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Provincial budget reports: Ontario and Quebec

Both provinces have faced criticism from university groups for underfunding the sector in recent years.


As the new fiscal year gets underway, Canadian provinces and territories have rolled out their spending plans for 2024-25. University Affairs scoured each of the budget documents and extracted what has been earmarked for the higher education sector. Below is a summary of what the Ontario and Quebec university communities should know. We have also done budget summaries of the Atlantic provinces, the western provinces and Yukon, as well as the Prairies.


Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives tabled their budget for the province on March 26. The government will spend $12.2 billion on the postsecondary education sector in 2024-25, an increase of $100 million over last year. The budget includes the previously announced $1.3 billion over three years, but no new funding for universities. The province also announced it will extend its tuition freeze on domestic tuition, in place from 2019, for another three years.

The government is providing $903 million over three years beginning in 2024-25 to create a Postsecondary Education Sustainability Fund. The investment will increase operating grants, including $203 million in targeted support for publicly assisted colleges and universities with the greatest financial need.

The province is also setting aside $15 million over the same period to implement an Efficiency and Accountability Fund that will “fund third-party reviewers to identify actions that [postsecondary] institutions can take to drive long-term cost savings.” The reviews will target structural issues and operational policies that the government says will “improve sustainability and the student experience.”

A month before the budget announcement, the province tabled the Strengthening Accountability and Student Supports Act which would authorize the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop, to direct universities to provide information about ancillary services and costs. If passed, the legislation would require universities to have mental health policies in place as well as policies “to address racism and hate, including but not limited to antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

Ontario’s budget also includes:

  • $130 million for infrastructure improvements at colleges and universities
  • $128 million over three years beginning in 2024-25 to increase enrolment for registered nurses and registered practical nurses at colleges and universities
  • $47.4 million to improve aging infrastructure for two advanced research computing systems (ARCs), otherwise known as supercomputers, at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo
  • $10 million in 2024-25 for small, northern and rural colleges and universities
  • $9 million in start-up funding to support the development of a new medical school at York University dedicated to family medicine


The $1.3 billion in previously announced funding is less than half of what was recommended by a government appointed blue ribbon panel in November, leading the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) to give the budget a failing grade. In a statement, OCUFA President Nigmendra Narain also criticized the $15 million in funding for third-party reviewers, accusing the government of “giving gifts” to private consulting firms to review data that is already provided to the government from universities, which he noted are “highly efficient in their operations.”

Steve Orsini, president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), said that after more than a decade of declining provincial grants, increased demands on universities, a 10 per cent tuition cut and what will be an eight-year long tuition freeze, as well as a federal cap on international students, “Ontario’s universities are now at a breaking point.” He added that universities “will have no choice” but to cut programs, services and support for students. The statement from COU noted at least 12 universities are projecting deficits in 2024-25, up from eight the year prior, for a combined total of $293 million.


On March 12, the Coalition Avenir Quebec presented its sixth annual budget for the province. It expects to spend $11 billion on postsecondary education in 2024-25, a 3.5 per cent increase from 2023-24. The government announced $420.5 million over five years to promote success in higher education, of which $370 million comes from budgetary reallocations in funding for university facilities.

For 2024-25, the government earmarked:

  • $25 million to improve graduation rates and retention of university students in Quebec
  • $8 million targeted to improve graduation rates in energy and other provincial priority fields, support teacher training, and support digital transformation of CEGEPs
  • $1.5 million to increase student housing and maintain building inventory

The CAQ will be unveiling a new university funding policy in Spring 2024 which it says will address the “changing context since 2018” in the province. The budget states the policy will consider how universities contribute to the provincial labour supply, the vitality of French in Quebec and the strength of universities’ research and innovation “from an economic standpoint.”


In response to the budget, the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI) released a statement highlighting the absence of reinvestment in the university network and noting that university spending only increased by 1.6 per cent from the year prior. According to BCI, in order for the government to achieve its priorities in higher education, $1 billion in recurring funding in the medium-term would be necessary.

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