A “blue-ribbon panel” appointed by the Ford government confirmed in its report yesterday what university educators and staff have been saying for years: Ontario’s universities are the worst-funded in Canada.
“We didn’t need the government to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a panel to tell us what we already know. Ontario universities receive far less funding per student than in any other province. The result is declining learning conditions and increased reliance by university workers on food banks and social services,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.
From 2008 to 2021, the panel reported, university Nominal Operating Grants in the province fell from $8,514 to $8,350 per student. However, inflation rose by 20 percent. The Ford government also mandated a 10 percent tuition fee reduction in 2019 and froze tuition fees in subsequent years. Although good for student finances, this meant the province had thrown universities into an even bigger funding hole.
“There is one reason why universities are not financially stable in Ontario: Funding cuts by successive Liberal and Conservative governments. None of this has been accidental. It’s been a steady process to privatize post-secondary education in Ontario that the Ford government has stepped up with its dramatic cuts over the last few years.”
CUPE Ontario is calling on the province to reject the panel’s recommendations for further privatization of services and huge tuition fee increases, and instead restore the province’s share of funding so that universities can produce world-class research and teaching while remaining accessible to students from all walks of life.
“The report contains a host of recommendations that came from private consultants who make money off outsourcing and privatization. And it celebrates the wage restraint that has led to record reliance on food banks by teaching and research assistants, instructors and non-academic workers,” said David Simao, chair of CUPE’ Ontario’s university workers committee. “That just drives up costs on social services that are already under strain.”
The report also calls for the government to proceed with performance-based funding.
“Performance-based funding is exactly the wrong way to go. Important discoveries are made through research and learning, and we need the ability to take risks academically in order to make the sorts of breakthroughs in technology and thinking that truly drive Ontario’s economy,” Simao said. “This report would have been useful if any students or university workers had been part of the process, instead of expensive consulting companies and politicians.”
Looking ahead to the provincial election in 2026, Hahn signaled CUPE Ontario’s intention to “work in coalition with student groups, faculty associations, unions and other allies in the university sector to make better post-secondary funding an election issue.”