Many strings for performance contract funds

In order to receive new funds from the Quebec ministry of education (MEQ),Concordia University will have to meet certain requirements such as, raising graduation rates and deciding whether certain programs are worthwhile.
On March 19, 2001, rector Frederick Lowy, the chair of the Board of Governors (BoG) Lillian Vineberg and the minister of education, Francois Legault signed a performance contract. This agreement established Concordia’s objectives for the next ten years.
Legault stated on the MEQ web site that a contract is a “modern instrument of continuous dialogue and partnership, engaging both Concordia and the MEQ in the development of higher education.”
On the signing of the contract, the MEQ agreed to increase Concordia’s budget by $51 million over the next three years. Starting in 2002-2003, the financing will be $25.3 million, bringing up the total government funding by 21.5 per cent.
Last year, the total operating grant from the Quebec government was about $123 million. This operating grant is the largest part of the university’s revenues.
“The government applies a formula: student, times a factor, times money equals funding,” said Larry English, Concordia’s chief financial officer. “Plus the money is mostly consequent to meeting all the goals that the university and the MEQ have agreed to sign on. Out of the $21.6 million more we are supposed to get in 2002-2003, only $400,000 is not conditional to meeting these objectives.”
Not everyone liked the idea of the performance contract. “It’s a joke to think that the same government will be there when all the goals are achieved, which could take up to ten years,” said Patrice Blais, vp finance for the Concordia Student Union (CSU). “If the government changes, then there is no saying if the new one will keep the idea of the performance contract anyway.”
Concordia’s commitments, said Lowy in the April 6 university senate meeting archives, revolve around five areas of action: graduation rates, full time faculty to student ratio, rationalization of programs, efficiency of the institution and research performance.
The goal for graduation is to reach 80 per cent success rate for full time
students by 2010, with each major sector having a minimum rate of 70 per cent.
The present rate of graduation is 62.2 per cent. Though some senators at the meeting were doubtful about the possibility of attaining such unrealistic goals, they were all committed to improving the rates.
“The problem with those rates for Concordia is that there are lots of part time students here. That makes it longer for them to obtain their diploma, and harder for the university to reach these demanding quotas,” said Jack Lightstone, provost and vice-rector research.
That is why the MEQ has agreed to give Concordia ten years to achieve the graduation goal. Lightstone said other universities in the province have only three to five years to improve their graduation rates.
To decrease the student teacher ratio, the university will be hiring 150
full-time professors over the next five years. This will bring the ratio down from 26.4 to 23.
“In the past year, our gross hiring would be about 30 new teachers per year.
This year, with the money coming from the government, there is a net addition of more than 50 teachers. It’s good for both the students and for the research.
These new professors will determine the university’s next 30 years,” said
Lightstone.
English said that most of the new money from the government is for new teachers and the results of hiring new teachers, particularly like new classrooms.
As for rationalization of programs, Concordia will continue to evaluate the relevance existing programs and study new proposed ones. This policy has led, since 1994-1995 academic year, to the elimination or merger of 151 programs and the refusal of admissions for 15 others.
Lowy expressed his disappointment at the April senate meeting concerning the lack of government recognition to the university for having achieved a balanced budget and having instituted some new recommended programs like computer science.
Concordia has committed to maintaining a balanced budget and running
efficiently. As for research, a sector where Concordia has been behind the provincial performance average, the university plans to raise the amount of money obtained for this field by hiring new teachers and replacing retiring ones.
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