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Canadian university research revenue slows to a crawl

The new annual ranking of Canadian university research revenues has been released, with the University of Toronto again finishing ahead of the pack with almost one billion dollars ($998 million) generated in research revenue during the 2015 fiscal year. Across the country, however, the overall picture is one of stagnancy, as the combined research income reported by the top 50 research institutions grew by just 0.6 per cent.

The new rankings show no changes in the schools that make up the top ten money-makers in Canada, with U of T, UBC, Université de Montréal, McGill University and University of Alberta rounding out the top five in that order. A few universities such as Queen’s University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Laurentian University posted significant gains in research revenue in 2015, but overall, the picture was one of lacklustre growth, according to Research Infosource Inc., which compiled the results.

“University research income is highly leveraged to government support,” says Ron Freedman, CDO of Research Inforsource Inc. “We saw overall government support decline by -2.9 per cent, including a drop of -1.9 per cent in federal government funding, -3.8 per cent in provincial funding and -19.5 per cent in foreign government support.”

Regionally, the rankings have the Atlantic provinces doing well in terms of combined research income, growing at a rate of 7.9 per cent over the previous year’s total. By comparison, Ontario schools combined to only produce a rise of 0.2 per cent, essentially flat over the previous year.

Over the past half decade, the University of Calgary has determinedly been moving up the rankings for research revenue, jumping from eighth place to sixth during the last five years. The expansion of their research capacities has been a priority at U of C, starting with the unveiling in 2011 of a five-year Eyes High strategy which targeted research areas such as mental health, brain injuries, infectious diseases, energy innovations and earth-space research.

Said U of C President Elizabeth Cannon in 2011, “We want this to be a go-to place for new ideas, innovation and (to) create both a physical and virtual space for really moving Calgary, and certainly Canada, to the next level.” Calgary’s research income came in at $358 million for the fiscal 2015, a 10.5 per cent increase on the previous year.

“Prairie universities turned in comparatively strong research income growth this year,” says Freedman. “Combined growth of 1.9 per cent outpaced the national average (0.6 per cent). More impressive was the strong rates of growth at several regional universities, notably Calgary, Manitoba and Winnipeg.”

Three Canadian universities received Research Infosource’s designation as “Research University of the Year,” which marks both research earnings and publishing impact and intensity. For medical/doctoral schools, U of T came out on top, for comprehensive schools, it was University of Waterloo and receiving the nod for primarily undergraduate schools was Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The federal government is currently in the process of reviewing its funding framework for scientific research at Canadian post-secondary institutions. Under the auspices of Canada’s Fundamental Science Review Panel, the review is being led by former U of T president David Naylor and will provide its recommendations in December.

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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