How dare they!!! Oh… Here’s how

Don't complain about the British gov axing the Commonwealth scholarship program — Canada did the same thing in 2006

(UPDATED: In a more recent post, I follow up on, and to some extent contradict, the thesis of this post. Together they make for a delightful public-policy mystery, with more, I hope, to come.)

Jill Mahoney’s very good article about the threatened end of British Commonwealth scholarships for Canadian students gives considerable space to declarations of outrage from flustered Canadians (one CS recipient was Ed Greenspon) and a paragraph at the end with this note:

“In 2006, the Canadian government changed the terms of its Commonwealth scholarships, deciding to no longer fund full graduate programs for foreign students in Canada. It eventually chose to support postdoctoral research fellows and short-term graduate-level exchanges.”

To read comments on this post, or add to the discussion, CLICK HERE for original post.

I’m afraid that gnomic graf doesn’t quite capture the extent to which the Harper government short-sheeted aspirant British Commonwealth scholars immediately upon its election in 2006. I am reliably reformed that British officials, some of whom are adamant that the new decision by the Gordon Brown government is wrongheaded, also believe Canada has no leg to stand on because it pulled very substantially the same insular, thoughtless stunt in 2006. To wit:

August 2006

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK has been asked by representatives of the Canadian government to convey the following important information:

  • Due to a recent decision from the Government of Canada, Canada is not in a position to commit grant and contribution funding related to its international academic relations program, including Commonwealth scholarships to foreign students, beyond June 21, 2007.
  • Consequently, the traditional cycle for announcing and considering Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program’s award applications for the school year 2007/08 WILL NOT take place.
  • No formal decision has been taken yet about the fate of the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program beyond June 21, 2007.

As a result, CSCUK will no longer be accepting applications for scholarships tenable in Canada in 2007/08.

For further information, please contact

This website will be updated as soon as CSCUK receive any further information from the Canadian government.

There followed half a year of intensive lobbying by British officials, after which Canada reinstated Commonwealth Scholarships for post-docs only, not for PhD or Masters’ candidates.

Ahhhh yes. I do recall this Toronto Star story which flagged the decision ahead of time and gave credit to where it was due — the Hon. John Baird. The identity of the article’s author is poignant.

Ottawa poised to axe scholarships
Esteemed Fulbright program at risk
Tory senator calls decision `calamitous’
Jul. 28, 2006.

OTTAWA—The Harper government is poised to cancel federal funding for Canadian international academic programs, including Canadian participation in the Fulbright program, one of the most prestigious international scholarships.

The Treasury Board issued a decision on June 21 saying that instead of extending funding for academic relations at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for five years, it would do it for only one.

This means that $13.5 million in funding for international academic relations programs will expire on June 21, 2007.

Programs at risk include: $5 million for Commonwealth Scholarships; $600,000 for the Fulbright Foundation; support for the Canada-China Scholars Exchange Program; a program encouraging Mexican students to study in Canada; and all funding for Canadian studies programs abroad.

Treasury Board officials would not comment yesterday on the reasons for the decision.

However, Treasury Board President John Baird, a former Ontario cabinet minister, has in the past stressed the importance of keeping the federal government out of areas of provincial responsibility, and education falls under provincial jurisdiction.

It’s important to repeat that, while the Harper government did finally allow itself to be talked into restoring Commonwealth scholarship funding for post-docs, the program for Masters’ and doctoral students remains bye-bye.

So when Jennifer Humphries from the Canadian Bureau for International Education says, in Jill’s article, that the new British decision is “a slap in the face,” what she means is that it is the return of a slap in the face.

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