Scholarship dollarship


The mystery deepens. In my last post I pointed out that, if the Brits are cutting Commonwealth Scholarships for Canadians, Canada can hardly complain, having cut Commonwealth Scholarships for Brits in 2006. But then the ball takes an interesting bounce, and I’d be grateful for the help of you Inkless Irregulars — especially the access-to-education division, Rob and Alex and others — in helping me follow where it landed.

Recall (or just read the post below) that the feds cut some hefty sum from international-level scholarships in 2006. John Baird’s reasoning, if I may use that term, was that scholarships are a provincial responsibility.

Now. Flash forward to March of this year, when Jim Flaherty’s budget, written off by all observers as boring (my rebuttal: there is no boring way to spend $200 billion), included substantial allocations for scholarships. As I noted, the money essentially amounted to a decision to perpetuate Jean Chrétien’s Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which was designed to run down in a decade, although Flaherty rings important variations on the program design, so it’s all a bit apples and oranges.

But note the Vanier Scholarships. Five hundred a year, high-value prizes, available to both Canadians who want to study abroad and foreginers who want to study in Canada. As our Erin Millar pointed out at the time, the budget for the Vanier thingies is $25 million over two years.

There’s so much money sloshing around here that it’s not easy to see clearly. On the face of it, it looks to me like the new investment more than compensates for the old cuts — that the Harper government is a late-blooming but, finally, fairly generous convert to the idea that there’s a federal role in rewarding merit, building Canadian brains and wooing smart foreigners.

I’d be grateful for smart, informed confirmation or rebuttal of that impression. Use the comments or send me an email. Thanks.


Scholarship dollarship

  1. Technically speaking, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation gave out access bursaries and excellence awards, and HRSDC will be giving out grants (as it currently does) — both mostly to undergraduates. Federal granting councils provide scholarships — mostly to graduate students.

  2. I’m not sure you followed the links to my March post and, through that, to the budget, Terry. (Reading Inkless is gruelling work if done properly.) The Vaniers, if I follow properly, are new, not creatures of the granting councils, awarded on merit, and predominantly awarded to grad students.

  3. You impression is correct.

    The federal government hopes to attract foreign talent with the scholarships.

    This government has made a few other policy changes making it easier for foreign students to integrate into Canadian society and gain permanent residency on track to citizenship. The most recent announcement was a further loosening of the work permit regulations a few weeks ago.

    – Joey

  4. The Budget Plan states that “Budget 2008 establishes a new prestigious Canada Graduate Scholarship award… dedicated to the memory of Georges Philias Vanier… Budget 2008 provides $25 million over two years to establish this program.”
    (See http://www.budget.gc.ca/2008/plan/chap3c-eng.asp#best)

    The Canada Graduate Scholarship Program was created in the 2003 Budget and is administered by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Budget 2003 stated that “In this budget the Government is proposing to create a new Canada Graduate Scholarships program at an annual cost of $105 million when fully phased in… Funding for the program will be allocated among the three granting councils in proportion to the distribution of the graduate student community: 60 per cent to SSHRC, 30 per cent to NSERC and 10 per cent to the CIHR.”
    (See http://www.fin.gc.ca/budget03/bp/bpc5e.htm#research)

    So the new Vanier scholarships are related to, and provided by, the granting councils. As you said, “smart, informed confirmation”.

  5. Got me good. This is very useful; thanks.

  6. A bit more digging:

    In the 2006 Budget, the federal government announced new funding of $40 million per year to the three granting councils ($17M each to CIHR and NSERC, $6M to SSHRC). The 2006 Budget also announced “a review of the accountability and value for money of the granting councils’ activities”.
    (See http://www.fin.gc.ca/budget06/bp/bpc3be.htm#research)

    In the 2007 budget, an added $35 million over two years was given to the three granting councils to expand the Canada Graduate Scholarships, to “support an additional 1,000 graduate students each year, including 400 new scholarships delivered by each of CIHR and NSERC, and 200 delivered by SSHRC.”.
    (See http://www.budget.gc.ca/2007/bp/bpc5de.html#graduate

    The 2008 Budget provides $25 million over two years ($8M in 2008-09 and $17M in 2009-10) for “500 top Canadian and international doctoral students a year” (at $50,000 per scholarship) to “attract the world’s best doctoral students to Canadian universities”. It’s not really clear how much of the new Vanier scholarships will go to foreign students wanting to study in Canada.

    As well, the 2008 Budget gives further aid to Canadians studying abroad with “a new study stipend for Canadian CGS recipients who study at institutions outside the country”. This $6,000 stipend will be given to 250 Canada Graduate Scholars and will cost $3 million over two years.
    (See http://www.budget.gc.ca/2008/plan/chap3c-eng.asp#best)

    The three-year trend seems to be of solid support for the granting councils and graduate scholarships, and a more recent interest in international studies.

