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Sustaining Quality and Innovation: CUFA BC Submission to Pre-Budget Consultation - October 15, 2010
- Published on Wednesday, 03 November 2010 09:49
- Written by Robert Clift
CUFA BC Submission to the
Pre-Budget Consultations of the
Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
October 15, 2010
British Columbia is part of the global economy. The flow of money, people and knowledge across borders and across oceans is an inescapable characteristic of our age. As British Columbians, we must find ways to leverage more value from our natural resources and from ourselves if we are to prosper. This means not only working smarter to increase productivity, but also creating the conditions that give rise to innovative products, processes and services. Such innovation requires far more than strong technical skills. The successful innovator is independent, curious, non-conforming, open-minded, confident, intuitive and always learning. Our public universities are the primary source for people with the skills and attitudes to become innovators - economically, socially and intellectually. Also, innovation is not done in isolation - it builds upon existing knowledge and finds inspiration in cutting edge research. In British Columbia, such foundational research is found in our public universities.
Successive provincial governments have recognized the need to position British Columbia as a high-skill, high-wage, creative economy. This is not a controversial approach. Several reports and articles this past summer have underscored the importance of increased investment in post-secondary education. Perhaps most influential was the study by the C.D. Howe Institute, which concluded that "governments that face significant fiscal pressures may seek to reduce their level of postsecondary support â€¦ we found no broad-based evidence to support this view."
Government investments in education and research have paid substantial dividends to all British Columbians. These dividends - in the form of greater economic output, higher personal incomes, increased government revenue, improved health outcomes, greater civic engagement, and smarter and more globally conscious citizens - will be put at risk, however, if provincial government spending plans allow erosion in the quality and vitality of our public universities.
To sustain the quality and innovation at BC's public universities, we make the following seven recommendations:
- That provincial operating grants to public post-secondary institutions be increased annually to offset price increases as measured by the BC Consumer Price Index.
- That the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Advanced Education be urged to work with stakeholders to develop a Higher Education Price Index for British Columbia.
- That the BC government be urged to 1) move with all due haste to consult with stakeholders on the criteria for permitting universities to opt out of the Government Reporting Entity, and 2) introduce and adopt legislation implementing the necessary criteria during the spring 2011 sitting of the BC Legislature.
- That the necessary funding be provided through the BC Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) to leverage federal funding for research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and other federal initiatives.
- That a long-term, sustainable plan for provincial government funding of the Michael Smith Health Research Foundation be developed and implemented.
- That at least $8 million be provided annually to reinstate the Forest Science Program or to create similar a program to fund forest research.
- That government be strongly urged to enter into discussions with stakeholders on creating a sustainable funding strategy to support the full range of research activity in British Columbia's public universities.