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The G8 University Summit, the Olympics and the Future of Public Education

by Myka Abramson

On May 21st , representatives from the leading universities of the G8 will arrive in Vancouver for the G8 University Summit. This is not the first time the University Summit has followed the Olympics: in 2009, Turin hosted the Summit three years after the 2006 Olympics.

Like the 2010 Winter Olympics, the G8 University summit markets itself as a project of sustainability and community development and like the Olympics, the legacy of the G8 University summit is one of privatization and corporatization.

In 2003, Gordon Campbell called the Olympics the “largest single public-private partnership [P3] initiative going in Canada.” P3s have long been a code word for the transfer of funds from public to private hands, and the University sector has been no exception.

Since Campbell gave that speech, tuition has sky-rocketed 52%; in 2004 the provincial grants programs was cut; this year they cut $16 million to student aid. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, “by 2011 tuition fees will be more revenue for the government than corporate income tax.”

Recently, Simon Fraser University developed a partnership with a private ESL college on its Burnaby campus and has become a partner in the Woodward’s building, which is part of a larger project of gentrifying and developing the Downtown Eastside.

The G8 University Summit is just another piece of this larger program of defunding, privatization, and gentrification.

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