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UCP promise U of A, U of C $18M for research, but there’s a catch

$12 million in research funding sounds like a good thing, but context is always important.

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.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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