Our 2012 Forecast
Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates, January 3, 2012
Hello, all. We’re back up and running at HESA Towers, and we’re starting the year with a list of things to look for in 2012.
The #1 story of the year in Canadian higher education will almost certainly be labour unrest. The faculty strike that just ended at Brandon lasted a staggering 45 days while at McGill, the non-academic staff were on strike from September to early December. Unions appear to be getting bolshier while money is starting to become tighter – not exactly a recipe for campus harmony.
Budget season won’t be pretty. At the federal level, ministries have all been told to present options for cutting budgets by ten per cent (best evidence yet of the Harper machine’s media management excellence – the press hasn’t caught even a whiff of what’s on the way). Transfers are safe, but program spending probably isn’t; granting council money that doesn’t look like value for money is probably at some risk.
In the provinces, our best guess at the moment is that we will see significant funding increases in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, real declines in Ontario and B.C., and status quo everywhere else. At least one and possibly two provincial governments will significantly revamp their student aid programs.
On the international stage, it will become clearer that higher education reform in India is a mirage, while in China, sky-high levels of institutional indebtedness plus continuing high rates of graduate unemployment will push the sector into major reform. In Europe, the repercussions of the financial crisis will be centre stage, and it will become clearer that the Bologna process has become more a discussion group than a reform process (albeit a pretty interesting one). In the spring, all eyes will be on the U.K. to see how the largest tuition hike in history affects application and enrolment figures.
Financial pressure on American institutions will ease slightly as state tax receipts rise, but student debt will occupy (so to speak) centre stage and likely play a prominent role in the presidential election. Unlike the rest of the world, the search for solutions to student debt in the U.S. lies squarely on getting institutions to be more cost-effective; expect echoes of that debate to waft north across the border.
Last but not least, there’s the ultra-important Human Capital Song Contest, which exactly NONE of you have chosen to enter so far. Either you were all really busy over the holidays or you are collectively lamer than a Malaysian student loan fight song (MP3). I prefer to believe it’s the former, so I’m leaving the contest open for a couple of more weeks.
Back to work!