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(Big) changes ahead for Canadian higher education and research?

Asserting that knowledge, research and innovation are the main drivers of the Canadian economy, the country’s conservative government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, unveiled a budget plan titled A Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth on 22 March 2011The plan calls for major funding increases in Canada’s higher education and research sectors.

The proposal, which is the second phase of the minority government’s initiative to foster research and innovation (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2010) augments the higher education and research sectors by

  • expanding eligibility for Canada Student Loans and Grants for part-time and full-time tertiary students with an investment of over CAD 34 million a year (EUR 24.6 million) once fully implemented;
  • issuing up to CAD 10 million (EUR 7.2 million) a year in tax relief and Registered Education Savings Plan assistance to help Canadian student mobility;
  • allocating CAD 10 million (EUR 7.2 million) over two years to develop and implement an international education strategy; and
  • earmarking CAD 37 million (EUR 26.7 million) per year to support the three federal research funding councils.

Nevertheless, the current political battle in the Canadian Parliament might alter the course of the budget plan. On Friday 25 March, Canada’s three main opposition parties – the Liberal Party, Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic Party (NDP) – gave a vote of no confidence to the minority Conservative government, signalling a general election in early May 2011.

Meanwhile, major funding changes are under way for the National Research Council of Canada (NRC)
. NRC President, John McDougall, has issued a directive which restructures the way money is allocated by the government’s largest research organisation. As of spring 2011, the NRC president and vice presidents will have the authority to direct 20% of all research funding toward activities they find most promising. This re-allocation of funds is a major step in the Council’s plan to decrease the emphasis on basic research and focus on more applied, industry-driven research, which NRC’s top management believes can further drive the country’s marked economic and social growth.

Ministry of Finance – Canada

National Research Council Canada BBC News