KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The recent funding announcement for Nova Scotia’s universities will help to hold university administrations accountable, but does not go far enough in providing sufficient core funding or ensuring that the academic missions of universities will be upheld, according to the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT).
The funding agreement calls for an inter-university plan to reduce administrative expenses by a minimum of five percent. ANSUT president Dr. Scott Stewart says he hopes that includes clear direction in limiting administrations’ spending. “Compensation for university administration across the province continues to increase, but seems to have few checks and balances in place to ensure fairness to faculty, staff, and students, and to the communities they serve,” says Stewart, referring to a recent study of administrative compensation at eight Nova Scotia Universities. The study, A Culture of Entitlement, documented growth of 84% in the amount paid to senior administration and upper management, with a 73% increase in the number of positions, from 2012 – 2021. “As faculty, we are happy to see some measures put in place to ensure accountability.”
“While the increase in core funding (from one percent to two) is also helpful, it is offset by the decrease in the tuition cap from three percent to two for Nova Scotian students, and placed on the backs of International students, who face increases of at least nine percent,” says Stewart. “To be clear, we support the lower tuition increase, but we also believe that core funding, which was decreased by a former government in 2010, should be reinstated,” says Stewart. The funding agreement also calls upon universities to create more student housing. “This is welcome and overdue,” says Stewart, “but there is no additional funding attached for this requirement. So, it will be difficult for some universities to build such housing, especially when the federal government is cutting back on international student numbers.”
The requirement for universities to tie funding to government priorities such as healthcare and labour market needs is concerning. “Performance based funding models have a long history of eroding academic freedom and collegial governance, both of which are key to fulfilling university missions to provide education, conduct research and contribute to the betterment of society,” says Stewart. “We don’t deny the importance of provincial priorities, but tying core funding to performance metrics can lead us down a dangerous slope.”