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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

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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