Talks yield fund­ing boosts for Que­bec uni­ver­si­ties

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - PHILIP AUTHIER pau­thier@post­media.com

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.

Hélène David

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