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Gabriel Miller

Universities Canada New CEO
MAR 14 2024

Gabriel Miller

Universities Canada New CEO


An experienced not-for-profit leader, Gabriel Miller has been named the President and CEO of Universities Canada (University Affairs’s publisher). Mr. Miller has held several senior leadership roles, including at the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. He has led highly effective coalitions, including one that resulted in the federal ban on asbestos announced in 2016 and the 10-year national infrastructure plan announced in 2013.

UA recently sat down with Gabriel Miller to discuss his new role and the current challenges facing Canadian higher education.

UA: What attracted you to Universities Canada?

Gabriel Miller: My own experience in university was life changing, and continues to benefit me to this day, 30 years after I first stepped on campus. And every time I step on a campus now I feel energized by the talent and the commitment and the diversity, and so the opportunity to work on behalf of these institutions, that means so much to me. That’s just too good an opportunity to pass up.

UA: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

Gabriel Miller: Millions of people are counting on universities to help them improve their lives. And my most important job will be to help universities be there for them. What does that entail? That means listening and learning from our members. That means supporting our staff and strengthening the services that Universities Canada provides. And more than anything, it means giving this community a strong national voice that will build the partnership with government we need to support Canadians.

UA: How will you use your advocacy expertise to help universities navigate this challenging time marked by increasing financial precarity and uncertainty?

Gabriel Miller: It’s a challenging moment, without a doubt, for the world, for Canada, and for our institutions. We’re seeing the cost of not thinking more long term in some of the public policy decisions we’ve made.  But it’s also a moment of tremendous opportunity because universities are so relevant to the challenges we’re facing.

First, there’s enormous wisdom and experience among university presidents and within their institutions, and I have to benefit from that as I develop my own recommendations and strategies for how we can move forward. Second, we will work with the community as a whole to remind the public and policymakers of our absolutely essential contribution to the well-being of the country and its future.

There’s no serious plan – to grow our economy, develop sustainable technologies, create the best opportunities for our children and new Canadians and to defeat the housing crisis – without universities right at the heart of it. If we remember that, and policymakers remember that, then the country’s ability to address all of these issues will be greatly strengthened. And I think our universities will not just be protected, but they’ll continue to grow in new ways.

UA: The competition for funding has become more challenging. How do you plan to position universities more on the government’s radar?

Gabriel Miller: The answer is to put good policy in terms that voters and policymakers will see has a lot of political power. Canadians understand that you don’t build institutions that drive a country forward in a day or a week or even a year. This is about a long-term project that benefits them, their children, and Canadians who live here now and who will live here in the future. This country is capable of long-term thinking and long-term action. In the early 90s, we had to confront difficult choices for the longer-term health of the country. Issues like climate change and housing require action over a long-term period. So a big part of our job is to draw the connection between what people care about in the long-term and closer collaboration between government and universities.

UA: Universities are also witnessing declining trust among the public and some politicians. How can they reverse that trend?

Gabriel Miller: the first thing to remember about the time we’re living through is how quickly things can change, so it’s important to have a long view of who we are and what our contribution is, and to demand in our relationship with government that their policies support that long view. Universities are part of the solution in a world that is struggling to maintain trust, when information can shoot around the globe in less time than it takes to type a tweet.

And we need to be open to dialogue about our universities. These are public institutions, and we need to send the message that they belong to all of us and that we are committed to open conversation about how these institutions perform their vital role in the country.

UA: In the current climate, how would you describe the weight of expectations for this role?

Gabriel Miller: More than any pressure I feel about my own performance in the role are the demands of this moment, which is a moment that’s important for the future of our institutions, but, more importantly, that’s critical moment for the future of the country.

10 years from now, we can be in a place where we have preserved and strengthened a network of universities that is a model for the world, where more Canadians are benefiting from a university education and our society is benefiting more from their contributions. But that’s also an opportunity we could miss.

This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

Daniel Halton
Daniel Halton is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Peter Halpin / March 15, 2024 at 08:45

    The Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) welcomes Gabriel to our sector and we look forward to continuing our close collaboration with Universities Canada under his leadership.

    His perspective as presented in this interview is insightful and augers well for a new phase of our universities working relationship with the federal government.

    All the best Gabriel and we look forward to meeting with you soon.

    Peter Halpin, Executive Director, AAU