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March 29, 2001 Concordia signs performance contract with Quebec







Education Minister François Legault exchanges views with Fine Arts student Sabrina Stea, also a presidential candidate in the CSU election.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Barbara Black

Concordia will receive $51 million from the Quebec government over and above its operating grant, thanks to a performance contract signed at the university on March 19.

Rector Frederick Lowy and Education Minister François Legault signed the document, in which the university administration undertakes to achieve several specific goals.

Graduation rates: Currently, only 62 per cent of full-time students at Concordia continue their studies all the way to graduation. The goal is to increase this rate to 80 per cent over the next decade.

“It would be easy to do this by raising admission standards or by going easier on [grading] the students, but we won’t do that,” said Dr. Lowy. “Instead, we’ll try to do a better job of supporting them in their studies.”

Students in their first and second year are at particularly high risk of getting discouraged about their studies. They might find that they have chosen the wrong academic program, or they might lack moral or cultural support at home.

One of the biggest reasons students drop out is financial. A study done for the university several years ago showed that of those students who stop attending Concordia, about half don’t return because they can’t afford it.

The university will increase by one-third the fellowships and scholarships offered to its graduate students, who are particularly needy. This amounts to about $300,000 in grants.

Professor-student ratio: In the wake of massive retirements, Concordia’s ratio of full-time professors to students has risen to 26.4/1, lower than the Quebec average. In the contract, the university undertakes to lower this average to 23 students per one full-time professor.

Indeed, about three-quarters of the new money will go towards hiring 150 new full-time professors; by 2010, three-quarters of the faculty will be new hires.

The rest will go to Concordia’s libraries and specific projects, such as converting the Cinema Department’s equipment from analog to digital.

Rationalization of programs:
Since 1994-95, driven by budget compression, Concordia has merged or discontinued 166 programs with low, or no, enrolment. The goal will be to continue the drive for a “student-driven” curriculum; if enrolment is consistently low, the continuation of a course or program will be questioned.

Administrative efficiency: This is something of a sore point for Concordia administrators. Having already achieved a balanced budget and halved the university’s debt, they feel that their share of the performance-contract pot should be larger.

However, figures are difficult to compare among the various universities, since they each divide administrative and academic functions in their own way. The ministry pays tribute to Concordia’s efficiency in the delivery of potentially costly programs such as engineering and fine arts.

However, although $51 million will be given to Concordia over three years, only $12.2 million will be given this year; $15.75 million will be given in 2001-02, and $26.5 million in 2002-03.

Research performance: Concordia has not, historically, had a strong research profile, but this is changing. For example, of the recent crop of new hires, about 65 per cent are recipients of research grants. However, Lightstone has said that this must intensify, and he has called for a corresponding “change of culture” among faculty members.

The performance contract calls for an increase in grants held by Concordia researchers from $16.5 million in 2000-2001 to $17.5 million in 2001-2002, and $20 million in 2002-2003.

Lightstone, in presenting the performance contract to the Board of Governors, described it as perfectly in accord with the long-term academic planning that has been unfolding at the university over the past several years.

Dr. Lowy expressed confidence that all of the goals in the document will be met.

The Quebec government has awarded $600 million over three years as the result of performance contracts signed with universities. McGill was granted $100 million, the Université de Montréal $124 million, UQAM $98.5 million, Bishop’s $10.9 million, Laval $87.5 million, and the Université de Sherbrooke $55 million.

The full text of the performance contract, in the original French, can be found at the Web site for Concordia’s Government Relations and External Affairs, at http://relish.concordia.ca/govrel/.