ISSUES

The federal government supports post-secondary education in numerous ways. The current federal government has made some important investments in the post-secondary education system, including historic increases in basic research, enhanced funding for Indigenous education, infrastructure investments to modernize labs and classrooms, improvements to the Canada Student Loan and Grants Program, and initiatives to improve access for working adults.

While these are much needed investments, the post-secondary system itself remains under strain. The last increase in federal investment for core post-secondary education funding occurred in 2007, when the government enhanced the Canada Social Transfer by $800 million. This investment, while welcome, was made without agreements with the provinces to strengthen PSE. As a result little has improved in the last decade.

The For Our Future campaign focuses on four key issues affecting the post-secondary sector.

Precarity

Inadequate government funding of our colleges and universities has meant that many academics are working contract to contract, some earning less than a living wage.

This growing reliance on contract positions is unfair. It is unfair for these academics who are forced into underemployment, their colleagues who have more service requirements and fewer research collaborators, and students as contract academics have limited time to prepare courses and work with students outside of the classroom.

The numbers:

  • One-in-three academic staff in Canada work on precarious, short-term contracts.
  • The number of university teachers working part-time, part-year expanded by 79% from 2005 to 2015.
  • Two-thirds of contract academic staff surveyed by CAUT said their mental health has been negatively impacted by the contingent nature of their employment.

Equity

We know that a high-quality post-secondary education system is one that includes and values diverse voices and knowledge.

Yet, academics from equity-seeking groups face discrimination. They are under-represented and on average earn less for a range of reasons, including over-representation in precarious work. 

The numbers:

  • Aboriginal academics remain significantly underrepresented in the academy, making up just 1.4% of all university professors and 3% of college instructors in 2016.
  • Racialized, Aboriginal and women post-secondary teachers are less likely to have full-time, full-year (FTFY) employment.
  • Full-time women university teachers on average earn 90 cents on the dollar earned by their male counterparts.
  • The gap is deepest for racialized women college instructors who earn only 63 cents on the dollar and racialized women professors who earn an average 68 cents for every dollar.

Research funding

Investing in basic research supports fundamental advances in knowledge that benefit all Canadians.  

The federal government’s 2017 Advisory Panel on Fundamental Science report found that investing in basic research is one of the highest yield investments a government can make. Recent investments, although much welcomed, fall far short of recommended levels. In this time of great change and challenge, we need to maintain a competitive level of science and research funding to deepen our understanding of the world and to find solutions to the problems that confront us.

The numbers:

  • Investments in basic research are 40% below the Advisory Panel’s recommended levels of funding.
  • Peer review committees for the tri-council agencies typically recommend support for about two-thirds of applications yet the majority of these go unfunded, due to lack of funds.

Accessibility

As public funding for our colleges and universities decreases, the cost of post-secondary education is increasingly downloaded onto students and their families through high tuition fees. Students who cannot afford these high up-front costs must take on unmanageable levels of debt in order to pursue their education.

The numbers:

  • 46% of graduates have student loan debt.
  • Average debt at graduation is $22,276.
  • Over 8 in 10 Canadians agree that those without financial means to afford PSE should not have this experience denied to them.