In its annual budget this month, the Canadian government announced the creation of 140 well-paid post-doctoral fellowships, offering some acknowledgment to a group in higher education whose salaries are usually low and whose positions in their university are often tenuous.
According to the budget report, highly skilled, knowledgeable and creative workers are the foundation of an innovative economy. Post-doctoral research is a valuable way for recent doctoral graduates to gain additional experience prior to embarking on a faculty or applied research career. Budget 2010 provides $45 million over five years to the granting councils to establish a new and prestigious post-doctoral fellowships program to attract top-level talent to Canada. The fellowships will be designed to be internationally competitive and will be valued at $70,000 each per year for two years.
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada supports the funding initiative. “Given Canada’s fiscal outlook, we are pleased that the government is continuing to invest in university research and innovation to create jobs today and to build the economy of tomorrow,” says Michel Belley, chair of the AUCC Board of Directors and rector of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.
Critics of the budget point to a lack of federal investment in helping provinces deal with large class sizes or assisting students cope with high tuition fees. “With a record number of Canadians enrolled in college or university, this budget does nothing to help students and their families afford an education,” said Katherine Giroux-Bougard, national chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students. Others have observed that with only 140 fellowships in total, the numbers are likely to be too modest to make that much difference. In the 2007-08 academic year, 5,700 post-doctoral fellows were working in Canada.
While Jesse Greener, President of the University of Toronto Post-doctoral Association is happy for the recognition, the new programme will not be able to solve what he sees as the more serious issue – the many hiring freezes across the country with qualified post-docs sitting in limbo while faculty positions too often remain elusive.
In addition to funding for the post doctoral fellowship program, the budget included $222 million (over 5 years) for TRIUMF, a national laboratory for nuclear and particle and physics research; $32 million per year for Canada’s research granting councils; and $15 million (per year) for the College and Community Program to promote college/business partnerships.