Dr. Eddy Campbell is cautiously optimistic about the new federal budget, but Memorial's acting president warns that the impact of the budget on federal transfers to Newfoundland and Labrador may present other challenges to the university.
The federal budget calls for $2 billion to be targeted for critical infrastructure projects at postsecondary education institutions, aimed at supporting repairs and maintenance as well as accelerated construction on university and college campuses across the country.
“We welcome the initiative to provide funds for `shovel-ready’ projects at Memorial, including much needed deferred maintenance projects,” said Dr. Campbell. “However, we are concerned that the application process will slow things down.”
The budget specifies a competitive national funding request process that appears to require significant time and resources by the institutions and the provinces.
The budget also calls for funding for infrastructure that focuses on increasing productivity and competitiveness through $150 million to existing Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) competitions as well as $600 million for future competitions.
“On the research side, the funding for the CFI is also welcome, but, again, we need to see the details,” said Dr. Campbell.
The budget provides $87.5 million in short-term funds for Canada Graduate Scholarships and $3.5 million for internships in science and business. These funds are expected to provide an additional 1,000 master’s scholarships and 500 doctoral scholarships across the country.
“The additional funding for graduate students is particularly important for Memorial as we have targeted growth in that area as a key component in our strategic plan,” said Dr. Campbell. “Graduate students are critical to our growing the research enterprise at Memorial and thereby attracting more funding to the province for research, and increasing our impact on the local economy.”
Dr. Campbell said that for the country’s post-secondary education sector, he sees some reason for optimism in the initiatives announced in the budget. But he adds he is concerned how some of the changes will affect Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This budget appears to significantly disadvantage this province, in particular as it relates to federal transfers,” he said. “This is highly problematic at a time when Memorial University requires critically important new investments from our provincial government to further develop the institution.”
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has also welcomed the new investments in Canada’s university infrastructure and the Canada Foundation for Innovation funding announced in the federal budget.
The AUCC says that this will create jobs immediately in communities across the country and ensure that the Canadian economy is equipped to compete internationally when it emerges from this difficult economic period.
Renewed campus infrastructure will enhance the quality of teaching and research at Canadian universities. The AUCC says that the measures for graduate students are significant contributions to maintaining Canadian universities’ ability to produce highly qualified talent.