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November 22, 2001 Quebec funding formula concerns Board of Governors



by Laurie Zack

The impact of possible changes in the way Quebec’s Ministry of Education funds universities was a major topic at the Nov. 14 Board of Governors meeting.

After years of chronic underfunding, Concordia University finally felt on more secure footing with a new funding formula based more closely on the actual costs of delivering courses in various disciplines. This may be about to change radically.

Provost Jack Lightstone explained that government grants to universities are divided into three envelopes: academic (roughly 65 per cent of the total), support services and maintenance/infrastructure. There are currently 11 categories in the academic envelope with weightings that correspond roughly to the real cost of course delivery.

Categories may be downgraded

The rumour is that these categories will be cut down to six: three medical categories and three lower-funded categories where Concordia programs will fall.

The most serious downgrading of financial support will affect the fine arts. The “interpretive arts” (music, theatre, dance) will be better funded than the “non-interpretive arts” (all the rest). This defies logic in terms of the real cost of providing these programs, especially the exploding area of digital arts. Concordia and UQAM will be the big losers if this happens.

Other possible changes will see doctoral and master’s studies given the heaviest weightings, regardless of major differences between the real cost of delivering graduate programs. Older, established research universities will clearly benefit, especially where they hold a near monopoly on core-discipline graduate programs in the humanities and liberal arts.

Concordia is also fighting for its fair share of capital budget grants from Quebec.

Rector Frederick Lowy cited major Quebec building grants to UQAM ($400 million) and HEC ($110 million) in recent years. Concordia last received funds 10 years ago for the J.W. McConnell Building. Under the infrastructure program, Concordia has asked for matching $25-million grants from the federal and provincial governments and a contribution from the City of Montreal.

The university has assurances about the federal and city funds, but cannot get a commitment from the Quebec government on its share. This is holding up movement on the other two fronts.

Amendments to the Code or Rights and Responsibilities

The Board agreed to approve a streamlined Code of Rights and Responsibilities after a discussion about the need to define the term “student.” Because the university is presently in court over an issue related to the definition of students under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, it was agreed to revisit the issue in the future. It was also argued that there should be a way to underline the importance of the Code to students entering the university. Students presently sign off to a myriad of rules and regulations set out in the undergraduate calendar, the Code of Rights and Responsibilities being one among many.

Lightstone, who is chair of the search committee for a new dean for the School of Business, announced that the search period will be extended and the position re-advertised outside Canada in the hope of attracting more candidates. The committee believed that too few applicants applied to give the process sufficient credibility. Moreover, a second attempt at soliciting candidates would give the eventual appointee a stronger mandate.

Vice-Rector Services Michael Di Grappa announced that he has undertaken a strategic planning exercise with his directors in relation to the ongoing academic planning process.