Can higher ed reach higher?

Canada’s leading universities want to, writes Paul Wells, but big dreams call for big changes


 

Can higher ed reach higher?There’s a paradox to being the president of a large Canadian university: on most days you get to feel more influential and more powerless than most people can imagine.

In next week’s Maclean’s, we’ll talk with the presidents of Canada’s five largest universities about the challenges they face, and what they think needs fixing in our university system. It’s first worth examining, however, just how big a footprint these five make in Canada, and how Canadian universities in general stack up internationally. The institutions in question—the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, McGill University, and the Université de Montréal—are an elite bunch. They have nearly 22 per cent of Canada’s undergraduate student enrolment and produce nearly 45 per cent of the country’s doctorates.

There are nearly 100 universities in Canada, depending how you count it, but these five alone receive 46 per cent of all the money Canada’s main granting councils disburse for research every year. They receive an even larger share—47 per cent—of the money the Canada Foundation for Innovation pays to build new labs and research infrastructure.

At their best, Canada’s largest universities—call them the “G5” as they sometimes refer to themselves in private—have shown a dedication to quality, not just quantity. All by itself, the University of Toronto counts 17 of the 27 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences who serve on Canadian university faculties, and nearly half the country’s Gairdner International Award winners and Guggenheim Fellows. The future is built in these institutions.

Which is not to say they are immune to the headaches of the present. First, they face the problem every university president faces, which is that the extent they can be said to “run” anything is open to debate. Universities are highly decentralized organizations dedicated to the free pursuit of knowledge. Almost all their cherished conventions—tenure, peer review, academic freedom—are designed to safeguard against central control. Within the university gates, presidents must contend with faculty associations, student unions, and boards of governors; beyond the gates they are buffeted by the whims of city, provincial and federal governments.

But the challenges of academic administration are eternal, as are the fiats of governments. The bigger, institutional challenges facing Canada’s big five universities could perhaps be divided under two big topic headings.

First, they are hobbled by one-size-fits-all rules and mandates even as they have begun to try to compete, not against other Canadian universities, but against the best in the world.

Second, they have begun to realize that it matters little how well universities perform their role as incubators of new ideas if those ideas never take root in a broader, innovative society.

David Naylor, the deceptively soft-spoken medical researcher who has served as the University of Toronto’s president since 2005, has been a leading spokesman on both sets of issues. In a December 2006 speech to the Women’s Canadian Club of Toronto, he called for Canada to unabashedly seek to have some of the world’s greatest universities. And since they can’t all meet that goal, Naylor said our generic distribution of roles and resources has to end.

“We need a rationally differentiated system of universities and colleges,” he said, “one in which different institutions are valued for their different missions.” How so? “That could well mean that undergraduate enrolments at large research-intensive universities in Canada, and certainly in Ontario, are capped or even reduced. There tends to be a view that one baccalaureate is pretty much the same as others. I don’t believe that’s true or that it’s the best way forward. The experience of undergraduate education in a big research-intensive institution is different from a small undergraduate-oriented university. Why not reinforce and clarify that differentiation?”

This is heresy, of a genteel Canadian sort, because it suggests that the evolution of Canadian universities into different roles should be encouraged instead of reversed. It’s something we’ll explore with Naylor and his colleagues in next week’s magazine. But one has the distinct impression the G5 presidents know they won’t make many friends among their colleagues for such talk.

But if the big five presidents are preoccupied, on one hand, with the challenges that come with their unique role at the head of Canada’s research effort, they are also increasingly worried that the rest of Canada’s innovation system isn’t getting enough attention. Or to put it another way: coming up with new ideas is their business, and it will always be a challenge. But implementing new ideas is the private sector’s task—really, it’s a job for the whole of Canadian society—and we’re not doing well at it.

“A key reason” for Canada’s middle-of-the-pack spending on research and development, Naylor told the Economic Club of Canada in May, “is Canada’s disappointingly low level of spending in business R & D. In fact, R & D spending by Canadian businesses has been decreasing since 2002.”

