Federal budget bolsters funding for universities

UBC hopes the provincial government will follow through with increase to universities' core operating budgets

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Resources for post-secondary education will be enriched with a portion of a four-year $2.5-billion federal transfer payment being made to fund post-secondary education and health, according to the recently announced federal budget.

"We're extremely pleased with this identification of post-secondary education as a priority in the transfer payments," says UBC President Martha Piper. "We hope that it will serve as a signal to the provincial government to provide the requested increases in the core operating budgets of B.C. universities."

The resources are provided through the Canada Health and Social Transfer which now has a cash component of $15.5 billion--an increase of almost 25 per cent in two years. Provinces now also have the flexibility to draw upon the funding at any time over the four-year period.

In addition the government has made major new investments in research and innovation and student assistance. Canadian universities will receive $900 million over five years to fund 2,000 Canada Research Chairs.

"This funding is critical to enable us to attract and keep top researchers," says acting vice-president, Research, David Dolphin. "It gives UBC a chance to solidify our research priorities in both sciences and humanities and boost our capacity to create new knowledge."

About half the funding will be used to attract established leading researchers. The other half will support junior researchers with demonstrated potential to succeed.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) which provides for research infrastructure in post-secondary institutions and hospitals will also receive $900 million. This brings the total CFI investment to $1.9 billion and will support continued awards until 2005.

A new non-profit corporation called Genome Canada will distribute $160 million in funding to science centres across Canada. The centres will provide laboratory services to researchers to advance the study of genes and biotechnology with an emphasis on health issues.

Government assistance for students has been increased with a tax exemption of $3,000 allowable for income from scholarships, fellowships and bursaries. There is also an increase in the basic personal exemption to $8,000.

"The budget made some important moves towards helping low-income students, but it did little to reinvest in Canada's post-secondary education system," says Alma Mater Society President Maryann Adamec.

"Some important changes were made that could save students money at tax time, but overall, those savings will mean very little if better efforts are not made to control the increasing costs of a post-secondary education."

Environment-related initiatives will receive $700 million in funding over three years with climate and atmospheric sciences receiving a $60-million investment.

TRIUMF, the sub-atomic physics laboratory based at UBC, receives a five-year $200-million commitment in the new budget. Also, forest research programs at UBC are reinforced with a portion of $15 million going to UBC-based Forintek and the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada which carries out research programs on campus.

The new community infrastructure program is also anticipated to benefit universities dealing with increasing usage and aging facilities.