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Federal/Provincial Funding of Post-Secondary Education

CAUT Policy Statement

Post-secondary education and research play a critical role in advancing the economic, social, cultural and political development of Canada as a whole and in promoting the learning and development opportunities of all Canadians.  It is the obligation of the Government of Canada to encourage the equitable and sufficient development of post-secondary education and research in all regions of the country, in both official languages and including First Nations, by assisting the provinces in meeting the costs thereof.

Policy Statement
The Canada Social Transfer should be replaced by separate national social investment funds, one of which is a National Post-Secondary Education Fund that should be established to provide adequate, stable, multi-year federal cash funding to the provinces in support of post-secondary education.

To ensure regional equity, cash transfers to the provinces under the Post-Secondary Education Fund should be allocated on a per capita basis and equalized according to provincial GDP per capita.

Federal cash contributions to the provinces in respect of the cost of post-secondary education shall be used solely for post-secondary education.  Accountability mechanisms should be established to ensure that these funds are spent as designated by the provinces and post-secondary institutions.

Federal cash contributions to the provinces in respect of post-secondary education should be allocated by the provinces only to those post-secondary institutions that meet the following principles:

  • public administration — post-secondary education institutions must be operated on a public and not-for-profit basis
  • accessibility — post-secondary education must be open to all qualified persons on uniform terms and conditions;
  • collegial governance —  institutions must be governed in a collegial manner which includes meaningful and effective representation on governing bodies from academic staff and students;
  • comprehensiveness —  post-secondary institutions must provide a reasonable range of programs and curricula to ensure that students have access to a variety of educational offerings that help Indigenous and official language communities to thrive;
  • academic freedom  —   post-secondary institutions must ensure protection of the principle of free and independent inquiry and expression.

An arm’s length advisory council on post-secondary education should be established that includes broad representation from both levels of government and the academic community that will provide a yearly report to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour who will present that report to Parliament on the progress made by the federal government and the provinces in meeting the national principles of post-secondary education.

Provincial governments must be consulted regarding any changes in the federal fiscal transfer mechanism for post-secondary education, which should also be the subject of negotiations and special arrangements with Quebec.

The Government of Canada should increase and expand its financial contributions to post-secondary education. For any new programs in post-secondary education and research which it creates, the Government of Canada should pay the full costs of such programs unless there is cooperation and agreement with the provinces to share the costs.

Approved by CAUT Council, September 1991;
Revised, April 2002;
Editorial revisions, November 2016;
Editorial revisions, June 2023.