Volume 12, Number 10 January 21, 2005

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Nationwide university building boom favours research labs over classrooms

OTTAWA – A recent survey by CanWest has found that Canadian universities, including the U of S, are building research facilities faster than classrooms, despite significant growth in enrolment.

The results, published in the National Post Jan. 13, show that full-time enrolment in Canada increased by 130,000 students over the past three years, to 784,000. Yet, at 15 of 20 universities surveyed, research labs are being built faster than teaching space, in some cases at a ratio as high as eight square metres for research space to one square metre for classrooms.

The story suggests government funding, both provincial and federal, specifically earmarked for research is driving the building boom.

U of S Provost and Vice President Academic Michael Atkinson, interviewed for the piece, said universities are following the money.

“Things do have to balance out,” he is quoted as saying. “We can’t lavish funds on these projects and forget about classroom space and libraries. We’ve always tried to balance it, but we have to go where the money goes.”

The survey notes that the building boom at the U of S heavily favours research with 24,486 square metres of research space, including the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, built since 2000 compared to 4,562 square metres of teaching space.

And the trend is likely to continue. The 20 universities surveyed reported 164 new academic buildings or additions either constructed or planned and of those, only nine involved faculties of arts and social sciences. The fine arts or contemporary arts account for just four. The total cost of these projects is $341.2 million.

Even adding another $312.8 million for three new libraries and five multi-use academic building project that will benefit the arts and humanities at the surveyed schools, the total is only a fraction of the $4.73 billion price tag of the projects reported in the survey.

“We not talking anything like balance or parity,” Atkinson told the National Post about the bias against the arts.

“I think people in these places can legitimately complain. We’ve tried to selectively recognize strong performance and try to make adjustments to our own capital plan to help. You simply can’t compete with these (government) infusions of cash.”

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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