10

Searching for a higher education strategy


 

Today, the good folks over at Higher Education Strategy Associates released their long-awaited analysis of the party platforms regarding post-secondary education. They were clearly rejigging parts of the analysis right up to the end – the document is larded with pictures of the party leaders taken from VintageVoter.ca.

The analysis looks at federal education policy proposals under main headings: Student Aid, Transfers to Provinces and Institutions, Research, and Apprenticeships. The section on student aid takes up over half the analysis, largely because – as the report points out:

Looking across all party platforms, one is struck by how much the cost of postsecondary education dominates all other issues. Indeed, one might be forgiven for thinking this was the only issue that mattered to federal parties.

Details on education transfers are notable for their absence in the Conservative and Liberal platforms and for their incoherence in the New Democrat one. Apart from a Conservative regurgitation of last month’s budget, policies on scientific research are essentially absent. And everyone apparently thinks Apprenticeships are a Good Thing but not so good as to actually require policy. Apart from these topics, only the New Democrats have shown any ambition at all in the area, with their promises on childcare and Aboriginal Education. Within PSE itself, the lack of vision and ideas is palpable.

The upshot is that federal approaches to higher education amount to this: The Conservatives are offering slight tweaks to the existing student aid system, while the NDP are proposing to just throw more cash at it. The HESA analysis credits the Liberals with having “the most intriguing and certainly the best thought-out” platform regarding student aid; the Learning Passport idea is the only one that hints at re-imagining the way student aid works, and the only one that promises to inject even a modicum of progressivity into the system.

But overall, the analysis is pretty depressing. Jean Chretien was the last prime minister to make a serious effort at providing federal leadership in higher education and to have a vision for the role higher education can play in a modern economy, but that was fifteen years ago. Since then, federal policy has been a wasteland of boutique tax breaks and minor tweaks to student aid. Any grander conviction that a country’s universities are among its most crucial institutions, and that supporting those institutions is in the national interest, is completely absent.


 

Searching for a higher education strategy

  1. Provincial institutions and national interest, there's the rub. To which you could add parochial interests. Unless things have changed, try to get course credits obtained at an Ontario university recognized and accepted by a Manitoba university and vice-versa.

  2. Education is absolutely vital to our future, and the Libs have the best policies on it….it is the main reason why I'm voting for the Liberals.

    • Mindlessly going to University and racking up thousands of dollars of debt is NOT the answer. I hope there will be more non-univ options in the near future for youth. Quite barking up "we all have to go to universty" pole I say.

      • The money offered to students applies to university, college and technical school.

  3. As a big fan of Chrétien's research initiatives, I think it should be said that his total legacy is mixed. The transfer cuts of the mid-90s (obviously necessary, I'd argue) led directly to per-student reductions in university funding that persist today. Hence lecture enrolment ballooning out of all proportion to what it was like when I was at Western, and so on. Essentially Chrétien cut money for teaching and gave much of it back for research. Correcting that imbalance would be the work of a serious government, if one came along. Making it cheaper for students to get into a lousy teaching environment is… better than nothing.

  4. "The Conservatives are offering slight tweaks to the existing student aid system, while the NDP are proposing to just throw more cash at it."

    "The HESA analysis credits the Liberals with having “the most intriguing and certainly the best thought-out” platform regarding student aid; the Learning Passport idea is the only one that hints at re-imagining the way student aid works, and the only one that promises to inject even a modicum of progressivity into the system."

    Kind of sums things up for a lot of policy issues we are facing.

  5. What current oversight does the Fed govt have on the provincial ministries that oversee pse? The feds have no interest in PSE whatsoever. What about national standards, quality data collection, like HESA in the UK?

  6. Is there a link to the analysis?

Sign in to comment.