And that trend is not about to turn around. “The majority of the private sector investment in R & D is actually done by a small handful of companies,” Naylor said. “In 2007 the top two private R & D investors spent more on R & D than the next eight investors combined. Those top two were Nortel and BCE.” Nortel, of course, is now being torn apart and sold piece by piece, and BCE has had its own distractions of late.

McGill’s Heather Munroe-Blum is a member of the new Science and Technology Innovation Council, or STIC, which the Conservatives created in 2007 to advise them on the global knowledge economy. The STIC’s first report in May suggested Canada does quite well against other big countries on university research, but that business innovation lags badly.

There’s an irony here, because to the limited extent that parliamentarians and news organizations spend any time at all discussing productivity and innovation, it’s usually to mull over arcane details of university research funding. But Munroe-Blum says that, to some extent, “the fact that we’ve spent a decade asking, ‘What’s wrong with university research?’ has become part of the problem”—because it distracts from broader questions about how new ideas are implemented in the economy.

But if the problem lies outside the university gates, it’s an open question what university presidents’ role should be in addressing it. The remarks of Canada’s big five presidents, when we publish them next week, will be likelier to spark a national conversation than to be its last word.

Next week, Part II of our Special Report: the presidents of five leading Canadian universities talk about reforming the system, Canada’s challenge, and what it will take for them to be the best in the world.


 

Can higher ed reach higher?

  1. Paul,

    Not to get snarky, but isn't York University the 3rd largest university in Canada? 60,000 students, including Osgoode Hall Law School, Seneca@York, and the Schulich School of Business.

    I believe I have even read that in Macleans.

    I know, the politics at York give it an iffy image, but York does more space related research than any other university in Canada, and is one of the only place in North America where undergrads can do NASA and CSA funded research.

    So, by "largest universities" (the G5!) are you referring to population, or ego?

    • Well, I may be biased (I did a degree at McGill) but when you're deciding between including York or including McGill, I'd say it's more than simply "ego" that tips the balance. Certainly York deserves cudos for many of it's programs, but are there many people who would vote "York" in a York/McGill showdown in this context???

        • McGill alumnus.

          (See, I DID go to McGill, lol).

    • I suspect they are talking about the 'medical/doctoral' category only, as set out in their annual rankings.

  2. Here is the data taken from the Globe and Mail's authoritative University section

    Name Budget UG Grad/Prof
    Toronto 1200 49500 12000
    Montreal 729 26800 10100
    UBC 667 28700 6900
    Alberta 667 26700 5000
    York 615 38400 3000
    McGill 494 18500 6300
    McMaster 458 18100 2931
    Laval 440 19100 5800

    The first column is budget (in millions), then full-time undergrad, graduate and professional enrollment. So yes, York should be in the top 5 by size if perhaps not quality.

  3. It's quite surprising that you failed to include the University of Waterloo – the country's leader consistently in innovation and of course their world-class co-op program. They are also in the technology triangle of Canada, which is also recognized internationally as a hotbed of innovation, talent, and enterprise, and the home of the likes of RIM, the Perimeter Institute, etc. Too bad, as they could surely add hugely to the outcomes of such an exercise.

    • Well, right now most of their innovation is focused on finding any amount of green space on campus, in other Ontario cities, or even other countries, and drilling a hole into it for yet another poorly named, box-like building.

      • You may think Craig O is making a joke here, that he's using hyperbole to colour negatively your view of said practice.

        You would be wrong.

  4. The main problem with these universities that purport to be "elite" is that they have virtually no concern for their undergraduate student body. The Ivy League and Oxbridge are legendary because the best students from around the world compete for admission. The University of Toronto has over 50,000 undergraduates–five times the size of Harvard–crammed into overcrowded lecture halls and taught by inexperienced TAs. Anyone with a pulse can get in, especially at the suburban campuses. All of the research funding and pampering of prestige professors aren't going to do a damned thing for the student learning experience, which is, after all, the whole reason these institutions exist.

    These universities compete to be the largest and admit far more undergraduates than they can handle in order to grow their funding base. If they actually want to be considered "elite," they have to slim down and focus on quality.

