Budget day is always an interesting one when you work as a university administrator. Sometimes we have a sense of what to expect. At other times, however, we get some surprises. Budget 2014 brought some very good news, not all of it anticipated, regarding research funding for the post-secondary sector.
The increases to the granting council budgets, and an increase in the Indirect Costs of Research program, and support for ‘Big Science’ initiatives such as TRIUMF, of which Queen’s is a participant are certainly welcome and important investments. The new Canada First Research Excellence Fund that will invest $1.5 billion over 10 years into research excellence really moves the yard stick and is key to our global leadership. Universities will see the first installment of $50 million in 2015-16, growing to $200 million in 2018-19 and beyond. The investment acknowledges the important role our faculty, students and staff play in advancing knowledge and contributing to the kinds of groundbreaking discoveries that benefit all Canadians.
As a research-intensive university, this news is important. It sends a strong message that the government recognizes the vital role that post-secondary institutions – and particularly our people – must play in the future prosperity and economic wellness of this country.
As my colleague (and former Queen’s faculty member) David Barnard, the Chair of the Association of Universities of Colleges of Canada, said in a statement issued last night, “this is a pivotal moment for research excellence and innovation in Canada.” I couldn’t agree more. Universities such as Queen’s are incubators for the kinds of valuable ideas that have the power to change the world. Expanding our research capacity will also enable us to diversify and intensify our international partnerships, enhancing our international reputation for excellence.
And there is no time like the present to embrace research. It is worth noting that graduate enrolment at Canadian universities has increased by almost 90 per cent since 2000. With that kind of growth comes an astounding amount of possibility. Budget 2014 also includes $15 million per year to both the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and $7 million per year to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, important sources of support for both our researchers and students (graduate and undergraduate) alike.
The complete Budget 2014 document outlines the numbers in more detail, but suffice it so say, I’m pleased with yesterday’s announcement. While we still don’t know how the Canada First Research Excellence funding will be allocated, we do know that it will be both competitive and peer reviewed. I extend my appreciation to my colleagues and the hardworking staff at both AUCC and U15 for their work behind the scenes advocating on behalf of universities and academic research. And I commend the government for investing seriously, in a time of fiscal restraint, in the potential of university-generated research and scholarship to contribute to Canada’s, and the world’s, well-being.