Last week, the Alberta government announced that it was providing $18.2 million to the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary in research funding.
According to the first announcement, the U of A will receive $6.3 million in funding for 2 initiatives:
- $4.5 million for AI research into automated transportation, medical robots and manufacturing
- $1.8 million for research into laser usage as treatments for skin diseases and cancer, as well as remote sensing solutions for bitumen mining
As for the second announcement, the U of C will receive nearly $12 million in funding for 3 initiatives:
- $3 million for research in quantum technologies
- $3.9 million for research in antimicrobial resistance
- $4.9 million for space research, including the SMILE-UVI satellite project
The funding for both institutions will come through the provincial government’s Major Innovation Fund and its Research Capacity Programme.
And to be clear, receiving $18.2 million in research funding is a positive thing.
However, there’s some context missing from these announcements.
As part of the 2020–2021 provincial budget announced this past February, the government indicated an 10.9% reduction to the U of A from the 2020–2021 budget (8.9% cut to Campus Alberta grant and another 2% from the elimination of targeted enrolment expansion).
That’s on top of a 6.9% cut in the budget released a year ago.
When you add that all up, that’s $110.3 million the U of A is losing in operational funding over 2 years.
In last year’s budget, the UCP also cut infrastructure funding for the U of A by $35 million. They reinstated that money this year, but if you average $0 and $35 million, that’s still a $17.5 million cut in infrastructure funding.
Put it all together, and the University of Alberta has lost $127.8 million over the last year.
Similarly, the government indicated a 6% reduction to the U of C in the 2020–2021 budget.
The U of C estimates this could work out to a $26.7 million cut to the their portion of the Campus Alberta Grant. When you add that to the $32.9 million cut to the CAG last year, that represents $59.6 million the U of C is losing in operational funding.
In last year’s budget, the UCP also cut infrastructure funding for the U of C by $22.5 million. They reinstated that money this year, but if you average $0 and $22.5 million, that’s still a $11.25 million cut in infrastructure funding.
As well, the U of C has lost $75,000 in mental health funding from the provincial government over last year’s budget.
And when you add that all up, that’s roughly $71 million total in funding that the provincial government cut in funding over the last two years for the University of Calgary.
That’s nearly $200 million in underfunding between the two institutions.
So while it’s great that researchers are going to receive nearly $18 million, these universities will still be vastly underfunded.