Pre-budget 2019 consultations: Universities Canada’s presentation

September 26, 2018
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Paul Davidson, president, Universities Canada


Presentation by Paul Davidson, president, Universities Canada
House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance


Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on behalf of Canada’s 96 universities.

I appeared before this committee last year in Saskatoon. We discussed how research drives innovation and builds prosperity.

Since then we’ve seen important advancements in research investment, including the announcement of five new Superclusters, and historic investments in fundamental research.

Nos membres sont reconnaissants des investissements qui ont été accordés dans le budget de 2018 pour améliorer l’écosystème de la recherche au Canada.

This year we encourage government to build on that momentum by investing in the skills and talent of Canada’s young people, across disciplines.

In a world of disruption and constant change, our most valuable resources are our people.

As we’ve seen on multiple fronts this past summer, trade and diplomatic relationships can change quickly. Investment in people and ideas help us navigate change and maximize new economic opportunities.

Hands-on learning and international mobility

We have joined with our partners in the Business and Higher Education Roundtable to call for all postsecondary students to have a valuable work-integrated learning experience.

We also see an urgent need for more of Canada’s young people to have an international study experience.

Last fall, a ground-breaking report called Global Education for Canadians issued a warning and a call to action. Business and civil society leaders said Canada is not preparing its young people to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

Canada’s universities have exceeded our target for attracting international students five years ahead of schedule. International students now contribute more to Canada’s economy than export of softwood and wheat and as much as auto parts.

But the percentage of Canadian students with an international experience has not changed in decades.

And when considering investing in students, please take action on the chronic underfunding of indigenous students.

Indigenous student success

Now is the time for the government to act on its Budget 2017 commitment to address the needs of Indigenous students who want to pursue postsecondary education.

A university degree opens a pathway to a brighter future for Indigenous students and their communities. But only 10.9 per cent of Indigenous people have a university degree, compared to more than 29 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

Canada must do better.

Canada’s universities have embraced the TRC report and have made important progress in improving student access and success.

But Canada needs increased direct financial aid for Indigenous students.

And more support is needed for the student services – such as gathering places and Elders on campus – that help Indigenous students complete their education and achieve their potential.

We also recommend the government expand support for programs that work, like Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures.

Research talent

Investing in people and ideas also means supporting Canada’s research talent, and the places where discoveries are made.

We must remember that investments in research are investments in students. Students like Jaime Wertman, whom I met at Dalhousie university last month.

Jaime started out studying philosophy, got hooked on biology and now, pursuing her PhD, is doing research with Zebrafish to improve the prognosis for children with cancer.

Jaime credits that background in philosophy for making her a better researcher.

Jaime’s path has been shaped by working alongside leading-edge researchers throughout her studies. Today, half of our undergraduate students have opportunities to work with top researchers during their studies.

The skills they learn are the skills employers need: problem-solving, teamwork, analytical and communications skills.

While real progress has been made in supporting research talent, I want to draw your attention to important unfinished business.

Specifically, the 2018 Budget spoke to the need to increase support for graduate scholarships and fellowships. We look forward to progress there.

And to support Canada’s talented researchers in doing their best work, Canada needs to invest in world-leading research and training environments. This can be achieved through significant, multi-year increases to the Research Support Fund, as recommended in the Fundamental Science Review.


Dans un monde en rapide évolution, des mesures urgentes doivent être prises pour les jeunes Canadiens.

To maintain our competitive advantage, Canada must invest in skills and talent development.

And the success of Canada’s economic and trade diversification agenda depends on a highly skilled and internationally engaged labour market.

I thank you for your work and I ask for the committee’s support for strategic investments in the skills and talent development of Canada’s youth.


Read our pre-budget 2019 submission: Investing in talent

About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.

Media contact:

Lisa Wallace
Assistant Director, Communications
Universities Canada
[email protected]

Tagged:  Co-ops and internships, Indigenous education, Research and innovation, Study abroad

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