Funding solutions for Ontario universities top priority at conference

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TORONTO, December 7, 2023 – At a conference held last week in Toronto, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations brought together a diverse group of more than 80 high-profile stakeholders in postsecondary education to find funding solutions for Ontario’s public universities.

In his opening remarks for the Conference, titled “Funding our Future: Keeping Universities Public,” OCUFA President Nigmendra Narain emphasized the value of gathering in pursuit of a common goal: the sustainability and necessity of publicly funded universities.

“We have seen the impact chronic underfunding in our sector has had in the form of increased reliance on tuition fees—especially international fees—increased privatization, the rise of precarious employment in teaching, diminishing research funding, the proliferation of student debt, and the greater inaccessibility of higher education for all,” said Narain. “It is time to harness the minds of stakeholders to imagine ways to reverse the trend of underfunding and to imagine long-term funding solutions that allow our institutions to thrive.”

Throughout the day and a half, students, faculty, academic librarians, administrators, journalists, union representatives, and government representatives spoke to the value of universities for the province and the country’s economic, civic, and cultural health, and the dangers that can come from restricting funding to the sector.

Randy Robinson, director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Ontario, spoke to the Conference about the Centre’s latest research report, “Back From the Brink: Restoring public funding to Ontario’s universities.”

Other speakers and panelists included David Wai, Deputy Minister, Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities; Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United/Migrant Workers Alliance for Change; Max Blouw, President of the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia; Martin Regg Cohn, journalist at the Toronto Star, and Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University; and Sheila Embleton, Interim President of Laurentian University. A keynote address was delivered Thursday evening by Steve Paikin, journalist, author, and host of The Agenda on TVO.

Wrapping up the Conference, OCUFA’s Board Chair and Past-President Sue Wurtele spoke to the necessity of continuing the important work of advocating for universities and the people who make them run.

“We have had an exceptional conference, sharing ideas and perspectives on the future of university funding, the challenges we face, but also looking at solutions for funding our public universities,” said Wurtele.

“This conference offered space for experts with a range of diverse experiences to bring their ideas and expertise to the table to ensure that Ontario’s world-class universities continue to thrive,” said Jenny Ahn, Executive Director of OCUFA. “We look forward to working with all the conference stakeholders to develop innovative long-term funding solutions for higher education in this province.

In the coming weeks, OCUFA will prepare and publish a position paper on the findings from the Conference, and continue working with government, university administrators, students, and stakeholders from across the postsecondary sector to advocate for robust, sustainable funding now and in the future.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member organizations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at


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