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How general university funds (GUF) fit in research and development statistics

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The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) collects and reports on statistics from its member countries for various subject matter fields. In order to properly compare these statistics, the OECD develops common concepts and measurement standards. For the field of research and development (R&D) statistics, the OECD’s proposed standard practice for R&D surveys is detailed in the Frascati Manual (OECD 2002). However, not all OECD countries’ national practices align with the Frascati Manual standards. The OECD receives Canadian R&D data from surveys conducted by Statistics Canada. While the general concepts of the Frascati Manual are integrated with Statistics Canada’s survey framework, national variations in reporting with the OECD still exist. One of these national differences in data presentation can be found in the allocation of public general university funds.

About this article
About the author

About this article

The Frascati Manual describes three types of funds which public universities typically draw upon to finance their R&D activities:

  • R&D contracts and earmarked grants received from government and other outside sources (such as businesses).
  • The university’s “own funds” from sources such as endowments, shareholdings and property, plus surplus from the sale of non-R&D services such as fees from individual students, journal subscriptions, et cetera.
  • General grants received from the Ministry of Education or from the corresponding provincial or local authorities in support of their overall research or teaching activities. For the purposes of international comparisons, the R&D content of these public general university funds is credited to the government as a source of funds.

  • Canadian data presented in this article are from Statistics Canada (2008), Gross Domestic Expenditures on Research and Development (GERD)  in Canada and the Provinces, 1997 to 2008, Catalogue no. 88-221-X, available here.

    Data from the OECD are at the OECD.Stat Extracts membership service.

    Many higher education institutions house R&D labs. Universities are recognized internationally as institutions that cultivate learning and development, with R&D forming an essential part of these activities. While many universities in Canada are publicly funded, they are not managed by a government body. Based on this concept of management, Statistics Canada uses the higher education sector to capture government funding earmarked for universities. However, since funding instruments such as general grants are obtained by universities at a government level, the OECD prefers to allocate these expenditures to the government sector in its own measures (see About this article).

    There are two ways to view expenditures in R&D: by performing sector; and by funding sector. Canadian data illustrate how much each sector performs (performing sector) by source of funds (funding sector). The sectors that perform in Canada are: federal government, provincial governments, provincial research organizations, business enterprises, higher education and private non-profit organizations. The sectors providing R&D funding are the same as those performing, with the addition of the foreign funding sector. The differing allocation in measuring GUF between Canada and the OECD influences the comparability of funding sector data for the higher education performing sector. Canadian statistics do not report GUF as a separate funding line item; instead the GUF value is combined with the higher education funding sector. Conversely, the OECD does report GUF as a separate line item. Table 1 demonstrates that the difference among funding sectors between Canada and OECD is attributable to GUF.

    Table 1 Higher education performing sector, 2002

    Table 1
    Higher education performing sector, 2002

    On the other hand, the OECD’s aggregate statistics combine GUF with the government funding sector to obtain total government funding. When aggregate Canadian and OECD statistics are compared within the higher education performing sector (Table 2), the OECD will always display a higher value for government funding and a lower value for higher education funding (with the inverse holding for Canada). These funding sector differences in the aggregate statistics can be confounding without having an understanding of how GUF is allocated in measures used by Statistics Canada and the OECD.

    Table 2 Aggregate statistics on higher education performing sector, 2002

    Table 2
    Aggregate statistics on higher education performing sector, 2002


    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2002. Frascati Manual, Paris.

    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Online Information Service (OECD OLIS). 2009. Gross Domestic Expenditure on R-D by Sector of Performance and Source of Funds,  February.

    Statistics Canada. 2008. Gross Domestic Expenditures on Research and Development in Canada (GERD) and the Provinces, 1997 to 2008. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 88-221-XWE.

    About the author

    Cindy Carter is with the Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division at Statistics Canada. For more information about this article, please contact