So, the Conseil des Recteurs et Principaux des Universites du Quebec (CREPUQ) died this week, after the number of institutions pulling-out of the alliance rose to eleven.
The basics of the dispute are simple. The big research universities are starving for cash; they’d prefer to get it from tuition fees if they can (students are a more dependable source of income than flighty governments), but they’ll take it via the funding formula if they have to. From the Laval/Montreal perspective: not only did the UQs shaft research universities on tuition by not backing the Charest plan, but now they’re screwing them on the funding formula by cozying up to a PQ plan that rewards institutions based on contributions to access, rather than research. So instead of “so-so-so… solidarité”, it’s “so-so-so… so long, and don’t let the door hit your behind on the way out”.
I’m sure Pauline Marois and Pierre Duchesne couldn’t possibly be happier.
In Quebec, the main consequence will be that certain elements of the HE quality assurance process, which universities – via CREPUQ – used to manage themselves, will now end up in government hands. But the impact of this implosion outside Quebec is worth watching, too.
At the federal level, we’re at ease with the idea that colleges and universities can have overlapping memberships: ACCC has been joined by Polytechnics Canada, and AUCC now shares the higher education field with the U-15, the Association of Canadian Comprehensive Research Universities (ACCRU), and, just this week, the U-4. But representation by separate, non-overlapping agencies hasn’t happened yet.
But now the precedent has been set, both in Quebec and in British Columbia, where the research universities and the rest have had different representation since forever. As dollars become scarcer and institutions become more concerned with their own slice of the pie, and less with the health of the sector as a whole, could we see the same thing happen in Toronto, or federally?
COU probably isn’t in trouble. A benefit of having largely ignored calls for differentiation from Ian Clark and Harvey Weingarten is that the university sector sees itself as having a fairly common set of interests (increased graduate students for all!). Federally, it’s a different story. Already, there are a number of institutional heads who prefer investing their personal time and energy in U-15 issues rather than AUCC: it may just be a matter of time before a couple of them decide their financial investment should be similarly focused.
If it happens, the instigator will be from Quebec or Alberta. Bank on it.