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Fundamental changes coming to post-secondary funding model

By Kristy Koehler, January 20 2020—

The United Conservative Party announced a change to the funding model for Alberta’s post-secondary institutions this morning. A new, performance-based funding model will begin April 1 in a move that Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education, referred to as “transformative.”

“The current model of investing in post-secondary education is not working in the best possible way,” Nicolaides said during a press conference. “Government funding is not tied to the achievement of any targets, progress towards goals or to the changing economic and labour demands.”

According to Nicolaides, the new model is non-competitive, meaning that intuitions will not compete against each other for taxpayer dollars, but rather look to metrics to determine funding. The government will evaluate approximately 20 performance-based metrics — some of which will be universal and system-wide but may be weighted differently to meet the needs of each particular institution. 

Graduation and completion rates, graduate employment, experiential learning, enrollment of both domestic and international students, research capacity, quality of teaching and student experience and satisfaction were some of the metrics Nicolaides listed as examples for what may become universal metrics. Institutions will also have the opportunity to work with the government to determine their own metrics, specific to their needs.

“Each one of our post-secondary institutions is unique and it’s important that we work with them to develop targets that neet their individual mandates and priorities,” said Nicolaides.

He also indicated that metrics would be introduced gradually. The amount of funding tied to performance outcomes will also increase gradually over the next three years, beginning at 15 per cent and ending up at forty per cent by the 2022–23 academic year.

Institutions that meet all of their targets will receive 100 per cent of their allocated funding, and those which do not will receive funding proportionate to their levels of achievement.

Nicolaides believes this new model will help students succeed as well as create more confidence in the post-secondary system and ensure that universities are both innovative and efficient. 

University of Calgary president Ed McCauley said that U of C “welcomes the introduction of an outcome-based funding model.”

“We have been a data-driven organization for over a decade — and welcome the opportunity to be part of this change,” said McCauley in a statement.

“We track and publish on an annual basis a set of 35 performance measures in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and community and the environment,” the statement continued. “These performance measures are directly tied to our Eyes High Strategy and our Academic and Research plans and offer direct comparisons with other leading universities. Several of our performance measures directly align with the areas that the Government of Alberta has indicated will be part of the outcomes-based funding framework and are areas where the University of Calgary excels. For example, our students have a 94.1 per cent graduate employment rate within a year of graduating from our university. Similarly, we have increased our research income by 50 percent since 2014 for a total of $487.8 million in 2019.

“We welcome a long term stable, predictable funding model and a streamlined reporting process that reduces red tape. We look forward to working with the Government of Alberta in establishing a funding model that supports our mandate as a research-intensive university under the Post-Secondary Learning Act in Alberta.”

Consultation will begin right away and Nicolaides stressed the importance of gathering information from students, faculty and administration.

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