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Nova Scotia Government announces new funding policy for universities

The new policy is set to prioritize provincial needs

University presidents were caught off guard on Feb. 2 when Nova Scotia announced a one-year funding policy for the province’s universities that will replace the previous four-year funding deal.

The policy will replace the current Memorandum of Understanding and is according to Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong, set to make universities more “accountable to government needs,” such as student housing, healthcare training and “planning for a more sustainable and successful future.” 

The universities must meet the accountability measures in the funding agreements for 2024-25 to receive their full funding. The conditions include filling 97 per cent of spots in healthcare training programs and providing a plan to house 15 per cent of full-time students. 

To meet the housing targets, Cape Breton University will need to add 300 beds for students, and Dalhousie will need to add 200. If the universities don’t meet these targets, they could face holdbacks of 10 per cent of their funding. 

The new policy also introduces a cap on tuition increases. Universities must now cap tuition increases at two percent, reduced from the previous cap of three per cent. Dalhousie University’s tuition increase cap remains at its 2022-23 level. The overall operating grant for nine small and mid-size universities is set to rise by $3.6 million to $383.2 million, while Dalhousie’s will remain at $203.6 million. 

This part of the policy was criticized by the President of Cape Breton University and Chair of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents David Dingwall, who stated that the reduction “disregards the substantial contribution our universities make to the economic, social and cultural development of communities across the province.”

In a statement, Dalhousie President and Vice-Chancellor Kim Brooks said “the institution’s costs have been rising faster than the provincial grant,” and mentioned that “the province is experiencing unprecedented growth.”

The announcement of this new policy also coincides with the federal government’s announcement of a cap on international student visa permits for Nova Scotia. Under the new cap, the number of international student visas distributed this year will be decreased by 35 percent from last year. University presidents in Nova Scotia estimate that this will potentially lead to losses of millions of dollars in revenue and harm the province’s reputation as a “desirable education destination”. 

Dingwall said, “Both levels of government have created an elevated level of uncertainty across Nova Scotia’s university sector.”

According to Global News, Executive Director of Student’s Nova Scotia Georgia Saleski “said she is happy to see a lower tuition cap for domestic students who pay the highest tuition in the country, at 36 per cent above the national average.”


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