(CUP) 8212; A new report highlighting high drop-out rates and low funding for graduate studies in Quebec is drawing praise from groups that don’t often agree with one another.
An Oct. 19 report from the Conseil supÃ©rieur de l’education was motivated by the increasing number of graduate students and programs in the province and the growing importance of education levels in a knowledge-based economy.
However, according to the report, a large number of graduate students, especially those pursuing doctorates, are dropping out before they complete their studies.
“The dropout rate at the graduate level is staggering,” said Laurent Viau, president of FÃ©dÃ©ration Ã©tudiante universitaire du QuÃ©bec’s national graduate council. “More than 32 per cent of graduate students and more than 47 per cent of doctoral students will not get their diploma, which is an immense loss to society.”
While the report says that the issue requires further study, it acknowledges that financial pressure is the reason some students drop out.
“Both graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are susceptible to financial pressures leading some to prolong, if not withdraw from, their studies, as this financial stress can divert time and energy away from education plans.”
The Conseil is calling for an increase in the number of merit-based scholarships in all disciplines and the indexing of scholarship amounts.
But that’s not the only issue the report found. Underfunding Quebec’s universities means that the number of faculty positions is not keeping pace with the growing number of graduate students.
The report stated: “Despite recent hires, the ratio of graduate students to regular faculty remains a concern, especially with regard to training and post-graduate research.”
The report has received praise from two groups that don’t usually see eye to eye: The Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities and FEUQ, the province’s largest student lobby group.
“We are pleased with the positive message of the advice, which recognizes the efforts made by Quebec universities to assure the quality of training and the importance of graduate education,” said Denis BriÃ¨re, council president of CREPUQ and rector of UniversitÃ© Laval.
CREPUQ praised the Conseil for raising funding levels as a key issue.
However, it’s not all negative. The report also highlights “the excellence of expertise of faculty, the development of niches of excellence and the establishment of important research facilities [as] among the main strengths of universities in Quebec, in graduate training.”
In addition, the report recommends greater opportunities for “fast-tracking” doctoral programs, saying that many master’s students are capable of entering a doctoral program before they complete their master’s.
The report also recommends that the situation of post-doctoral fellows be clarified. According to the report, the provincial government doesn’t count post-doctoral fellows as students when it calculates operating grants to universities.
Fellows also face a “precarious” financial situation since they are sometimes considered staff and sometimes considered students, depending on a wide variety of factors.
“Altogether, these factors create conditions which are not necessarily conducive to recruiting and hosting post-doctoral fellows,” the reports stated, adding that these fellows are providing an “increasingly valued contribution to the national research effort.”