Donations to Quebec universities have increased more than 72% in 10 years. Not surprisingly, McGill brings in almost as much as all other universities combined. But the francophone establishments are also showing significant growth.
In 2020-21, donations to universities totaled more than $237 million, according to the Department of Higher Education The press. This amount excludes donations to the Polytechnique Montréal and the École national d’administration publique.
This is an increase of more than 72% compared to donations raised by the university network in 2010-2011, or $137 million.
“It’s often said that Quebecers don’t have a philanthropic tradition, but I think that’s changing,” says François Gélineau, Vice Rector for International Affairs and Sustainable Development. Head of Philanthropy at Université Laval.
Université Laval has just completed a record year: over $70 million in philanthropic commitments (some donations are spent over multiple years).
Ditto for the University of Quebec in Montreal, which in November completed a major fundraising campaign launched in 2018 totaling nearly $119 million. Almost half of the 52,000 donations came from new donors.
“There is a stronger increase in donations, but this generally follows the increase in overall university spending and revenue streams,” Martin Maltais, professor of funding and education policy at the University of Quebec, nuances about Rimouski.
McGill, way ahead of the others
Which is gradually changing, it is the more sustained commitment of graduates from French-speaking universities, Mr Maltais argues.
“It has to be said that 30 years ago there was less wealth among Francophones who went to university,” he says.
However, it is still a long way to the level of some English-speaking universities.
Unsurprisingly, McGill is the institution that raises the most funds by far. In 2020-2021, the English-speaking establishment amassed more than 117 million, almost as much as all other universities combined. For illustration, this equates to $3,485 per student compared to $987 per student at the Université de Montréal (UdeM).
However, the growth of McGill and all other universities follows a similar trend. Despite this, UdeM, HEC Montreal and Polytechnique Montreal combined are gradually closing the gap, with a 102% increase over the last 10 years.
“We don’t hesitate to ask, and it’s a cultural change that we’re trying to make,” says Michael Pecho, vice rector for alumni relations and philanthropy at the Université de Montréal.
Last year, UdeM raised $222 million in philanthropic pledges — a record. This includes the major donation of 159 million from the Courtois Foundation for basic scientific research. This is the largest donation ever made to the Université de Montréal and the third largest donation to a university in the country.
In the past year alone, several universities have announced multimillion-dollar megadons — a tradition that’s well-established in the United States and the rest of Canada but is more recent in French-speaking institutions in Quebec.
“A certain imbalance”, regrets the UEQ
The Québec Student Union (UEQ) complains about “a certain imbalance” in the donations that the “more prestigious” universities receive. “Some faculties also receive more donations,” criticizes their president, Samy-Jane Tremblay.
Quebec has a public program that aims to increase university donations by almost 50%. And to encourage them to set more ambitious goals in philanthropy.
The total amount of Matching Scholarships awarded to universities under this program is $25 million per year. Note that small universities receive more money per dollar raised than large institutions.
Nevertheless, “there are significant differences between the various institutions. Is Quebec’s role to encourage this inequality, or should it seek to mitigate it? [dans une logique redistributive, par exemple] ? It’s an important consideration,” stresses Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant, professor of public finance at the National School of Public Administration and co-author of the book Demystification of the university financing formula.
According to him, we must also question the effectiveness of the program. “If philanthropy had been like that [sans celui-ci]”Maybe we should use this public money differently,” he adds.
“Donations are innovation”
Philanthropy makes up a tiny portion of university income, but it’s an essential supplement, the institutions argue. “Donations are innovation,” summarizes Michael Pecho.
Donations (especially Megadons) make it possible to fund bold research projects that otherwise would not have received public funding. They are also used to create scholarships or build teaching infrastructure.
“Philanthropy plays an important role. This is our development lever,” emphasizes François Gélineau.
However, universities must put in place mechanisms to avoid, according to Martin Maltais, “putting themselves at the service of interests that are contrary to Quebec’s fundamental missions”.
With Francis Vailles, The press