That is the question posed in part by this article in the Educational Policy Institute’s Week in Review by Alex Usher, Vice President, Educational Policy Institute who has been crystal balling the Canadian Educational scene. He writes from the perspective of 2012:
Meanwhile, things were not much better over in the university sector.
While governments were relatively keen to spend literally billions on new buildings and on various types of universal subsidies, very little new money actually was being used to educate the hundreds of thousands of new students arriving in the universities. Worse, apart from Ontario, nearly all the money continued to be spent on undergraduate students ‚ very little new money was set aside for expanding graduate students despite clear evidence from the OECD that one of Canada’s key productivity challenges stemmed from the very low production of advanced degree holders. …
Canada, in a word, was screwed. During good times, political
laziness and perpetual minority governments had avoided the tough
choices required to create a modern, technology-based economy.
Educational investment had instead promoted either old resource-based industries or middle-class consumption (the net effect of tuition freezes and tax credits having to a substantial extent been to permit the students’ parents to afford more expensive houses and cars). When the resource-based economy went sour, Canada had few alternatives. While a lot of people had received an education, few received the really extensive training required to participate in the few ultra high-tech, ultra-specialized sectors of the economy that actually created real value and productivity gains.
The weak economy meant that for the first time in fifteen years, public
finances fell into the black. Money for education was cut, tuitions
rose, and student aid was no longer as generous. The high-paid foreign professors who came amid much fanfare when the dollar reached parity with the US dollar in 2008 promptly left when their five-year contracts were up and the loonie, no longer reaping the benefits of high-demand oil, fell back to 75 cents. Canadian universities, which had briefly basked in something approaching world-class status in the late 2000s, began again to feel the sting of mediocrity….
Could it have been avoided? Of course. Wise educational and
economic leadership would have resisted the short-term temptations of resource-based riches and focused on providing high-quality education for high-tech futures in a global service economy. More attention would have been paid to graduate programs. …
So? What do you think. This is a university town. And Acadia is an undergraduate University (as most of our Atlantic colleges are). Is he right? Are our universities spending money in all the wrong places?
In a related question, is the closing down of the Acadia Art Gallery a real money saver when you consider the diminished profile of the university and the local connections that are cut?