    • But those Ivy League schools, with their minimal student bodies, have endowments that are, like, ten times larger than U of T's, fostered by a cultural obsession with alumni giving. We just don't have that and can't compete with that within the same educational model; we must innovate structurally.

    • Easier said than done. What drives the increase in undergraduate enrollment are finances and politics. Financially, universities turn to enrollment growth to increase revenues because (a) tuition fees are highly regulated by provincial governments, (b) provincial grants (BIUs, or basic income units) are per capita and have not been increased to reflect inflation for years, (c) endowments are relatively small relative to the size of the university vis-a-vis peers in the US, and (d) annual fundraising is not a prudent way to fund your operating budget, especially good academic programming requires multi-year commitments.

      Politically, provinces put a lot of pressure on Ontario universities to grow enrollment, because there is a strong political constituency for broad-based access to university education. It is very difficult for universities to say no.

      Harvard, by contrast, can charge whatever fee it wants – and therefore is much less dependent on student numbers to balance its books, quite aside from its large endowment.

      In sum, if the provinces (a) loosened up the regulation of tuition, and/or (b) increased BIUs to take into account inflation, universities could consider lowering enrollment. Moreover, if provinces were willing to create new universities to accommodate increased demand for undergraduate education, as opposed to growing enrollment at existing universities, that would also allow some universities to reduce undergrad numbers. But if they won't, universities can't.

    • As usual in these surveys they miss the key issue entirely – which is not " How BIG or BIGGEST " but – wait for it – " Which are the best ?! ". I will leave it to the gentle readers to pass judgement beyond the BIG mantra. .-)

    • I disagree. I just graduated from U of T. Though class sizes are large in your first year, they drop drastically after that point. They're bringing in initiatives for first year students to take more seminar type classes to get one on one with professors and allow 4th year seminar classes with world class teachers. I personally was able to take a class with a former ambassador. All my friends in science were offered research opportunities with professors, one was just given the opportunity to do a masters with the professor she worked with. You also can't tell me that the competition isn't tough, either. As for "anyone with a pulse" can get in, 80% of the people who apply to U of T are rejected. I've been through it the stress filled weeks. It is an elite school considering what I hear from other friends at other universities.

  5. I agree with Danielle completely. The standards for undergrad should be higher and the university should do more for the students that make it in. What is the percentage of students that graduate on time in a given program in these universities? We shouldnt waste the universities resources on students who dont belong in university and we are wasting the time and money of those students who belong in other educational institutions. We should strive for a high completion rate in all of our programs and we wouldnt be diluting quality but raising it

    • "the standards for undergrad should be higher" vs. "We should strive for a high completion rate"

      Aren't these antithetical goals? If you made every program twice as easy, everybody would complete his degree; if you raise standards, people will go as far as they can and either finish, drop out, or find a more suitable program.

      • Not really. If you limit entrance to those who are most likely to succeed at university – i.e. by raiding the standards for undergrad admission – the effect should be to increase the completion rate. As one lowers admissions standards, holding the program constant (i.e. no change in grading during university), the completion rate will decline.

        • But shouldn't the goal of the university be to produce the best graduates possible rather than simply have high completion rates? Wouldn't this goal be better achieved through allowing lots of admissions to first year and then limiting the enrollment in second year and beyond? More competition and the school is making decisions based on the historical record of how one's high school performs to determine which 90% student is more deserving of admission.

        • Raising the standards for undergrad admission will only encourage grade inflation in high schools. If, once you've gotten into university, it is not possible to fail a course (or if you really have to try hard to do it, like by skipping the final exam), it's pointless to talk about raising standards. sbt's idea of limiting enrollment in second and third years is one idea, though it does smack of the bell curve; perhaps simply having the courses get tougher and tougher would also work. We might do away with the GPA while we're at it: merely having completed the degree would suffice to prove that one was a good student. It would only take a few years of such a regime for many high school students to think twice about university education and instead choose some other good profession. Our real problem is that we have this notion that education makes you a better, nobler person (who will also make more money, the true proof of goodness and nobility), whereas in fact it should be perfectly possible to be a well educated person with a good job and only high school education.

