, foreseeable funding for universities, starting in 2014-2015. For years, Quebec universities have been saying that they need adequate funding to fulfil their mission. However, in the short term, the universities find themselves in a tighter financial position than ever before, due to the $250 million in cuts for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. We have presented the government with a proposal that would mitigate the significant impact of these cuts and discussions are proceeding. Telling students and employees that reinvestment is coming in 2014-2015 is all well and good, but the next two years will be extremely difficult for the universities,” added Daniel Zizian, Director General of CREPUQ.
The universities are also pleased with the individual agreements concluded with the government that will see reinvestment determined in accordance with major provincial objectives. These objectives will have to be broadly defined in order to take into account the specific needs of each university. A “one size fits all” approach cannot work.
It is clear that indexing tuition and mandatory fees to inflation, as announced by the government, will not affect access to university, particularly since significant increases in financial assistance for students have also been announced. Note that the universities themselves are taking numerous steps to make a university education more accessible, and they will continue to move in this direction.
Nonetheless, there are a number of grey areas.
With regard to boards of directors, imposing a single model for all universities would be unacceptable. Many universities have revised their governance methods in recent years, in keeping with best practices around the world, and this work should be acknowledged and respected. Board composition is a governance issue specific to each university, and particular histories, traditions and cultures must be honoured.
The issue of research will have to be examined in depth at the research summit in April. We must avoid creating a parallel public research network and continue to work towards improved coordination between colleges and universities.
The universities are disappointed with how little time was made at the Summit for discussing the very important subject of student democracy. Society must decide whether or not students have the right to strike, and the government is ultimately responsible for the decision. And whether or not the right is granted, legislative changes are required to define the rights, obligations and responsibilities of all parties, so that we do not see a repeat of the unfortunate campus events of last spring.
CREPUQ includes all 19 Quebec universities. The organization acts as their voice in relations with government and milieus concerned with university education and research. It also fosters coordination and collaboration between universities, is a research centre for university administrations, acts as a centre for coordination and joint service delivery, and is a resource centre and think tank for its members.