  7. Reasonable on the face of it, and I’m happy if it’s so. Now: what was Baird doing, less than two years ago, cutting this stuff on a federalism pretext?

    One possibility: cut old programs and re-introduce them as new programs, and you get credit, especially among people who didn’t notice the old programs getting cut. But that would only be a partial explanation here; it does look to me like the re-investment exceeds the value of the de-investment…

  8. It is worth reiterating that Budget 2008, while somewhat offsetting the access bursaries provided by Millennium with the new Canada Student Grants program, also effectively terminated the Excellence Awards, which have not been replaced and which amounted to $12.6 million in scholarships for undergraduates in 2007. Since inception, Millennium has disbursed 18,005 excellence awards totalling $73.8 million.

    The Vanier Scholarships are a good idea, as are the Commonwealth Scholarships. But neither is a substitute for undergraduate merit scholarships like the Excellence Awards that look for more than just high marks when selecting recipients.

    Segal was right to break ranks with his party about the Commonwealth Scholarships. It seems like his way of thinking is, thankfully, winning out over Baird’s these days.

  9. Some information on the government’s strategy for science, technology and innovation, with the objective among others of “attracting the best minds”, was provided by Jim Prentice in the following speech:

    In it, he notes that “[W]e are setting our sights on ensuring that the best and brightest want to pursue their science and technology endeavours in Canada. In the most recent budget, we committed $69 million to create the Vanier Scholarships, the Canada Global Excellence Research Chairs, the Canada Gairdner International Awards and the Canada Graduate Scholarships.
    “In short, these aim to keep Canada’s best and brightest innovating in our institutions, while attracting leading minds from around the world.
    “We want to see more Canadians with natural science and engineering degrees, and more young Canadians with PhDs.”

  10. The comment from jfhelmer gets to one of the important points on the issue of merit scholarships.

    Shortly after the announcement that nothing would replace the Millennium Excellence Award Program, Franca Gucciardi, executive director of the Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation, had this great comment in a MacLeans.ca article:

    “You don’t get to do your PhD unless someone supports you to do your bachelors.”

    The creation of the Vanier Scholarships is great, but this is where the new policy of Canada’s New Government is bit misguided in my view.

  11. I disagree with jfhelmer and Phoff; undergraduates don’t need funding for the purposes that are being discussed here, which are to attract students who will produce valuable research and innovation.

    It makes little sense to fund undergraduates beyond needs-based bursaries for the following reasons:

    1. Kids coming out of high-school who want a BA/BSc (and there are more of them all the time) are going to get one. An undergrad degree is a pre-req. for any profession and an icreasing number of other careers.

    2. It is difficult to judge the research potential of a 17 year old based on high-school results

    3. Undergrads don’t produce research, innovation or knowledge. Undergrad degrees are pretty much academic skills training.

    On the other hand funding packages make all the difference in attracting graduate students, who do produce research, innovation and knowledge, at the expense of 2-10 years of their lives when they could be earning work experience and a decent pay-cheque. Obviously that is a choice, but the most money offered is always going to attract the best students.

  12. Hi Matthew:

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I am not trying to imply that the Excellence Awards and similar programs are a substitute for investments in graduate students. Nor did I claim that investing in undergraduates through such awards is a smart investment from a pure research standpoint, although I think in many cases it turns out to be. I am suggesting that the ends of scholarship programs don’t have to be and should not only be to support academic research. I see the Excellence Awards not as investments in future grad school students but as investments in future leaders in all sorts of fields. I would like to see both kinds of investments: in graduate students and in undergraduate students.

  13. Hi Paul,

    I stumbled on this conversation a little late, but still want to get my two cents in. Terry has gotten the facts of the matter correct, the federal government has been supportive of attracting and developing talent and it did not just start with this budget. In a rather linear progression the following happened:

    1. Advantage Canada released in 2006 committed to “Increasing graduate scholarship support, including for the sciences and engineering.” Advantage Canada also committed to developing an S&T Strategy

    2. The 2007 federal budget created 1000 addintional Canada Graduate Scholarships.

    3. The S&T Strategy was launched and included the following committment, “Increasing support for scholarships, including in science and engineering, to encourage more youth to pursue advanced degrees in Canada; support outstanding Canadian graduate students who wish to study overseas; and attract outstanding graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to Canada.”

    4. In the 2008 budget, the Government created the Vanier scholarships to support 500 top Canadian and international doctoral students per year.

    So the government must be given credit for working on this issue for a few years and following a clear path of action on it.

    Now for a shameless plug:

    As you know, I work for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. We will be releasing our second edition of Momenteum in the fall of this year. This periodic report will highlight the results of the investments universities, the federal government, provincial governments, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector have made in university research and the development of top talent. So do look out for it.

    Here is the link to the website with information from our first edition:


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