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Reviewed by:
  • Canadian Federal Policy and Postsecondary Education
  • Billroy Powell
Donald Fisher Kjell Rubenson Jean Bernatchez Robert Clift Glen Jones Jacy Lee Madeleine MacIvor John Meredith Theresa Shanahan Claude Trottier. Canadian Federal Policy and Postsecondary Education. Vancouver, BC: The Centre for Policy Studies in Higher Education and Training (CHET), The University of British Columbia, 2005. 191 pp. Available online at

The monograph, Canadian Federal Policy and Postsecondary Education, traces the federal government’s role in policy development for postsecondary education over more than the past hundred years. In addition to this history, the authors identify the consequences and implications associated with federal policies with a specific focus on the government’s difficulty in directly intervening in or supporting postsecondary education. The reason for this difficulty is that the Canadian Constitution assigns responsibility for non-Aboriginal education to the provinces.

The authors point out that the link between economic development and postsecondary education creates opportunities for the federal government to intrude, albeit indirectly, on the jurisdiction of the provinces, an activity that chagrins the provinces. Further, the authors explain that, despite the provinces’ resolve to bar this jurisdictional intrusion, significant impetus for such interventions results from the federal government’s interest in scientific research and technological development as mediums to enhance economic growth and prosperity and to strengthen Canada’s ability to effectively participate in the global economy. One can understand the dilemma both levels of government face as a result of these circumstances: [End Page 432]

Canada may be the only nation in the developed world that has never had a national university or higher education act, or even a government minister assigned responsibility for higher education. The federal government does play an important role in higher education policy, but it is a role that has evolved through the dance of federal-provincial relations to the frequently discordant tune of Canada’s constitutional debate.

(p. 1)

The monograph is a compendium of data explicating the Canadian government’s policy toward higher education. The data are gathered from a variety of sources including government departments, agencies, and committees; interest groups, academics, task forces, commissions and postsecondary monitoring groups, and are analyzed, interpreted and presented for the benefit of those who (policymakers, graduate/postgraduate students) are interested in how federal and provincial government work to sustain a decentralized postsecondary education system.

The monograph/volume emerged from a broader research project called Alliance for International Higher Education Policy Studies that was funded by the Ford Foundation. The broader study was a comparative analysis of selected jurisdictions inside the North American Free Trade Agreement countries, so it focused on selected states in the United States and Mexico and three provinces in Canada (British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec). The Canadian component was led by Don Fisher of CHET at UBC. He also led the BC component. The Ontario component was essentially Theresa Shanahan and Glen Jones, and the Quebec component was led by Claude Trottier and his doctoral student Jean Bernatchez. CHET was the organizational home of the broader research project and of this volume, though the authors come from different institutions and collaborated on writing this volume on the federal perspective. Donald Fisher, KJell Rubenson, Robert Clift, Jacy Lee, Madeleine MacIvor, and John Meredith are at the University of British Columbia; Theresa Shanahan is at York University; Claude Trottier and Jean Bernatchez are at Université Laval; and Glen Jones is at OISE/University of Toronto.

Contextually, four themes permeate the monograph: (a) the federal government’s influence on postsecondary education in Canada and its struggle to gain recognition for its contributions, (b) the federal government’s support for economic development through research funding, (c) the federal government’s support for postsecondary students through loans, bursaries, and grants, and (d) the federal government’s attempt to bring industry and universities together to expand and solidify the scientific research community—thus, creating a greater role for the private sector—in the hope of encouraging these players to bear some of the funding responsibilities for research initiatives.

The monograph is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 provides the context for examining the history of the federal/provincial policy...


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pp. 432-433
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