    • "the standards for undergrad should be higher" vs. "We should strive for a high completion rate"

      Aren't these antithetical goals? If you made every program twice as easy, everybody would complete his degree; if you raise standards, people will go as far as they can and either drop out or find a more suitable program.

  6. Macleans university rankings are worthless, why not focus on statistics that demonstrate student success?

  7. There's one way you could stimulate innovation (both in science & engineering and in the humanities) overnight, which does not involve giving zillions of dollars to our established institutions (and which therefore will hardly appeal to our G5 presidents in Part 2, I ween): the Italian model. Break up the departments, break up the faculties, break up the universities themselves and grade every subject by standard examination at the end of four years. You want a physics degree? Pass the month-long examinations at any time; you'll really have to know your stuff to do that, however, so you have to find professors who will teach the material well, so you take courses. The student plans his/her education, pays (with vouchers, presumably) the professor directly, etc. etc. Moreover, they are motivated to learn more on their own time, to save money for course fees. It's a miraculous concept I am going to dub "The Private Sector." If you want student innovation, hold competitions for essays and projects; innovation in teaching would take care of itself; and innovation in research would no longer be the responsibility of massive, inefficient umbrella organisations like U of T but of grant councils (for which much more $$$ would be available under the Private Sector scheme), subsidised by government and industry. Of course, such a radical overhaul would take huge guts (there would be a few years of strikes until people realised you were serious), but if you actually want innovation, instead of more boilerplate, you have to structurally change the universities, not just give them way more money. Where is it written in stone that the German university model of 1860 is the only way on God's green earth we can ever educate the young and study the world around us?

    • I had to check the author of this post several times during reading…could this be the same Jack Mitchell who has so resolutely battled the evil role of capitalism in other human activities?

      But, seriously, this is the kind of change that would be political death. CUPE managed to squash a recent innovation in peer-marking just a few weeks ago and no-one raised a peep.

      Mr Wells is striving towards a great new theme, as is David Naylor. Allowing choice and innovation into the picture by your simple expedient is not on the table.

      • Glad you like it, Bill. What gave you the idea that I'm against the free market? I'm a big free market guy, it's just that the only time anybody talks about the free market in this country they're generally using it as a stick to protect their own interests (pro and con: the free market would help my bank statement, so it's good; or it would hurt it, so it's bad).

        Political death . . . yeah, you're probably right. Most of my original ideas start from the premise that Napoleon could do it, so we should be able to too; but of course he had a lot of political capital, aka power. I'm glad Mr. Wells is promoting change, I just wish it were possible to talk about genuine change in this country without shivering at the power of entrenched interests. The thing is, CUPE has a lot of members who provide essential services; you can't say the same thing about the universities. Or are the professors part of CUPE, or would CUPE strike in support? Seems to me we could take a few years of university strikes by all concerned (students, TA's, professors, support staff) and save the money we spend on them for implementing the new system when the strike finally caved; meanwhile we wouldn't face a cholera epidemic or be unable to collect government revenues. Ah well, dare to dream. Maybe they could make a start by breaking the universities' monopoly on degree-granting, that's a pretty minor measure that might have a nice ripple effect.

  8. There's one way you could stimulate innovation (both in science & engineering and in the humanities) overnight and which does not involve giving zillions of dollars to our established institutions (and which therefore will hardly appeal to our G5 presidents in Part 2, I ween): the Italian model. Break up the departments, break up the faculties, break up the universities themselves and grade every subject by standard examination at the end of four years. You want a physics degree? Pass the month-long examinations at any time; you'll really have to know your stuff to do that, however, so you have to find professors who will teach the material well, so you take courses. The student plans his/her education, pays (with vouchers, presumably) the professor directly, etc. etc. Moreover, they are motivated to learn more on their own time, to save money for course fees. It's a miraculous concept I am going to dub "The Private Sector." If you want student innovation, hold competitions for essays and projects; innovation in teaching would take care of itself; and innovation in research would no longer be the responsibility of massive, inefficient umbrella organisations like U of T but of grant councils (for which much more $$$ would be available under the Private Sector scheme), subsidised by government and industry. Of course, such a radical overhaul would take huge guts (there would be a few years of strikes until people realised you were serious), but if you actually want innovation, instead of more boilerplate, you have to structurally change the universities, not just give them way more money. Where is it written in stone that the German university model of 1860 is the only way on God's green earth we can ever educate the young and study the world around us?

