University autonomy – Time for a check-up

Canadian universities have traditionally enjoyed high levels of autonomy from government relative to their counterparts in other parts of the world, but the decision-making authority of universities appears to be shrinking and that’s cause for concern, writes Julia Eastman for University Affairs.

As recently as the 1990s, a couple of studies (in 1997 and 1998) concluded that the level of government intervention in Canadian universities was lowest or amongst the lowest of the many countries studied. That view was shared by knowledgeable observers. David Cameron wrote in More than an Academic Question: Universities, government and public policy in Canada (1991): “Provincial policy has been remarkably respectful of institutional autonomy. Universities have nowhere in Canada become mere agents of provincial governments, and there is no indication that any province seriously intends to have it otherwise.”

A comparative case study of the governance of six major universities in five provinces, involving interviews at the institutional, provincial and national levels conducted between 2012 and 2015, found that the extent of these universities’ autonomy from government varied greatly from province to province.
Full report on the University Affairs site