The budget, released on March 28, centred around making life more affordable for Canadians, improving health and dental care and growing a green economy. But the organisation representing the country’s universities said it was a “missed opportunity” to keep Canada competitive in science and research.
In a letter to Justin Trudeau, Universities Canada president, Paul Davidson, expressed the “deep disappointment” with the lack of investment in research, international education and student mental health.
“Your government’s own advisory panel on the federal research support system recently issued its final report which recognized that Canada is falling behind international competition in support for research and recommended that your government increase research funding and boost scholarships for graduate students,” he wrote.
“Without action, we will lose out in the global race for talent and the opportunities of new innovation through discovery research.”
To maintain its reputation for attracting international students and faculty, Canada must address delays in work and study visa processing, Davidson continued.
“This week’s budget made no new investments in Canada’s immigration system to address these challenges”
“This week’s budget made no new investments in Canada’s immigration system to address these challenges,” he said.
“International education brings more than $22 billion to the Canadian economy and attracts top talent to study and work here. It is short sighted to put this at risk by failing to adequately fund Canada’s struggling immigration system.”
Canada’s global competitors are “are investing heavily to attract and retain top talent and what is clear from this budget is that Canada is not”, he added.
Higher Education Strategy Associates highlighted that there was “no movement whatsoever on the long-frozen value of graduate/postdoc scholarships, which places Canadian universities at enormous disadvantage when competing for international talent”.
HESA president Alex Usher described the budget as the “worst budget for higher education since 1995”.
It also failed to deliver on a promise to create a $500 million fund for student mental health support on campuses, Universities Canada noted.
“Time is also running out to provide the direct support to a cohort of students whose mental health has been deeply impacted by the challenges of the pandemic,” Davidson wrote.
Colleges and Institutes Canada and Polytechnics Canada have both been more happy with the government’s budget.
CICan was “particularly pleased” to see government recognise “the critical role colleges and institutes play in supporting businesses’ competitiveness and resiliency with a $108.6 million over three years investment in applied research through the existing Tri-Council College and Community Innovation Program”, it said.
Polytechnics Canada also welcomed the College and Community Innovation Program backing.
“Because applied research responds to current and emerging challenges identified by business and community partners, it is uniquely positioned to contribute to business productivity and growth,” Sarah Watts-Rynard, CEO at Polytechnics Canada, said.