The Parti Québécois announced a plan detailing the higher education summit that is set to take place early in the new year, last Thursday.
The four major themes on the agenda are the quality of post-secondary education, accessibility and participation, governance and financing of universities and the contribution of research to Quebec society.
“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity, it’s been a long time coming,” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. “To have this situation where we can discuss and more importantly debate our visions of the entirety of the university network and long term projects is compelling.”
Desjardins said she is satisfied with the government’s consideration of the propositions brought forth by the FEUQ in terms of the summit’s structure and themes to be discussed.
“Now, all we have left to do is prepare,” she said. “We need to find people that will back up our demands and make sure that all that we advance is coherent and credible.”
Concordia Student Union’s VP external, Simon-Pierre Lauzon, has been working closely with various levels of student governance to create awareness about the upcoming conference. He emphasizes that now it is time to inform the student body and focus on the issues that they want to see prioritized at the summit.
“One of the themes that the government wants to talk about is university financing and governance,” said Lauzon. “How inclusive that category is, is up to debate at this point, how deep they want to dig into systematic changes is something that I’d be curious to know.”
Lauzon says that it is an important topic at Concordia, considering the hefty severance packages that have been handed out to senior administrators in the past.
“Concordia has a very interesting reputation at large for some of the decisions it’s made in terms of the administration, including what they did last year in reducing student involvement on the Board of Governors to one representative with voting rights,” said Lauzon.
According to Lauzon, a concern Concordia representatives will bring to the summit concerns the tuition fees of international students since they pay the highest rates. He feels that international students should also be subjected to a freeze so they aren’t taken advantage of by post-secondary institutions or the provincial government.
“I believe we should advocate for a tuition freeze for them as well because they do pay a lot of fees to the university and we don’t want to use these international students as piggy banks for the university or for the government at this point.”
Lauzon said students can expect consultation on these subjects in the form of general assemblies and surveys in the weeks leading up to the summit that is set to take place in mid-February.
The Political Science Student Association held a special general assembly Tuesday to discuss what they want to bring to the education summit but it did not meet quorum so it became an information session instead. The PSSA will hold another general assembly in the upcoming months.
Robin Reid-Fraser, VP external affairs of the Student Society of McGill University, confirmed with The Concordian that SSMU will begin hosting formal consultation sessions with its student membership concerning a wide variety of topics such as financial aid and student debt, anglophone students in Quebec and research, as of Nov. 19.
“I think that it seems to be a pretty good effort by the government and I’m glad that they are starting to talk about some of the issues that I think sort of got neglected by the Liberal government during the student strike,” said Reid-Fraser. “Hopefully, it will bring out students in a different kind of way than the tuition hike issue did.”