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AID TO UNIVERSITIES*
WE HAVE earlier commented at some length on the services rendered by Canadian universities, not only to the community and to the provinces in which they are situated, but to the nation as a whole, in professional and scientific fields. We are, of course, principally concerned with the development of the arts, letters and sciences. Here, as we have suggested, the universities are the main centres, not only of scholarly study and research but of general education. Without them, culture in the sense of the full development of man's intellectual and aesthetic faculties would be in grave peril.
2. We have also referred to the financial crisis which faces the universities, threatening their very existence and pressing with particular hardship on studies in arts, letters and pure science. There are, at present, thirty-two corporate members of the National Conference of Canadian Universities, varying greatly in size, wealth and in the variety of courses offered. We have received a detailed presentation from the National Conference and shorter supporting briefs from nineteen of its members. Most of the larger universities derive much, sometimes most of their support, apart from student fees, from the Provincial Governments. There are, however, a number of institutions receiving little public assistance which depend mainly on endowments, gifts and fees. The endowments and gifts are often inadequate, and there is little prospect of an increase in this period of high taxation. There is no need to stress the fact that a rise in fees, especially in those parts of the country where these smaller institutions are situated, would result only in the reduction of the student body; moreover, many gifted young people whose services the nation cannot afford to lose would not, as a consequence, receive the necessary training.
3. There is a further important point arising from our earlier observation that universities serve not only their own region but the nation as a whole in the professions and sciences. Graduates of Canadian universities have long been accustomed to move freely about our country, and
many of them find their permanent careers and practise their professions in places far removed from the university centres where they pursued their undergraduate or post-graduate studies. As the Principal of McGill University pointed out to us, the able graduates are very naturally attracted to our larger centres of population; in consequence, although our national life as a whole becomes richer, those who have in fact paid for the education of our abler young people through their direct support of provincial or private universities may receive in return no direct benefit. It may indeed be a matter of pride to them that they have made possible the brilliant career in a distant city of a gifted native son; this is however a remote and intangible reward. It is to us a clear and demonstrable fact that our national life is enriched by our university graduates who have been trained and often encouraged by funds from local sources.
4. This fact is recognized, at least tacitly, by the Federal Government. During the years of the recent war and its aftermath, the Government showed its direct interest in intellectual and professional training, and its determination to ensure that trained people were available for our national needs. In 1948-49 the Federal Government spent in all $27,000,000 in the promotion of higher education in Canada.1
5. In our view, it can be properly assumed that the national government does in fact recognize certain responsibilities towards problems of higher education in Canada. In other countries with which we have the closest affiliations, the central government has indicated in a clear and striking manner that it regards the encouragement of higher education as one of its important functions. For example, in Great Britain between 1936 and 1946 the university population increased by fifty per cent; partly because of rising costs, university expenditures were doubled in this period. But the Treasury grants to British universities were also considerably increased, from thirty-four per cent to fifty-two per cent of the total revenues of the universities. Since then the grants have been still further increased, and we have learned with interest that in 1951-52 universities in the United Kingdom will probably receive more than sixty per cent of their revenues from the Government. This policy of state aid to universities on a generous scale has been supported by successive governments in Great Britain for many years.
6. In Australia, apart from the general scholarship scheme which we have discussed elsewhere in this Report, the post-war training plan for ex-service men has been used to provide the universities with buildings and money to an extent not merely sufficient to enable them to carry the extra burden, but to strengthen them for years to come. As this Report goes to press, it has been announced in Australia by the Acting Prime Minister that:
The official statement continues:
In addition, the Federal Government of Australia will, subject to certain further conditions, make additional grants to the Australian universities up to a total of £300,000 for the three calendar years 1951, 1952 and 1953. The proposed grants are to be available for expenditure on current activities only and not for capital expenditure.
7. The National Conference of Canadian Universities has rightly assumed the responsibility for bringing the interests of the Canadian nation in this matter not only before this Commission but before the Federal Government directly. The problem as presented is threefold: the particularly high cost to the university of special professional training, the general burden to the university of all university education, and the cost to the student which, as we have shown, affects adversely both the number and the composition of the student body. As the matter of aid to the individual student is dealt with elsewhere in this Report, we shall speak here only of the requests by the universities for direct aid.
8. The universities ask first for a per capita grant ranging from $150 to $200 for all students registered in professional schools. The schools mentioned are those offering courses in medicine, dentistry, agriculture, forestry, veterinary science, nursing, physical education, physiotherapy, social work, engineering and applied science. These grants are advocated because training in these fields is particularly expensive, and is closely related to certain direct responsibilities of government. Some assistance is already being given by the Federal Government to the extent described under this head in Part I of this Report. The work of professional schools is related in many of its aspects to the subjects which are our particular concern. We think that increased aid should be given for the support of this professional training.
9. The National Conference of Canadian Universities also asks for a per capita grant of $100 a year for all full-time students in other faculties. This is of particular interest to us and is related directly to our task. To attempt to deal with national development in the arts, letters and sciences, without considering the contributions and the needs of the universities in this field would be to conceive an arch without a keystone. There is probably no civilized country in the world where dependence on the
universities in the cultural field is so great as in Canada. It is impossible to imagine the gap which would exist if the universities were to disappear or even if their activities in this field were to be curtailed.
10. Yet these activities are being curtailed; and this is one aspect of the crisis of the universities dealt with in Part I of this Report. The necessity for economy in services and in building is making it more and more difficult for the university to act as patron and host to the many voluntary and informal activities mentioned in Part I. Moreover, increasing specialization and faith in the expert have caused a neglect and a distortion of the liberal studies; the fundamental importance of these we have already discussed. Finally, operating both as a cause and as an effect of this tendency is the low estate of the professor in the humanities, in economic status and in prestige. We know that this situation is not to be attributed entirely to economic causes; but we feel that effective material aid from the nation is necessary to enable universities to carry out their original and still essential purpose of providing a liberal education.
11. There are a number of ways in which federal aid might be given to universities. We shall recommend that this aid be given but we venture only to suggest how it might be given. If a grant were made on the basis of population in each province, it could be distributed among institutions in the province in accordance with the number of students. For example, if the grant were at the rate of fifty cents per head of population, then on the basis of 1949 estimates Manitoba would receive $389,000 which would be divided among the university institutions of Manitoba in accordance with their certified registration.
We therefore recommend:
* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.