Home News The pressure is mounting

The pressure is mounting

by Kalina Laframboise February 12, 2013
The pressure is mounting

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With the highly anticipated education summit less than two weeks away there remains uncertainty in the realm of provincial universities over the conference. The provincial government will be holding a two day conference on Feb. 25 and 26, where details still remain under wraps, to discuss the future of post-secondary education in Quebec.

When the Parti Québécois won a snap election in September, Premier Pauline Marois immediately cancelled the tuition fee increase proposed and already implemented by the Charest Liberals. Months of the student strike movement used the power of the streets and triggered a province-wide discussion over the state of education. The endless, exhausting crisis forced residents to address a fundamentally ideological question: what is education worth?

The education summit is supposed to be a solution to a plethora of concerns that extend beyond the problem of tuition. Issues include the financing of universities, the management of funds and the accessibility of higher education. The objective of the education summit is to not only address students but also the unease of university administrators as well as the taxpayers who heavily subsidize education.

This is The Concordian’s guide to what you need to know for the upcoming summit:

The themes

The quality of post-secondary education
Accessibility and participation
Governance and financing of universities
The contribution of research to Quebec society

The numbers

$124 million – The slash in funding to Quebec universities during the last few months of the academic year. It was announced in December 2012.

10,000 – The amount of students ready to boycott class during the day of Feb. 26 to protest the agenda of the education summit because free education will not be discussed.

$13.2 million – The cut to Concordia University’s operating grant for the rest of academic year that forced the university to declare a deficit.

$7.5 million – The highest amount that Concordia will claim as a deficit for the year.

Four – The number of times that universities had to revise their budgets in a little over eight months.

22 – The date for which a student demonstration in the downtown core of Montreal is planned to protest the lack of discussion regarding free education.

2014 – The provincial government has promised to freeze tuition until November 2014.

The positions

FEUQ (the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec) – For the umbrella group of university associations, it is advocating for a permanent tuition freeze.

Universities – CREPUQ (The Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec) is worried about slashes to universities’ budgets. During a Board of Trade meeting in early February, administrators felt that the reputation of Quebec universities is at risk.

ASSÉ (the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante) – The student association is livid that the notion of free education, which is the group’s mandate, will not be discussed and have planned protests.

The PQ – While remaining open to suggestion, there has not been an official stance from the provincial government with the exception for Education Minister Pierre Duchesne taking free education off the table.

The details

The location, the invites and the structure of the conference have not yet been announced causing unease for students, administrators and those waiting on the summit. University rectors, including Principal Heather Munroe-Blum from McGill University and President Alan Shepard from Concordia University, have yet to be invited to the summit.

With less than a month to go

“A joke.” – Munroe-Blum said the education summit fails to take into account the opinions of professors and families. She slammed the structure for not allowing an open debate.

“The irony of the dollar figure is that it didn’t capture the costs.” – Shepard on the provincial government slashing budgets of post-secondary institutions.

“Now it’s an opportunity for students to voice their vision on universities.” – VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon of the Concordia Student Union on the summit itself.

“It’s a lot of stress on a single day.” – Shepard, worried about the results of the education summit.

“We want the government to step back from their position and realize they can’t keep asking students to pay more and pay without a proper evaluation.” – Martine Desjardins, the president of FEUQ, at the CSU’s town hall.

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