Data Check: Universities pick up the slack on Canadian R&D – except in Ontario

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As the province, feds, and private sector do less for research and development, universities are being forced to do more – often at the expense of basic operating funds. When per-student public funding falls at our universities, so do R&D expenditures.
 
As we’ve shown over the past few weeks, major players in research and development are scaling back their contributions to the Canadian research and development (R&D) effort. Historically, Canadian universities have picked up some of the slack left by business and have contributed proportionately more to national R&D than higher education institutions in the rest of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
 
The latest data from Statistics Canada indicate that the past decade’s general pattern of increasing R&D expenditure in the Canadian higher education sector continues. Nationally, inflation-adjusted total expenditures rose by three per cent. Self-funded R&D – expenditures funded from institutional operating funds – rose by four per cent between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
 
In Ontario, however, overall expenditures on R&D in higher education fell by one per cent over the same one year period. Self-funded research activity declined by two per cent. Combined with the effect of a similar decline over the previous year, self-funded R&D by Ontario’s institutions is down by five per cent over two years.
 
In addition to teaching, all Canadian universities fund some proportion of their research effort from operating funds. But Ontario universities rank last in per student operating funding from their provincial government. It is no coincidence that self-funded R&D has been declining at the same time as per-student funding from the provincial government has fallen.
 
When it comes to R&D, Ontario’s universities are disadvantaged in four ways: by a sleepy private sector, by declining federal research funds, by cuts to provincial research programs, and by the gradual decline in per-student funding. The government talks a good game about innovation…but when will they actually support it?
 
Source: Statistics Canada, Spending on research and development in the higher education sector, 2010/2011 (final)
Council of Ontario Finance Officers – Universities of Ontario, Financial Report of Universities
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, USER Enrolment Data

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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