The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia (CUFA BC) represents over 5,500 professors, lecturers, instructors, professional librarians and other academic staff at British Columbia's five research universities. Our goal is a system of publicly-funded post-secondary education that is of high-quality and broadly accessible. We believe that anyone who can benefit from post-secondary education should be able to try and attain that education regardless of their economic or social circumstance.
VICTORIA – Despite a surplus of close to $1 billion in fiscal year 2014/15, the 2015/16 provincial budget contains no new funding or policy initiatives for British Columbia’s research universities, according to CUFA BC, the provincial voice of over 5,500 professors, librarians, instructors, lecturers and other academic staff at BC's five public research universities.
"This budget ensures that BC will continue to fall farther behind when it comes to funding research and teaching," said Doug Baer, President of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC (CUFA BC).
"When inflationary pressures and the recent cuts to university budgets are accounted for there has been a cumulative cut of over 15% to core operating budgets over the past 12 years," Baer added. "The reality is that these cuts affect the basic operations of teaching and learning, and the research capacity at our institutions. It is an illusion to believe that this funding trend can continue without affecting the core mandate of public post-secondary education in British Columbia."
In its submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance, CUFA BC made the case for the establishment of a provincially funded program of graduate scholarships. BC is one of the few provinces in the country that does not have scholarships for graduate students. CUFA BC also set out the case for core funding that kept pace with inflation as opposed to the recent set of rolling funding cuts for BC’s research universities.
“BC needs to take a leadership role in recruiting and retaining excellent faculty and graduate students. Instead we are seeing de facto cuts to core funding and no policy initiatives whatsoever to promote and develop research excellence at BC’s universities,” said Baer.
Despite a healthy surplus there is no new funding for student financial assistance, research, or infrastructure in this budget. The capital spending for post-secondary institutions referenced in the budget documents is not new funding but rather a renouncement of previous commitments. BC continues to also have the highest interest rates on student loans of any jurisdiction in Canada.
Though the budget contained no new funding for post-secondary education, the Minister of Finance announced the elimination of the surtax on British Columbians earning over $150,000 per year. The elimination of this tax will cost the government in excess of $200 million per year.
“This budget largely focuses on the wrong priorities, while ignoring BC’s research universities. In an economic climate in which post-secondary education is increasingly important, the elimination of a tax for the richest British Columbians is simply the wrong choice,” concluded Baer.
For further information or comment please contact CUFA BC President Doug Baer @ 250-418-5240 or CUFA BC Executive Director Michael Conlon @ 778-994-2616.
Finance Minister Michael de Jong delivered the 2015/16 Budget on February 17, 2015 and there were few surprises in the Budget.
Budget 2015 continued the trend of no new core funding for post-secondary education. While wage increases set to take effect in the 2015/16 fiscal year are funded, the previously announced cuts in the 2014 Budget ensure that core university budgets are still lower than they were in fiscal 2013/14. When coupled with the actual cut of 2% in last year’s budget, the lack of inflation-indexed spending on post-secondary education means that there has been a close to 15% real dollar cut in core funding in the past twelve years.
This funding shortfall comes despite the province’s strong fiscal position. The Minister is projecting a surplus of $979 million for the 2014/15 fiscal year and surpluses in the next three years as follows:
• $250 million in 2015/16
• $350 million in 2016/17
• $350 million in 2017/18
These surplus projections are independent of conservative contingency reserves and are regarded by most economists as extremely cautious projections.
The Minister is also projecting economic growth for the next three years as follows:
• $2.3 % 2015
• $2.4% 2016
• $2.3% 2017
These latter projections are of interest to our members because the Economic Stability Mandate is tied to growth above projection in real GDP as set by the Economic Forecast Council. The first potential adjustment in 2016 will be based on 2014 projections. Despite BC’s relative economic strength, the possibility of a dividend in 2016 remains remote because the robust projections make it unlikely that GDP growth will come in above forecast.
Also of note on the revenue side is the fact that the surtax on high income earners introduced in the 2013 Budget was eliminated. The cancellation of this tax amounts to over $200 million in annual forgone revenue. On the progressive side of the ledger, the Budget did end the highly regressive claw back of child support payments for those living on social assistance. This measure will cost the government $13 million in forgone revenue.
In summary then, there was very little of note in the Budget for our members. Though the PSEC mandated wage increases will be funded, the lack of actual new funding will continue to put BC’s research universities under real financial pressure.
Twenty years ago, the CUFA BC Distinguished Academics Awards were just a twinkle in one man's eye when Ehor Boyanowsky, president of CUFA BC in 1984, wanted to create a means to demonstrate to the public the importance of the research and scholarly activity carried out by public university professors.
In 1995, under Dr. Boyanowsky's guidance, the CUFA BC Council established the Academic of the Year Award to recognise a faculty member at a BC university who had distinguished themselves through their academic research or scholarly activity.
In the twenty years since, the Distinguished Academics Awards have grown to three different awards, recognizing those whose research has served the community over their length of their careers as well as those whose work is making promising new inroads into solving the problems of tomorrow.
To date, CUFA BC has had the honour of recognizing over forty researchers and scholars from all walks of academia, from those working with underprivileged youth, to those solving previously unsolvable computations, to those building wells for fresh drinking water in Africa, and those helping stem the damage of the pine beetle in our provincial forests.
CUFA BC is proud to announce that, starting in 2015, the Academic of the Year Award will be renamed the Ehor Boyanowsky Academic of the Year Award, to recognize Dr. Boyanowsky's own contribution to the community by creating the Distinguished Academics Awards over twenty years ago. We are proud to honour his legacy.
More information about the awards can be found on our awards page.