Although this political party has promoted many priorities in education, it has had very little to say about its intentions with regard to the college and university networks. While many have heralded Minister of Education and Higher Education Jean-François Roberge’s voluntarist stance, it is not transparent. The ministerial office’s recruitment of Martin Maltais, associated with the IREC,[1] and the appointment of Youri Chassin of the MEI,[2] as parliamentary secretary, is disconcerting, to say the least.

One fact remains. Higher education must become a government priority once again and be assured of a structuring, predictable financial commitment that meets the real needs of student populations. The outgoing Liberal government’s vote-seeking catch-up budget did not erase the failings of the first three years of its term. According to the Fédération des cégeps, the shortfall in the college system was $155 million from 2011 to 2016. In the university network, it has reached nearly $2 billion over the past 15 years, based on the numbers produced by the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d'université.

Review the funding model

According to Lucie Piché,[3] a review of the funding model for the college network is absolutely necessary to meet the real needs of colleges and to take the size of the CEGEPs, regional realities and the missions of each college into consideration. “The network needs stable, recurring funding. However, over the past two years, we have observed the opposite trend, with an increase in envelopes dedicated to specific projects. This trend has further weakened the network, following the massive divestment during the years of austerity.”

Suzanne Tousignant[4] notes that the needs of student populations have exploded. “From 2016 to 2017, we observed an increase of nearly 25% in the number of students with a disability. It has been shown that students are increasingly prone to anxiety and depression and that the onset of adulthood is when mental health problems often emerge.”

The importance of stability

According to Valérie Fontaine,[5] funding of support staff and professionals must be stabilized. “In other words, a dedicated, predictable funding envelope is needed to ensure that all staff are able to provide services that meet the needs. Unfortunately, these people are the first victims of cutbacks imposed in higher education.”

Vincent Beaucher[6] emphasizes the undue stress and the loss of expertise that universities have experienced in recent years as lecturers have lost their employment ties. “This teaching staff is responsible for giving most of the courses offered in Québec’s universities; as such, it is on the front line of a quality university experience.” André Gagné shares a similar observation:[7] “The precarious status to which our members are subjected is not justified when we consider the duration of subsidies granted to the research organizations that employ them.”

Sonia Éthier[8] points out that the close relationship that teaching, professional and support staff have with student populations provides them with a perspective that deserves to be heard by the incoming government. “Every day, we measure the impact of the issues in higher education. We have solutions to propose and, as partners, we want to build a network that meets the needs and the aspirations of Quebecers, while remaining true to the values that been the cornerstone of the network’s creation,” she concludes.

[1] Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine
[2] Montréal Economic Institute
[3] Lucie Piché is president of the Fédération des enseignantes et enseignants de CEGEP (FEC-CSQ).
[4] Suzanne Tousignant is president of the Fédération du personnel professionnel des collèges (FPPC-CSQ).
[5] Valérie Fontaine is president of the Fédération du personnel de soutien de l'enseignement supérieur (FPSES-CSQ).
[6] Vincent Beaucher is president of the Syndicat des chargées et chargés de cours de l’Université de Sherbrooke (SCCCUS-CSQ).
[7] André Gagné is president of the Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels de recherche de l'Université Laval (SPPRUL-CSQ).
[8] Sonia Éthier is president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ).