Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BC Cabinet shuffle creates ministry of science and universities

Ida Chong - a former Minister of Advanced Eduction - is to take the helm of the new ministry, something UVIC VP Research has described as positive. Denmark has a similar ministry. (Any Danish students have insight into this model?)

The Vancouver Sun has described the shuffle as uninspiring (and the cabinet as too large).

According to the Vancouver Sun

[Chong will] now be responsible for university financing, degree approval, student financial assistance and research, innovation and technology. Although universities are mainly self-sustaining, Chong will oversee annual university spending of more than $1 billion a year across B.C.

She'll also oversee millions in provincial research grants, matched by federal and private partners.

This is curious as when asked about BC's high rate of student debt and tuition, Chong asserted in an interview on CBC Radio Victoria that taxpayers (note, not citizens) pay 70% of the cost of the university, and that BC tuition is mid range. (Too bad they cut the BC Grad Scholarships, which would have made BC more competitive with Ontario).

UVIC's audited statements (2009) shows BC contribution to UVIC is 40% of UVIC's funding, and all government funding combined adds up to 54% of UVIC's funding- just enough to continue to be called "public" universities. Tuition accounts for 24% (up from 12% in my day) and almost as much comes from sales of services (books, residency and meals anyone?).

Hopefully this change will see an increase in graduate student support in the sciences - but won't indicate neglect of the other important fields of study in our universities.

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