  9. Thanks Macleans. It may be worth noting that the UK uses a government-led "Research Assessment Exercise" (RAE), as well as a "Teaching Assessment Exercise", to send teams of experts to universities to evaluate the research and teaching produced by individual professors. The teams read and evaluate every publication, and review every course syllabus etc. Scores are crucial, especially for research, as the universities with the highest scores get the most money from the government for the next five years, until there is another assessment. The system can also ease out deadweight on faculties since a lack of production and low teaching scores have a financial cost. This approach meets Naylor's point about different missions for different universities, with the UK model based on data gathered through an experts process. Canada's current system of granting money through research councils favours those who embrace the latest trends (i.e. interdisciplinary, rather than rigour within a discipline), and sets up an unnecessary bureaucracy as middleman when the money could go directly from government to universities, on a scale determined by their performance scores.

  10. The total funding numbers are somewhat misleading. In health research, 80% of U of Toronto funding is actually captured by the ten research hospitals that are affiliated with the University. The researchers in these places are not tenured and are not paid by the University but tend to have much more successful programs despite this. The University Health Network, Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai Hospital, for example, each individually attract more competitive research funding than the majority of Canadian Universities. The situation for Montreal hospitals is similar. The Universities do not speak for all academic research and this is reflected by the poor attention given to research institutions that sit outside the mainstream of university administration. The benefits and results of these institutions are claimed by the universities, but they accept none of the responsibility for supporting them.

  11. Naylor may have a good point about limiting undergraduate enrolment at research-intensive universities. The main difference between the educational experience at research intensive schools and the others is the ability of the former to build a significant research component into the program. The current reality is that there are simply too many students to make this a mandatory component of the program. Since they have the infrastructure to do it, it may make sense for research-intensive universities to push out graduates with more of a research focus.

  12. That should be the school is NOT making decisions based on the historical record of one's high school performance.

  13. I eagerly await Part 2, which, since it will likewise be authored by one of our most civilised journalists, will I hope at least mention the humanities.

  14. I don't believe I have seen a comment yet that speaks to the issue, the comments are all directed at how universities should be ranked, or how they should be made more efficient. The issue that is raised here, as I see it, is how take turn the innovation that we are producing, into something more commercial. Along these lines, I think that what I am seeing in BC is encouraging. It is the creation and support of sizable business parks and university/business associations and agencies, adjacent to the universities. I think this sort of support, and more of its ilk, will pay tremendous dividends. We are working a great disadvantage with an investment community in Canada that has always been focused on merchant trade and predominantly southern Ontario industry. To overcome that- success breeds success. The government providing sizable grants to the best joint university/business projects would also attract more investment in the same.

  15. I don't believe I have seen a comment yet that speaks to the issue, the comments are all directed at how universities should be ranked, or how they should be made more efficient. The issue that is raised here, as I see it, is how take turn the innovation that we are producing, into something more commercial. Along these lines, I think that what I am seeing in BC is encouraging. It is the creation and support of sizable business parks and university/business associations and agencies, adjacent to the universities. I think this sort of support, and more of its ilk, will pay tremendous dividends.

    We are working at a great disadvantage with an investment community in Canada that has always been focused on merchant trade and predominantly southern Ontario industry. To overcome that- success breeds success. The government providing sizable grants to the best joint university/business projects would also attract more investment in the same.

  16. Ok, I have a beef with the universities selected: Why was Universite de Montreal invited instead of Dalhousie? Each region of the country is represented there, except Atlantic Canada which, by the way, takes in a disproportionate share of post-secondary students compared to its population size. Montreal is already represented by McGill — why do we care about two Montreal perspectives? Come on Pauls, if you want to be speak of "Canada" and "national" than by all means do so; but don't leave out an key part of the country. Dalhousie is just as well known — perhaps even better known — than UdeM.

