Just days before the start of the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) summit on higher education, the government released a document on Friday that outlines the summit’s program and some aspects of the government’s plan. Four themes will be up for discussion, including the quality of teaching, research and collaboration, tuition, and accessibility.
The document, titled in French “Committed together toward a knowledge society,” proposes the creation of a new government body to advise the minister of higher education and ensure “coherence in the development of the university system.” In particular, the university council would be tasked with harmonizing the delocalization of university campuses, but would lack the teeth to enforce its decisions.
In an interview with The Daily, President of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) Martine Desjardins said she was “not surprised” by the content of the document.
“We are only surprised by what the [document] does not say, [and] the absence of a plan of action,” she said in French.
FEUQ and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) favoured a different approach, whereby the council would have the power to probe university finances and curb wasteful spending. The government, however, pledges to “ameliorate university accountability.”
The document also fails to mention free education, one of the goals of last year’s student strike and a key demand for the 70,000 members of the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ). Instead, the government will broach the topic of indexing tuition to inflation and university administrative fees.
Administrative fees are additional fees that are added to tuition. At McGill, those fees amount to around $900 per year, compared with $63.45 per year at the Université du Québec à Montréal and $127.50 per year at the Université de Montréal.
As for accessibility, the government mentions increasing student aid and bursaries and reforming tax credit on tuition.
The government, however, does not elaborate on its propositions in the document, and plans to reveal the bulk of its plan the first day of the summit on February 25.