Don't Weaken Universities

Winnipeg Free Press, April 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

Don't Weaken Universities


RBC recently said Manitoba will be among the nation's leaders in economic growth in 2013, a trend that has largely held steady since 2005, according to Manitoba Finance.

The University of Manitoba has been a driving force behind that success and we are partners in tangible symbols of community prosperity, including the construction of Investors Group Field and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

In recent budgets, the provincial government has shown wisdom in recognizing the benefits of multi-year, predictable funding for post-secondary education.

The U of M contributes $1.8 billion to the provincial economy and takes on critical issues facing our province, country and world, including human rights, indigenous achievement, environmental degradation and economic and social justice.

Eighty per cent of our graduates stay in Manitoba to build bigger futures for themselves and their families. This makes our university Manitoba's best retention program for medical professionals, engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, scientists, teachers, musicians, jurists, visual artists and critical thinkers.

Last year, the U of M reached some significant milestones that indicate our community is vibrant, dynamic and growing. These include record enrolment of more than 29,000 students, donor gifts totalling more than $20 million and nearly $160 million in sponsored research income.

This investment in research is critical. According to economists Charles Jones and John Williams of Stanford University, the return on investment for publicly funded scientific research and development can be as high as 100 per cent.

Unfortunately, the optimism in Manitoba and at our university is tempered by the fiscal challenges faced by the provincial government, our largest funding partner. The Selinger government currently is forecasting a deficit of $567 million for 2012-13, and is dealing with similar problems in the upcoming and future budgets.

As vice-chairman of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, I am aware other provincial governments have cut their investment in post-secondary education to deal with their own fiscal challenges. The governments of Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia have all cut support for universities and colleges to varying degrees. …

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