    • Why is Dalhousie left out? Simple, it's not that big, nor that highly rated, in both domestic and international rankings. Dalhousie is a fine school, but if you want a picture of the large, elite schools in the country, Dalhousie doesn't qualify on any level. Regional representation is all well and good, but not when it takes away from the whole point of the article.

      • That is just your (wrong) opinion. Dalhousie is more well known outside of Canada the University of Montreal. I've studied both in Europe and in the United States. People in neither place had ever heard of UdeM. Sorry.

        • Oh, your anecdotal evidence totally overrides the fact that Dalhousie is about a third the size of UdeM, is constantly rated below UdeM in international rankings of universities?

          http://www.topuniversities.com/worlduniversityran

          Dalhousie is a fine school, but it's quite small and it's quality of education isn't anything special. This article is talking about large, high-quality schools – UdeM beats Dalhousie in both categories.

    • John buddy, in the latest Times international university ranking (UK), UdeM came in on top of any other francophone university in the world, ahead of the Sorbonne. A big factor that determined the rankings was the networks of researchers around the planet or how well connected the researchers from these institutions are. Being a graduate of both UdeM and the Sorbonne, I can vouch for the fact UdeM is more a center for innnovation than France's most famous university. I should mention McGill came in the top 20 of that ranking which again is supposed to reflect world standing. I forget where Dalhousie stands. So before you go on about subjective criteria like who's "better know", stick to scientific studies that take into account the concrete accomplishments of an institution. And for a final boasting round (I just can't resist), UdeM's Law Faculty has produced more Supreme Court Justices and Prime Ministers in recent decades than any other Canadian university. Better known huh?

      • SCC judges are a poor indicator because of the longstanding tradition of having three civil law judges on the court. I imagine the Liberal traidition of L'alternance affects the prime minister bit. Other than that the other stuff seems sound.

  17. I've recently been reading about Canada's "G13" university group. The Brit's have the "Russell Group", Australia has the "Group of 8", America, of course, has the "Ivy League" and the European Union the "Coimbra Group". In the maritimes, only Dalhousie is represented in the G13. Been thinking about creating a new Atlantic provinced based alliance…"Maritimes x 4"…a research centre with Newfoundland, PEI, NB and NS institutions. Per capita, Mount Allison near Sackville, NB has the highest endowment per student (by a far margin). Did you know you can buy 32 acres of land very close to Mount A/Sackville for under $25 000? This land is near the NB/NS border…and near the bridge to PEI.

    • So, who should be invited to create "Maritimes x 4"/ "MX4". Well, Dalhousie in Halifax is already a member of G13…but that leaves many other good univerisities to choose from. I attended UNB (Fredericton) a while back. Good school. They should be a member of MX4. St.Thomas U in Fredericton could be a member as well. Universite de Moncton and, of course, Mount A might also be NB-based members of MX4. The biggest university in Atlantic Canada… based in N&L…Memorial U would be a major founder of MX4. UPEI in PEI could be a MX4 contributor. In NS, there's St.FX, Acadia and Mount Saint Vincent and St.Mary's that could join. How about it….here's 9 universities in 4 provinces that could come together to build a great institution on the previously mentioned 32 acre/$25 000 piece of land strategically located near 1)Mount A, 2)NS/NB border, and 3)bridge linking PEI to mainland. There's currently 3 different party governments in the 4 provinces (2 Liberal represented, 1 Conservative, 1 NDP). How about cooperating to establish MX4?

    • The ability to get, produce and distribute knowledge today for many academic subjects can be done through computers and the net. A fibre optic connection, some desks/chairs and computers is all it takes to build a cutting edge knowledge factory….those things plus smart people and a facility to operate in. This MX4 concept i'm working on would use the $25,000/32 acre plot of land to house a simple, affordable building for member institutions. Big quonsets/barns don't cost alot. With a good internet connection, electricity, desks, and chairs…along with bathroom/food facilities…i picture a place where students/researchers from the Maritimes can get together in a simple setting and share/build/create info over computer or face-to-face connections.

