News | Leaked 2011 study questions university underfunding

McGill administration claims methodology is flawed

The Liberal government of Jean Charest neglected to divulge a 2011 study questioning the existence of university underfunding in Quebec. The study, which was leaked last week by the Parti Québécois (PQ) government, said that Quebec universities received 2 per cent more in tuition per student than the Canadian average.

In an email to The Daily, Vice-Principal (External Relations) Olivier Marcil claimed that the report’s methodology was flawed.

“[The report] does not focus on the activities most directly affecting students and their learning experience,” Marcil wrote. “Quebec universities have lower per-student funding and spending on operations, which funds the things that students and professors are asking for.”

Between 2008 and 2009, the Quebec government spent $29,242 per student compared to $26,383 in Ontario, according to the report.

With a lower cost of living and a different teaching system, Quebec universities invest 4 per cent more than institutions elsewhere in Canada.

“The total funding per student (revenue), however, is lower, and funding is a better measure of underfunding than spending,” wrote Marcil.

A previous study in 2010 reported that revenues for Quebec universities were $27,628 per student, compared with the Canadian average of $28,282 – a difference of around 2 per cent.

Marcil added that the Council of Ontario Universities and a 2010 study by the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux du Québec (CREPUQ) showed that Quebec universities were “indeed underfunded.”

Martine Desjardins, the president of the Fédération étudiante du universitaire Québec (FEUQ), told The Daily that the leaked 2011 study discredited the notion of university underfunding.

“It confirms what we’ve been denouncing for a while, and that [the government] must redo its calculations,” she said in French.

As for the CREPUQ study, Desjardins claimed that the study was flawed, and that the former principal of the Université de Montréal had denounced the document for its “lack of rigour.”

“In fact, we pay far more by student [in Quebec], and they have more money than in the rest of Canada,” said Desjardins.

In an email to The Daily, SSMU VP External Robin Reid-Fraser said that the study’s results were not a surprise.

“I find it interesting that this is coming out now as a new thing, when some of this information was already available during the strike,” wrote Reid-Fraser. “However, it certainly does bring in to question what the motivation was behind the tuition hike from the Liberals all along, if their own commissioned study was telling them these things.”

The leak came days after Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and Minister of Higher Education Pierre Duchesne called into question the notion of university underfunding in Quebec. Last Thursday, Marois released another document that emphasized the government’s financial contribution to the university system.

CREPUQ Director General Daniel Zizian told Le Devoir that he was disappointed by the announcement and that it was not true that university underfunding had “suddenly disappeared by magic.”