Print Edition: April 1, 2015
When UCFV was given university status in 2008, the BC Ministry of Advanced Education labelled it a “regional university,” one that provides graduates to fill the needs of the surrounding region. This differentiates it from “research universities,” like UBC and SFU, which have an intensive focus on research used for the world outside their regions.
This status affects how much funding UFV receives from the government. According to the Ministry of Advanced Education’s 2015 budget letters, UFV received over $52 million in operating grants for 6,600 FTEs (full-time equivalent students) compared with UBC, who received over $583 million for 42,000 FTEs. This difference is almost $6,000 more per FTE for operational funding at UBC.
UFV’s understanding with the government is to be focused on undergraduate study and to serve the economic needs of the surrounding region: the Fraser Valley. UFV addresses this as part of its strategic goals, saying that it aims “to be a leader of social, cultural, economic, and environmentally responsible development in the Fraser Valley.”
Despite UFV’s mandate as a teaching-intensive university, Director of Research Services and Industry Liaison Brad Whittaker writes in an email that this doesn’t stop faculty and students from conducting research.
“There are many departments whose faculty and students conduct research,” he states.
He says that sciences, social sciences, humanities, health sciences, professional studies, and applied and technical skills departments all have faculty conducting research.
“Students not only start their research at UFV, they complete it and some become co-authors of papers accepted by peer-reviewed journals. Other students get accepted to present their research at conferences, locally, nationally and internationally.”
Even with similar research opportunities, there is a difference between the funding given for research at different universities. UBC received over $564 million in research funding for the 2013-14 fiscal year. UFV also looks to external sources for funding, but does not receive close to the amount UBC does. For 2014-15, UFV budgeted $3.4 million for research — less than one third of that came from the government.
Despite this, research remains a crucial part of the learning at UFV. As part of the UFV 2010-2015 Strategic Research Plan, the university aims to increase the support for student research in the way of paid research assistantships and supporting student research presentations at conferences. UFV also aims to increase faculty involvement in research and to increase the success rate of securing funding for their research.
However, the main goal of a regional university is to provide graduates that meet local employment needs. UFV’s present mandate, as a teaching-intensive university with a special focus on trades and technical skills, meets these requirements in many ways. But to grow opportunities for student research, Whittaker says UFV will have to look at other sources of funding.
“UFV, like other post-secondary institutions, cannot provide the level of funding required to carry out a program of research over a period of time and must look to external sources,” he says. He adds that funding can come from local government, corporations, individuals, and research foundations.