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February 8, 2001 Universities angered by Legault's about-face



Quebec’s universities, including Concordia, were stunned to hear this week that the “extra” grant money linked to performance contracts could go out the window.

Education minister François Legault, who, with premier Lucien Bouchard, promised at last year’s youth summit to give the province’s 18 universities $1 billion over three years, is being severely criticized for this apparent volte-face.

Rector Frederick Lowy spoke on CBC Radio’s Daybreak on Tuesday about the dire consequences of this change.

François Tavenas, president of CREPUQ, the association of rectors, urged Legault to win back the confidence of the university community.

Christian Robitaille, president of the Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Québec, told the Gazette, “It already takes a lot to convince young people that our politicians have any integrity. If these cuts go through, that faith will be destroyed.”

University administrators spent all last summer writing performance contracts for their institutions that would satisfy the government’s requirements. They included goals involving graduation rates, budgets and renewal of faculty.

Four institutions have signed their contracts: McGill, Sherbrooke, the Université de Montréal and the École de Technologie Supérieure. Concordia was just about to sign when the news broke in La Presse last week that the contracts might be overridden by a change in budget priorities.

The prospect of reduced funding comes at a time when the universities are just getting back on their feet after a decade of staggering cutbacks. Concordia is trying to attract new faculty members and has major construction plans in the works.