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24 March 2016

How the Federal Budget Plays Out for Graduate Education

Budget 2016 paid attention to where the next generation of innovation will come from and for the most part, it got it right.

“Targeting money and resources towards optimizing Canada’s innovation and research sectors will likely increase the impact that Canada’s graduate schools can have”, says Brenda Brouwer, president of the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies. “Prime Minister Trudeau talked about Canadians’ resourcefulness during the campaign - it appears that his Finance Minister got the message.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government will spend the year studying innovation, and the budget contains new money for research and technology clusters. The budget includes the single greatest annual funding increase in a decade:

Ø An investment of $14 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to the Mitacs Globalink program. This funding will support 825 international internships and fellowships annually.

Ø Additional funding of $95 million per year, starting in 2016–17, to the granting councils – on top of the previously announced $41 million.

Ø $2 billion over three years, starting in 2016–17, for a new Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund aimed at facilities and equipment,

Ø Commitments to encourage private sector investment, e.g. $800 million over four years, starting in 2017–18, to support innovation networks and clusters.

The MITACS investment is recognition that early student exposure to the workplace benefits both their career trajectory and the organizations where they work. Future investments should include internships at the graduate school level, Brouwer points out.

“The government missed an opportunity to fund graduate internships through the MITACS Accelerate program as well as expanding these opportunities beyond the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering and Math paths, “she said. “That’s what the labour sector is seeking from graduates with advanced degrees.”

Future budgets will need to expand on making graduate school more accessible to the aboriginal community. Morneau did not deliver on the election campaign promise to invest $50M to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. The government has committed to future consultations on the issue. “It is a lost opportunity, “says Brouwer. “However, providing better foundations for primary and secondary school students will enhance their potential in post-secondary education and graduate study”.

In terms of next steps, CAGS will seek an active role in the comprehensive review of all elements of federal support for fundamental science over the coming year. That review was announced by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan.

For more information about Budget 2016 and its impact on Graduate Education see these resources:
Government of Canada Budget Document
Budget Review, Higher Education Strategy Associates.