Blogs > Cliopatria > Teaching in Canada II

Dec 4, 2004 11:18 pm

Teaching in Canada II

I should make clear that in my previous blog on teaching in Canada I addressed matters directly related to teaching and being a professor. There are other important differences between higher education in the United States and Canada, notably the cost of university education and the difference between public and private, that indirectly influence teaching. Private universities in Canada do receive government support in addition to their endowments, and they seem to be more public-oriented (all the university libraries I have visited in Canada, for example, have been freely open to the public for consultation). Differences in tuition are not great. The biggest difference seems to be in prestige and in selectivity.
The cost of education varies according to the province and the institution. Quebec is the cheapest. In-province tuition (which includes those form other province who are the children of former Quebec residents) is on the order of $1000-$1500 US per year. There is then a higher charge for those from other provinces—Quebec is not supposed to discriminate against other Canadians, and I heard some time ago that there was a court case being brought by a Francophone from British Columbia challenging the differential. (Since Quebec has an exchange program which allows French students to come for a year tuition-free, the extra tuition cost is especially upsetting to other Canadian students). Even Quebec’s out-of-province tuition is cheaper than in-province tuition, though, for some or all of the other provinces. Private university tuition is higher, but not enormously. McGill charges $1668 CAD per year for Quebec students, about $4000 CAD for students from other provinces. It is international students, some but by no means all from the United States, who are “privatized”, and serve as the cash cows. McGill charges them between $8700 CAD and $15000 CAD per year. (There is a move on at McGill and Concordia to increase international student tuition, and they are contesting with the province of Quebec as to which of them gets to keep what part of this windfall). Of course, even at current exchange rates this is a bargain compared to elite private colleges in the US. The result of all this is that students can get higher education without going into a mountain of debt—my students are stunned when I tell them what college costs at elite institutions in the United States. Also, while I have no empirical evidence to support this thesis, I presume the low tuition and small public-private tuition gap means that there is a more diverse student body generally and less class stratification within and among universities.
Another difference that affects professors is in the areas of research and student funding. Some institutions offer funding for their graduate students, and some do not. Similarly, some provide professional development money to faculty and some do not. What is different is that there is significant government funding available for historians and others through the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (whose acronym is pronounced “shirk” in English). SSHRC grants allow historians and others to buy equipment, do research travel, and help with publication costs (because of the limited book market, many publications in Canada are made possible by subventions). It also provides money for the paying of assistants, which means that professors can hire students and offer them some financial aid. The ability of a professor to win SSHRC grants is an important element in evaluations, etc. This last was a longtime sore point with me, as until this year, when SSHRC changed its rules, I was ineligible for the grants as a non-permanent resident.

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