Friday, March 5, 2010

The Myth of the Overfinancing of English Universities.

A while back, Mario Beaulieu, president of the the ultra-nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, wrote an article repeating and expounding on the hackneyed theme that English universities are over-financed.

Nationalists are forever spinning statistics and twisting facts to 'prove' that Francophones and Quebec institutions are under-financed, under-represented and generally screwed by Anglos and Ottawa.

I recently read a well-prepared, but nonsensical piece entitled "Equalization - an Urban Myth" - wherein the author goes to great lengths to prove that Quebec doesn't actually benefit from the annual seven billion fifteen billion dollar transfer payments from Ottawa!

Stephane Dion, while a member of Paul Martin's Liberal cabinet took on these nationalist propagandists in a clever series of public letters in which he demolished the myths that the sovereignists were spinning. His intellectual and fact supported arguments were so punishing that he became the hated foil of sovereignist intellectuals. Dion authored the famous 'Clarity Act,' a law that would force a future Quebec government to ask a clear and concise question in any future referendum.

He rightly accused the Quebec government of trying to fool Quebeckers in the last two referendums into voting YES by way of misleading and ambiguous questions. The law imposed honesty as a condition of Ottawa accepting any potential YES vote and it drove the sovereignists wild with rage. Dion's direct hard-nosed rebuttal of sovereignist fantasies, made him the most reviled Quebecker by sovereignists since Pierre Trudeau.

Mr. Beaulieu follows the fine Quebec tradition of using selective and misleading facts to arrive at the preconceived conclusions that he repeats ad nauseum.

In his latest missive, he blames this so-called under-funding as the principle cause of the recently revealed statistic, that shows that 40% less Francophones graduate from university than Anglophones.

His claim that English universities, representing an Anglo proportion of just 8.5% of the Quebec population, receive more than 2.7 times the financing that their demographic weight would entitle them to, sounds reasonable on the surface, but it is misleading on almost every level.

What Mr.  Beaulieu fails to mention is that despite Anglos representing just 8.5% of the population, the number of students attending English universities in Quebec is an astounding 38%!

Source: Wikipedia- University enrolment- Quebec

In Quebec language laws do not apply to university enrolment and anyone can choose to go to whatever university they choose to, provided that they are academically qualified. This is the meat of the matter, with language nationalists demanding that freedom of choice be removed and that Francophones and Allophones be refused entry into an English language university as per Bill 101.

What the two pie charts above show, is just how many Allophones and Francophones choose an English university. A remarkable 22% of McGill students are Francophone.

The problem is not that English universities are over-funded, it is that they are over-attended, in terms of demographics.

McGill and Concordia get funding commensurate to their student enrolment, just as French universities do.

The reality is, that despite what French nationalists demand, people do what is in their own best interest and for many Francophones attending a English university is the perfect recipe to a rounded education, one that will place them in an ideal position to deal with an international world, where English is a requirement for success.
What further infuriates militants, is that McGill with it's Ivy league and world reputation, attracts a good number of the very best and brightest Francophone students, eager to earn the valuable pedigree of a McGill diploma.

The issue of over-attendance is what sends militants into a rage, the idea that many Francophones students 'betray' their own demographic group in order to do the best for themselves.

Does going to an English University turn a Francophone into an Anglophone? I think not.
Someone who is born into a Francophone family, attends French school right up to high school isn't going to change his cultural roots because he has learned another language.

I spent thirty years working exclusively in French, travelling the province from one end to the other, to the point that during the working day, I would think in French.
But I remain an Anglophone and always will be.

Going to an English university doesn't turn a Francophone or an  Allophone into an Anglophone, but it does earn them advantages that non-English speakers miss and to militants, that is a problem.

What English language skills provide is opportunity. Some militants have even said it out loud, that going to an English school gives Francophones an opportunity to work outside Quebec,something that should not be encouraged.

If a Francophone wants to be promoted to the head office in Calgary, Toronto or New York, he or she needs to speak English. Ditto, if he or she aspires to a highly placed position in the Federal government or any type of international position.

In the old days it was said that in order to dominate women, one "Should keep them barefoot and pregnant"
Today that dictum is parallelled by nationalists that hold that Quebeckers should be kept "Unilingual and Isolated"

The issue comes down to a battle between personal freedom or collective obligation. Are Quebeckers by birthright obligated to follow a narrow French educational path dictated by nationalists, or do they have the right at some point, to chose their own destiny?
If so, at what age does a Quebecker earn the right to choose for him or herself?

Nationalists are furious that a great deal of people are not listening to their doctrine of isolation and unilingualism.
The question to be asked is what gives language nationalists dominion to impose their narrow isolationist view on others?

Should Quebec become a North Korea, where everyone's life path is determined by 'Dear Leaders" who 'know better?"

As to why Francophones in French universities don't have a high graduation rate, don't blame the English schools or the red herring of 'over-financing.'

The last I heard, places are going begging in French Universities and that in order to attract more students, admission standards have fallen so low, that you can successfully apply to get in with a graduation certificate from Driver's Ed! Some French universities are even starting to offer English courses, another anathema to language militants.

There is a big problem in the French educational system. The dropout rate is appalling. French universities operate at less than capacity and the graduation rate is just about the worst in Canada.

It has nothing to do with money, Anglophones or English universities.

Instead of blaming others, it's time for educators to face the reality that there is a cultural and/or educational problem in the French system that needs to be addressed instead of blaming Anglos and English Universities.


  1. 'McGill and Concordia get funding commiserate to their student enrolment, just as French universities do.'

    You mean 'commensurate' not 'commiserate' which has a whole different meaning.

  2. Richard;
    I think it has a life of it's own!!! Thanks.....