On May 27, 2015, OCUFA staff attended the second open briefing on the university funding formula review. These briefings are part of the government’s ongoing consultations on funding formula reform, in which OCUFA is heavily engaged. This briefing was hosted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and was focused on their call for performance-based funding for Ontario universities.
Performance-based funding is a system where money is allocated to institutions according to their ability to achieve agreed-upon outcomes, like student retention or graduation rates. HEQCO, outlining its desire to “go big or go home,” appears to be advocating that all public funding for universities be distributed on the basis of outcomes, and provided some models for how this might be accomplished.
While OCUFA appreciated the opportunity to learn more about HEQCO’s perspective, the presentation did not convince us that performance funding is right for Ontario. As previously covered in OCUFA Report, there is no North American evidence to suggest that such funding actually improves outcomes. We are also concerned that such a system would create a system of “winners” and “losers” among Ontario’s universities, with the losers suffering painful and acute financial cuts. This ultimately punishes students at these institutions. We also question a funding regime that awards only outcomes, with no consideration of the actual resource needs of a given institution.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t attempt to measure the performance of Ontario universities using meaningful indicators. It is important to know how we are doing. But these data should never be used to penalize institutions and slash funding. Instead, robust system and institutional data can help inform a collaborative and ongoing discussion about how best to improve higher education in Ontario.
You can read more about performance funding in OCUFA’s Funding Formula Review Handbook. We look forward to discussing the limitations of performance funding in our upcoming written submission and in our continuing conversations with the University Funding Formula Review project team.