    • Affordability is key to issue. The land is cheap and large to build upon. The building can be basic. Furnished with mearly desks/chairs and perhaps a few woodstoves for winter heating (Sackville is known for stove/industry…and there's lots of fuel/wood in the area). Maybe the desks/chairs can be folded at night so as to allow visiting students to "camp" inside the strucutre during winter months. A place that's cheap to build…and affordable to operate. So long as there's a good net connection, electricity, food, water and a place to work/sleep…the costs for visiting students would be kept to absolute minimal. Who knows what sort of meetings/ideas might develop in such a knowledge based atmosphere …

  18. I don't believe I have seen a comment yet that speaks to the issue. The comments are all directed at how universities should be ranked, or how they should be made more efficient. The issue that is raised here, as I see it, is how to turn the innovation that we are producing into something more commercial. Along these lines, I think that what I am seeing in BC is encouraging. It is the creation and support of sizable business parks and university/business associations and agencies, adjacent to the universities. I think this sort of support, and more of its ilk, will pay tremendous dividends.

    We are working at a great disadvantage with an investment community in Canada that has always been focused on merchant trade and predominantly southern Ontario industry. To overcome that- success breeds success. The government providing sizable grants to the best joint university/business projects would also attract more investment in the same.

  19. UnfortuI quote John Manley from your other news article : “I don't think you could say that innovation is deeply in the DNA of our Canadian business enterprises. We have built prosperity, up to and including this decade, on a fairly basic paradigm: we are rich in natural resources. We're good at harvesting them. And we have built a manufacturing and processing sector, and to some degree a services sector, which has been quite successful in exploiting access to the U.S. market.”
    If this is the case, what kind of "smart people" are Canadian Universities suppose to graduate to fulfill the requirements of the country? Maybe most Canadian students should just go to vocational community colleges. The problem with increasing enrollment in Universities is that the average IQ of the human population (even of the professors!) hasn't increased that dramatically over the last 25 years, I think. Another problem politicians and universities administrators (Deans and Presidents) don't understand is the following basic fact: Students are not CLIENTS. They are the PRODUCTS of a University. There has to be a market for the products before we talk about quality control. Unfortunately, university professors cannot create jobs for their students and since the career of most professors is based on the amount of research funding they can bring to the University, they are busy fighting each other for a piece of that cash.

  20. hmm in Sweden they have free University education I wish I was born there.

    • I went to University in Germany and tuition was free there too. Now I am a professor in Canada and students believe they pay my salary, but tuition fees cover only about 30% of the operating budget of my university (most students are not aware of that).

  21. The Unversity of Waterloo is the best university in Canada without question (disclosure: I went to Western). Johnston is an action-oriented President who makes stuff happen.

    Completing this piece without talking to Johnston would be a huge mistake.

  22. Both this and the next article by Paul Wells on the G-5 raise important issues.
    Differentiation is happening within the higher education sector; students and employers, i.e. Canadians and the economy are making that clear. It's government – both provincial and federal – that has yet to recognize this. But there is more differentiation than the one Wells refers to within the university sector; the community college sector (150) of them is differentiating too. So the large urban colleges and institutes of technology, urged on by provincial governments which have given them degree granting status, and by industry, often small and medium companies which is accessing the applied research capacity that these institutes have, are now offering a brand of education that is called polytechnic – applied advanced learning that meets industry demand.
    Like the G-5 or G-13 (the research intensive universities), there is now a P 9 – the research intensive colleges in Canada. This P 9 has a name: Polytechnics Canada.

    There are urban coalitions in the GTA, in Montreal and the Lower Mainland of BC. All of these are seeking differentiation both in the eyes of the client (students) and in the eyes of government.

    One word or theme that was missing here was "collaboration" – the instances of universities collaborating with polytechnics are growing, from 2+2 or 3+1 degrees to collaboration in the research enterprise. You may wish to spotlight that.
    Finally, why not give equal time to the presidents of the large Canadian polytechnic institutes such as BCIT, SAIT or Conestoga, and see what they have to say about innovation, where it takes place and the underfunding of applied research?
    Such an interview can be easily arranged and would represent balance in your reporting.