Will groups see eye to eye at higher education summit?
Published Saturday, February 23, 2013 6:36PM EST
Two days before it begins, there seems to be little optimism that both sides will come away happy from Quebec’s much anticipated higher education summit this week.
Hot-button issues including tuition and accessibility to higher education were on the table as groups attending the summit presented their positions Saturday.
Many groups -- from university rectors, to students, to unions -- will be sitting at the table, with many opinions for the government to consider.
Inside the arsenal in Griffintown on Monday and Tuesday, 60 representatives will discuss the future of higher education in the province.
Teachers’ unions made their pitch Saturday to improve post-secondary education. A tuition freeze to promote accessibility was the main focus.
Leaders of teachers unions are standing with their students leading into Monday's summit, echoing a tuition freeze and promoting greater accessibility to higher education.
“We need more discussion on how universities are financed,” said Louise Chabot, president of teachers’ union Centrale des syndicats du Québec
Students brought the province to its knees last year with huge crowds protesting tuition hikes.
Now the Parti Québecois has its chance to find solutions to finance post-secondary education.
The student group Asséhas said it will boycott the summit, and have pledged to organize a protest on the second day of the event.
Police have already warned those in the area to expect traffic disruptions.
Meantime, other student groups will attend, including the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec.
“I think we can have solutions and again it depends on the debate,” said Martine Desjardins, president of FEUQ.
Students are hoping for the following measures:
- Maintain the current freeze on tuition
- Create a university council to review school administration
- Create reforms on how schools are financed
- See improvements to the financial aid systems.
The PQ said it will propose tuition increases tied to the cost of living.
Liberal education critic Gerry Sklavounos said the PQ will have a tough fight over tuition rates and recent funding cuts.
“It's $250 million in cuts over two years. They're devastating, they're difficult for the universities. They can't handle them,” he said.
Many entering the summit are hoping that solutions can be reached, but with large disagreements between many of the parties on key issues, it's unlikely everything can be fixed in two days.
“At best, we can hope for further discussion, for further table of discussion on several issues and at the worst we can expect none of the consensus,” said Desjardins.