A post-secondary education system that is high-quality, fully accessible, and publicly-funded. image

Post-secondary education (PSE) is essential to individual success as over 70% of jobs now require some level of post-secondary education, but PSE also makes significant social, cultural and economic contributions.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, every dollar invested in post-secondary education by governments leads to $1.36 in economic value for the Canadian economy. PSE is also essential to a robust democracy and to the research and civic engagement that are necessary to address some of our most challenging social, economic, and environmental problems today and tomorrow.

But access to PSE is increasingly a challenge for low- and middle-income students. As public funding has declined, tuition has skyrocketed. Since 1980, average domestic undergraduate tuition has increased by 215% and domestic graduate tuition has increased by 247%, after accounting for inflation.

93% of Canadians said they would have pursued post-secondary education after high school if they had not needed to pay tuition. But the economic importance of having a post-secondary education also means that many students are attending even though they cannot afford to do so, leaving them burdened with significant debt. 50% of university graduates today leave school with debt. On average, student debt at graduation today is nearly $28,000 and it takes 9.5 years on average to repay this debt. As a result of the economic calculus students are forced to make, rates of food insecurity and homelessness are high among students.

Universities and colleges are also increasingly turning to international students and funding from private donors and corporations to make up the difference. In 2020-21, the average undergraduate tuition fees for international students are $32,019.

Publicly funded, accessible higher education plays a role in promoting equity and social inclusion. Canada has also made commitments to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples which mean that we have a moral obligation to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Our situation now is the result of decades of underfunding by governments. But with a plan for Education for All, we can achieve a high-quality, equitable, affordable, and accessible post-secondary education system that is respected for its important economic, social and cultural role in our society.

Fair wages and working conditions and secure employment for all workers at our colleges and universities. image

Post-secondary education workers are increasingly being forced into positions of precarity or seeing their positions contracted out to private, for-profit employers.

These contract and casual employees often earn lower wages, do not get paid sick leave, and receive few if any health benefits. Many have no pension. Too often, they do not receive the basic tools and resources that they need to do their job properly, which has an impact on the quality of education and services students receive.

Research by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that more than half of faculty appointments are now contract appointments. These contract instructors are expected to perform the same teaching and research as permanent staff at significantly lower wage levels and with fewer resources and institutional supports.

To cover tuition cost and living expenses, many graduate students take on jobs as Teaching Assistants or Research Assistants, taking on the brunt of undergraduate tutorial and laboratory teaching, marking, and invigilating exams, often with minimal resources, poor wages, and no training.

Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates are frequently subject to unreasonable hours, unsafe working conditions in aging laboratories, dangerous equipment, and low wages. They often do not have access to sick leave or benefits, even though 75% of respondents in a survey of post-docs indicated that the extreme stress associated with their position caused them to experience stress-related adverse mental health effects.

From overseeing admissions and financial aid, providing clerical and administrative support, keeping our campuses clean and functioning properly, ensuring that needed technology is available, and preparing and serving food, support workers are essential to the smooth functioning of our institutions.  But universities and colleges are increasingly relying on contract and casual staff to carry out these roles – replacing full-time positions with part-time or temporary positions.

Women, racialized people, Black Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, newcomers, people who are gender-nonconforming, trans, or queer, and persons living with disabilities are more likely to be in precarious positions, both as contract academic staff and as support staff.

Education for All must include fair wages and working conditions and secure employment for workers. Without it, the quality of education and student services is in jeopardy.

An end to contracting out and the privatization of services, including teaching, cleaning, and food services. image

Cuts to public funding and an increasingly corporate mentality among administrators have contributed to an embrace of privatization and contracting out by universities and colleges.

At some institutions, entire sectors such as food service and custodial services have been contracted out to companies that pay workers very low wages and fail to provide good benefits and pensions.

For instance, more than two-thirds of Canadian universities and colleges have contracted out their food services. The companies that tend to hold these food service contracts are notorious for paying low wages, offering few benefits, and frequently flipping contracts, forcing workers to start over again with no seniority, losing any wages or bonuses they have accrued through years of hard work.

Privatization of services can put health and safety of students and workers at risk. Services end up scaled back, or corners are cut, because there aren’t enough people to do the job properly. Forcing workers to rush, failing to provide proper training, and refusing to provide proper tools can compromise quality and put the health and safety of staff and students at risk.

But increasingly, privatization is no longer limited to support services; educational services are being privatized as well. In Ontario, six colleges have signed agreements with private, for-profit colleges that grant a diploma from the publicly-funded institution to international students who have studied at the private college. At another 13 colleges and universities across the country, partnerships have been signed with private, for-profit educational service providers who provide English classes and, in some cases, academic courses to international students on campus as well.

Our vision for Education for All would end contracting out and the privatization of services in order to ensure the highest quality education.

A research ecosystem driven by the quest for knowledge and not corporate priorities image

A research ecosystem driven by the quest for knowledge and not corporate priorities, that funds research in all disciplines, protects the integrity of academic research, and supports researchers at every stage of their academic careers.

Canada’s expenditure on Research & Development (R&D) as a percentage of its GDP has declined since 2001 and is now below the OECD average and second to lowest among the G7 countries

Without continued investment, Canada risks falling even further behind. Despite increases in 2018, Canada is providing only 54 per cent of the funding level recommended by the Advisory Panel for the Review of Federal Support for Fundamental Science.

To maintain a competitive edge on the international stage and to lead Canada’s economic recovery, the research community requires sustained support, not only for basic research in post-secondary institutions, but also research performed in other institutions, industry, the not-for-profit sector, and government labs.

Systemic barriers to equity and diversity in academia and the research community persist. Fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in research, and ensuring that our research community is reflective of Canada’s diversity will address the chronic underrepresentation of equity groups in research.

Our vision for Education for All includes sustained publicly-funded support for the research community to spark new discoveries and ensure that research promotes the public interest.

Open and transparent governance with diverse representation of academic staff, students, and workers. image

Post-secondary institutions are increasingly adopting corporate styles of management, led by Boards of Governors with heavy representation from the corporate sector and administrators recruited from the private sector.

An analysis of the Boards of Governors at the 18 largest universities in Ontario conducted by PressProgress found that corporate executives predominate, accounting for 33.5% of Board members. This was higher than the number of students, staff, and faculty (30.3%).

Public funding supports collegial governance which allows campus community members – faculty, staff, and students – to participate in the decisions that affect them rather than a private, corporate mindset that sees students as products, corporations as customers, and faculty and staff as interchangeable employees in the assembly line of producing workers.

Our vision for Education for All will ensure that decisions that impact the campus community are made by community members with a stake in the outcomes.