Lab Canada

Lacklustre growth last year for sponsored research income at universities

Toronto, ON – Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities posted a lacklustre 3.5% growth in their total sponsored research income in fiscal 2007, according to Canada Top 50 Research Universities List 2008 released today by Research Infosource. This is the second lowest gain in nine years. Total research income reached $5.7 billion, up from $5.5 billion in fiscal 2006. Thirty institutions increased their income in 2007 and 20 reported declines. A drop in support from the corporate sector (-2.6%) and only small increases from government (2.7%) were mainly responsible for the slowdown in growth. Healthy increases in endowment/investment (14.0%), non-corporate (9.0%) and other income (24.8%) were not enough to overcome the downward trend. Provincial government funding (7.6%) couldn’t offset the lacklustre (0.5%) rise in federal government spending.

“The days of double-digit increases in annual growth in research income have clearly ended,” said Ron Freedman, CEO of Research Infosource. “But, in a year’s time, 2007’s 3.5% increase could well seem bountiful. Following eight years of unprecedented growth in research funding, universities may well return to a period of belt-tightening, putting off equipment and facility renewal and making do with less.”

The $100 million club

Sixteen universities, down from 17 last year, claimed membership in Research Infosource’s elite $100 million club, reserved for institutions with more than $100 million of research income in fiscal 2007. Nearly all club members, except University of Guelph and University of Waterloo, have medical schools that attract substantial research support. Nine of the 16 leaders saw their income grow in fiscal 2007 compared with seven universities where incomes dropped.

Following is a list of the universities whose research income exceeded $1 million in 2007, with information including rank placement, name of university, research income in 2007 and 2006 (in parenthesis) and percent change:

1 University of Toronto $854.8 million ($763.5 million) 11.9%
2 University of Alberta $461.4 million ($382.8 million) 20.5%
3 Universit de Montral $415 million ($447.2 million) -7.2%
4 University of British Columbia $401.27 million ($422 million) -4.9%
5 McGill University $375.74 million ($397.1 million) -5.4%
6 McMaster University $346.3 million ($331.6 million) 4.4%
7 Universit Laval $268.3 million ($258.9 million) 3.6%
8 University of Calgary $254.2 million ($262.2 million) -3.1%
9 University of Western Ontario $238 million ($226 million) 5.4%
10 University of Ottawa $229.2 million ($244 million) -6.1%
11 Queen’s University $213 million ($173.7 million) 22.7%
12 University of Manitoba $154.9 million ($139.6 million) 11%
13 University of Saskatchewan $150.5 million ($106.9 million) 40.8%
14 University of Guelph $132.9 million ($149.6 million) -11.2%
15 University of Waterloo $121.6 million ($127.5 million) -4.6%
16 Dalhousie University $111.5 million ($106.9 million) 4.3%

Regional picture

Three provinces’ universities recorded research income drops in fiscal 2007: British Columbia (-4.1%), Quebec (-2.4%) and Newfoundland (-2.0%). The strongest gains took place at universities in Saskatchewan (32.5%) and Alberta (10.7%). Ontario’s 18 institutions accounted for 42% of all income in fiscal 2007 and posted a (5.2%) increase in research income. Quebec institutions attracted 24% of total support and posted a (-2.4%) drop. Growth in research support at Quebec universities has lagged the national average for three consecutive years. Alberta’s three universities increased their share of the total to 13%, from 12% the prior year. Overall the nine universities in the Atlantic provinces did well, with only two institutions posting decreases, Memorial University of Newfoundland (-2%) and Nova Scotia Agricultural College (-1.2%).

Research universities of the year

Each year Research Infosource designates research universities of the year in three categories. These leading institutions stand out on a balanced scorecard of financial input and research publication output and impact indicators. This year, in the medical/doctoral category, University of Toronto in first place, McGill University in second and University of Alberta in third. University of Waterloo takes first place in the comprehensive category, followed by University of Guelph in second and University of Victoria in third. In the undergraduate category, Royal Military College of Canada is first, University of Northern British Columbia is second, and Brock University is third.

Spotlight on research income

This year Research Infosource shines the spotlight on universities that showed the largest income growth over a six-year period (fiscal 2002-fiscal 2007). In the medical/doctoral category, Memorial University of Newfoundland grew its research income by 116.7%, followed by University of Toronto (87.3%) and University of British Columbia (85.5%), compared with the category average of 50.2%. Simon Fraser University (126.4%), University of Victoria (84.7%) and University of New Brunswick (79.9%) all bested the comprehensive university average increase of 46.5%. University of Prince Edward Island led the undergraduate category, by expanding its research income by 153.8% in the period, followed by University of Northern British Columbia (144.5%) and Lakehead University (107.0%), compared with the undergraduate average of 56.2%.

Gainers and losers

Twenty-five of the Top 50 universities posted income growth higher than the national average of 3.5%. This group was led by Saint Mary’s University, which had an impressive 47.3% increase in research income in fiscal 2007. University of Saskatchewan (40.8%), Ryerson University (32.8%), Universit du Qubec Trois-Rivires (32.8%) and Universit du Qubec en Outaouais (32.0%) were standouts. Other universities did not fare as well in fiscal 2007, with double-digit drops at seven institutions: Laurentian University (-59.8%), Ecole de technologie suprieure (-41.9%), Trent University (-38.1%), University of Northern British Columbia (-13.3%) and Universit du Qubec en Abitibi- Tmiscamingue (-12.3%), University of Guelph (-11.2%) and University of Victoria (-10.7%)

Research intensity

The Top 50 universities managed only a 1.5% increase in research intensity – research income per full-time faculty position – compared with an increase of 3.9% in fiscal 2006. Slow income growth (3.5%) combined with a modest increase in faculty (1.9%) was the cause. On average, each Canadian university attracted $158,000 of research income per full-time faculty, compared with $155,600 the year prior. Leading the pack in fiscal 2007 was University of Toronto, which recorded $359,300 of research income per faculty. University of Alberta was next at $301,000. McMaster University was in 3rd place with $294,500 per faculty. Queen’s University followed in 4th position with $262,100 for each faculty.

The data were obtained from Statistics Canada and the Research Infosource Canadian University R&D database, and full data is available at