Faculty Respond to Premier Clark’s Promise to Increase Grads in “Tech Sector”

Created 15 March 2017 17:03

Vancouver, March 15  — Today Premier Christy Clark set out some details of how $36 million announced in the budget for enhancing the “tech sector” will be spent. Beyond a commitment to add 1000 “tech sector”  graduates per year, there were no details of exactly how the funding would be allocated per institution. While there was a commitment to consult post-secondary institutions, no details were provided.

“Today’s announcement of funding for one area of study will do little to enhance the quality of research and teaching at BC’s research universities” said Michael Conlon, Executive Director of CUFA BC. “The government should not be cherry picking areas for investment.”

Curiously, the announcement offered no specifics on what would actually constitute a “tech sector” graduate or which departments or institutions would benefit from the new funding. Last year in BC there were approximately 8000 graduates in science, technology, engineering and math. While today’s announcement committed $36 million, the budget actually set out an increase for the Ministry of Advanced Education of $46 million. There was no discussion of how the additional $10 million would be allocated.

“This ’boutique’ funding is typical of a government that does not understand how research universities work,” said Conlon. “The tech sector is undoubtedly important to the BC economy and BC’s research universities but so are many other sectors. The BC government should not be in the business of steering funding based on short term economic cycles and political expediency.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education is the only core ministry to suffer a cut during the government’s current mandate. BC research universities also face unique inflationary pressures and continue to struggle with costs well above inflation in areas such as library acquisitions, student services, and the unfunded costs of research.

“Collegial governance ensures that academics have a meaningful say in directing the affairs of BC’s research universities,” said Conlon. “This announcement bypasses that expertise and steers research and teaching toward government priorities. It rarely ends well for universities when politicians set academic priorities.”