From the desk of the Principal

In recent days and months, there has been considerable comment--both in the media and within the McGill community--with regard to the potential "privatization" of universities.

All universities should, of course, serve public purposes. The use of the term "privatization" refers, therefore, not so much to purpose as to funding arrangements. In this sense, "public" universities are those funded primarily--although never completely--by government, while "private" universities are those funded to a much greater extent by student tuition and/or philanthropy.

All Quebec universities are public institutions not only as to purpose but also as to funding arrangements. That is, although all the Quebec universities are also funded by, for example, student tuition, research councils and private gifts, the major partner is the provincial government which generally provides approximately four-fifths of the operating budget.

The current interest in "privatization" is, in reality, an interest in redefining the partnership as between the government and other participants in the light of the apparent inability of the government to continue to support universities at a level that would provide--at one and the same time--for both quality and access. We must therefore seek alternative sources of funding, although I do not find the idea of McGill as a fully privatized university either practicable or desirable.

My own guiding principle in these discussions is and will be the maintenance and, where possible, the enhancement of the quality of our academic programs in a context in which it is not at all clear that excellence is itself a guiding principle of government policy. My expectation is that we will continue to test new funding models as such opportunities arise so that we can not only maintain the academic value of our programs but also increase our understanding of the consequences of such models in the Quebec and Canadian environment.

I must emphasize, however, that from the point of view of students now enrolled at McGill, we need to be clear that although tuition may rise in the not too distant future, I do not envision increases so substantial as to threaten the students' ability to complete the programs in which they are presently enrolled.