OTTAWA, Feb. 11, 2014 /CNW/ - Substantial and exceptional investments in university research announced today in Budget 2014 will allow universities to achieve global leadership in knowledge and innovation for Canada, say leaders of Canada's universities.
"This is a pivotal moment for research excellence and innovation in Canada," says David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. "The establishment of an ambitious new research excellence fund, coupled with the commitment of enhanced funding in discovery research through the federal granting councils, represent a catalytic investment. This shows that the government is taking a strategic approach to creating prosperity in Canada, and recognizes that a vibrant, innovative and competitive Canadian economy needs a world-class research system."
Budget 2014 established the Canada First Research Excellence Fund with a $1.5 billion investment over 10 years, beginning in 2015-16. With this fund, the government has committed to a long-term, strategic vision for research and innovation in Canada. This investment in the next generation of researchers will intensify the momentum for Canada's universities and their partners in advancing economic growth and quality of life for all Canadians.
The budget contains a series of investments in advanced research and innovation that are "far-sighted and strategic," says Dr. Barnard. Canada's university researchers are at the prime of their careers; more than 50 per cent of university faculty have been hired in the last 10 years. Graduate student enrolment has increased by almost 90 per cent since 2000. The government has seized this moment with investments that will propel Canada's research and innovation performance.
Canada's universities came together over the past year to advocate for a strategic investment in excellence - an ambitious new research fund that would be open, competitive and supplementary to research support from the federal granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
As proposed by AUCC during pre-budget consultations, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund is an ambitious plan to position Canada as a world leader in research and innovation. Canada's universities welcome the government's recognition of university research as a significant driver of prosperity, and its vision and action in making this bold investment in Canada's future.
"Today Canada is signalling to the leading research nations of the world that it intends to compete with the best in terms of support for research excellence and attracting top innovators to our universities," says Paul Davidson, AUCC president. "This new strategy recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country; the benefits will be shared by communities, students and faculty across Canada."
University leaders also applaud the government's ongoing recognition of the value of university research, including discovery research and indirect costs, by substantially increasing funding for Canada's research granting councils. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - will receive an additional $37 million a year for advanced research and $9 million for indirect costs on an ongoing basis.
The federal government has increased funding for research and innovation in each year since 2006.
The government's focus on ensuring the next generation of innovators has the skills and experience they need for the labour force is also welcome, AUCC says. Investments in Mitacs, a not-for-profit agency that offers internships and fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, will give a boost to their careers. "The funding announced today will expand opportunities and benefit postdocs and employers alike," says Mr. Davidson. AUCC has been working in partnership with Mitacs for a number of years to enhance programs that connect university graduates to work experiences.
Universities also welcome new investments in internships that will provide even more funding to connect postsecondary graduates with real-life work experiences. "More than half of today's university students already take part in a co-op experience, internship or field placement during their undergraduate studies," says Mr. Davidson.
Canada's universities welcome Budget 2014's investment of $1.25 billion in support of a new landmark agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to overhaul Aboriginal education at the K-12 level. The agreement was announced Feb. 7 at the Kainai High School in Stand Off, Alberta. AUCC is a strategic partner of the AFN in improving accessibility and success for Aboriginal students in higher education. In consultation and partnership with Indigenous communities, Canada's universities have made enhancements in academic programming, services and curricula to better meet the needs of Aboriginal students. This includes community outreach and mentorship activities for young Aboriginals starting as early as their elementary grades to help them succeed at school and see a brighter future through education. A substantially improved K-12 system will help many more students achieve their goal of higher education.
AUCC is the voice of Canada's universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.
SOURCE: Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
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