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Canadian universities sacrifice principles in pursuing collaborations: report

(Ottawa – November 20, 2013)  In their drive to attract new revenues by collaborating with corporations, donors, and governments, Canadian universities are entering into agreements that place unacceptable limits on academic freedom and sacrifice fundamental academic principles, according to a report released today by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

Open for Business: On What Terms examines twelve research and program collaboration agreements between universities, corporations, donors and governments to determine if universities have protected their academic integrity.

“Our findings should raise alarm bells on campuses across the country,” said CAUT executive director James Turk. “In the majority of the agreements we reviewed, universities have agreed to terms that violate basic academic values.”

According to Turk, seven of the twelve agreements provide no specific protection for academic freedom, and only one requires the disclosure of conflicts of interest. Only five of the agreements give academic staff the unrestricted right to publish their research findings and just half provide that the university maintains control over academic matters affecting staff and students.

“Universities have allowed private donor and corporate partners to take on roles that should be played by academic staff,” stated Turk. “They have signed agreements that side-step traditional university decision-making processes and undermine academic freedom.”

The report concludes by recommending a set of guiding principles for university collaborations to better protect academic integrity and the public interest.

“Collaborations can be beneficial to faculty, students, institutions, and the public, but only if they are set up properly,” Turk added.  “Universities owe it to the academic community and to the public to do more to safeguard the independence and integrity of teaching and research.”

The research and program collaborations examined in the report were:

  • Alberta Ingenuity Centre for In-Situ Energy (AICISE)
  • Centre for Oil Sands Innovation (COSI)
  • Consortium for Heavy Oil Research by University Scientists (CHORUS)
  • Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec (CRIAQ)
  • Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability
  • Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU)
  • Vancouver Prostate Centre
  • Balsillie School of International Affairs
  • Munk School of Global Affairs
  • Partnership: University of Ontario Institute of Technology/Durham College/Ontario Power Generation
  • Partnership: University of Toronto/Pierre Lassonde—Goldcorp Inc.
  • Partnership: Western University/Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Copies of the report are available on-line.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers is the national voice of more than 68,000 academic and general staff at over 120 universities and colleges across the country.