New poll: Increased university funding, good jobs, more student aid should be priorities of next Ontario government

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According to a new poll conducted for OCUFA by Ekos Research Associates, two out of three Ontarians (69 per cent) believe that the province’s next government should prioritize postsecondary education as it works to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those polled recognize the value of a university education and believe it is time to introduce legislation that improves working conditions for contract faculty, provides additional financial assistance to students, and increases funding for universities.

“These poll results make it clear that, regardless of which party leads the next Ontario government, they have a mandate to prioritize and revitalize our province’s public postsecondary education system,” said Sue Wurtele, OCUFA President. “This poll shows that Ontarians understand the many benefits provided by our public universities and believe more should be done to support these important institutions of education and research.”

Amongst those polled, 68 per cent believe that a university education is valuable for today’s young people. They recognize the vital contributions universities make to society, including producing important research, delivering high-quality education, exposing students to diverse viewpoints, and providing good jobs that support Ontario communities. When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of Ontarians believe that universities will be important for ensuring society’s recovery.

Asked about funding levels, 57 per cent of respondents stated that the Ontario government should increase financial support for Ontario’s universities and 81 per cent, including 75 per cent of Progressive Conservative Party supporters, expressed opposition to cuts. According to the poll results, two-thirds of Ontarians (68 per cent) recognize the important role played by northern universities.

Ensuring that contract faculty receive equal pay when doing work equivalent to that done by their tenured colleagues is supported by an overwhelming 71 per cent of Ontarians. 69 per cent also support special funding to encourage universities to replace retiring faculty with tenured positions, rather than hiring more precariously employed contract faculty. This is a matter of equity, as a majority of contract faculty are women and racialized, and it is vital for the continued effectiveness of Ontario’s universities, as universities require the service work of tenured faculty to keep their programs up and running. Both of these measures were backed by more than half of those intending to vote for the Progressive Conservative (55 per cent/52 per cent), New Democratic (90 per cent for both), and Liberal (88 per cent/86 per cent) parties.

Although 81 per cent of Ontarians believe that all eligible students should have access to a university education, two out of three (68 per cent) are concerned that today’s young people might not be able to afford a university education due to the cost and 52 per cent believe that the provincial government offers too little financial support to students wanting to attend. In addition to increasing student financial assistance, 61 per cent of Ontarians support replacing government student loans with grants that do not have to be repaid.

“This latest poll confirms that Ontarians support the priorities of the province’s university faculty and academic librarians for improving postsecondary education,” said Wurtele. “Party leaders and candidates have a mandate to commit to postsecondary education platforms that bring fairness to contract faculty, increase student financial assistance, and provide stronger public funding for Ontario’s universities.”

These poll results paint a clear picture of the policy positions Ontario voters expect the next government to pursue in support of Ontario’s public universities. If Ontario’s next government wants to succeed in building a more vibrant, equitable, and resilient university system, then listening to faculty and academic librarian voices will be the first and most important step.

The full results of the poll can be downloaded here.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 faculty, academic librarians, and other academic professionals in 31 member associations 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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