Talks yield funding boosts for Quebec universities
QUEBEC The province’s university network is getting a $1.5-billion funding boost over the next six years plus the power to set their own tuition rates for foreign students.
And in the future, rectors and senior staff will no longer get some of those free perks — including university-paid domestic help and private club fees — that some get now as Quebec tightens the screws on abusive spending.
Rectors with such arrangements in their contracts can keep them, but everything will be reviewed when the contract comes up for renegotiation.
Their future salary increases will be capped at the same level as the public sector.
Higher Education Minister Hélène David made the package of announcements Thursday at a lengthy news conference.
“Everyone was very nervous, so we had to increase the financing,” David said, referring to negotiations with the leaders of Quebec’s 19 universities to hammer out a deal.
She conceded such talks always go better when the government has new money to put on the table after several years of belt-tightening.
“I can tell you they were smiling,” David said, calling the agreement historic.
Overall, the universities get 11.3 per cent more than in 2016-2017. That translates to $69 million more in 2017-2018 and will reach $367 million more in 2022-2023.
All this assumes the new government — Quebecers go to the polls Oct. 1 — will respect this financial framework.
The largest single increase goes to Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, which gets an 18.1 per cent increase. Concordia University gets an increase of 12 per cent, McGill University 9.4 per cent and the Université de Montréal 13.1 per cent. The numbers reflect a new weighting formula negotiated during talks to reflect specific situations.
Quebec also announced $6.3 million for the province’s smaller universities to take into account higher costs per student given their distance from big centres.
The government is also giving universities the right to increase tuition for foreign students.
Quebec has chosen to not touch domestic rates after students protested in the streets in 2012 as part of the “red square movement.” They remain the lowest in Canada.
Rates are higher for Canadian students from other provinces studying here, and those from France pay more but not as much as other foreign students.
Quebec tripled the fees of French and Canadian students from other provinces in 2015, increasing them to $6,550 from $2,300 a year. Those don’t change. But about 5,000 to 6,000 foreign students will be affected by Quebec’s decision to deregulate foreign tuition across the board. Universities now have the option to charge them whatever they want.
But Quebec also wants to boost the number of foreign students studying in francophone universities. To that end, David announced a new $22.8-million fund for the francophone network, which represents a $9,000 subsidy per new foreign student.
Quebec is hoping for a 15 per cent increase of foreign students in the francophone system.
David said she is not worried the move could spark a drop of foreign students in the English system because the two networks dip into different pools of potential students.