New Research Money for the University of Alberta

An article in today’s Globe and Mail discusses some new research funding for the University of Alberta.  In particular, the article notes:

The U of A ranks second in total research funding, behind only U of T and up from fifth in 2006. This year, the U of A will spend $514-million on research, more than double its total from a decade ago.

However, the article also hints at the other side of the coin (no pun intended):

 The funding comes at a time when the cash-strapped school is looking for cuts elsewhere – reports surfaced earlier this summer that it cut off phone lines for some professors this year to save money.

I think this second point is very important.  On the one hand, I note that Canadian universities put a lot of time and effort (as well as money) into competing with each other to attract more research dollars and prestige.  On the other hand, this is happening at a time when federal cash transfer payments to provinces for universities are decreasing substantially, student-faculty ratios are increasing very significantly, tuition rates are at an all-time high, and the average student debt load is much higher than it was in the mid-1990s. (I’ve written about this two-sided phenomenon here.)

Let’s face it: if a student can’t attend every class because they have to work three part-time jobs to afford tuition, if they can’t contact their professor because the professor’s  phone is disconnected, and if class sizes are too large for professors to take the time they need with their students, it doesn’t much matter that your university just inched its way one step closer to being home to the next Nobel prize winner!

I think Canada’s universities need less razzle-dazzle and more substance.

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