Canada's Top 50 Research Universities 2023

Research Income Plummets

Research income at Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities declined by -2.6%, between Fiscal 2021 and Fiscal 2022 to a combined $9.05 billion. This is only the second time in more than 20 years that the Top 50 universities reported a decline in overall research income. (The previous time was in Fiscal 2014, when research income fell by -1.6%.) Research income expanded at 24 universities and declined at 26 others. In FY2022, average faculty research intensity – research income per faculty member – was $219,100, a decrease of -3.8% over FY2021. Graduate student research intensity – research income per graduate student – was $39,600, a decline of -7.6%.

The FY2022 result was mainly due to a significant drop in Total Federal Government funding (down -9.3% to $4.33 billion). Research funding received from SSHRC (down -23.6% to $352.5 million), NSERC (down -11.8% to $925.8 million) and CIHR (down -0.1% to $1.17 billion) all shrank. However, funds received from CFI increased over the period (up 7.9%). Total Provincial Government research funding also was up this year by 5.6% to $1.28 billion mainly due to increased funding from the British Columbia and Quebec Governments (up 17.3% and 14.2% respectively). In contrast, funding from the Ontario Provincial Government was down significantly (-12.5%). Research funding from Municipal and Foreign Governments both reversed themselves in FY2022, returning to positive growth of 45.3% and 23.0% respectively. Corporate research funding continued to disappoint, falling by -3.2% to $1.06 billion year-on-year. Not-for-Profit funding, however, was a bright spot, increasing by 8.3% to $1.76 billion.

$100 Million Club

Research Infosource salutes the 21 universities that gained membership in the prestigious $100 Million Club – institutions that attracted $100 million or more of research income in FY2022. However, the disappointing Top 50 overall situation was mirrored in Club members’ results; their combined research income dropped by -4.4% during the period, more than the national average. Research income fell at 13 of the Club institutions. Additionally, with one university dropping off, the remaining members’ share of Top 50 research income dropped to 89% of the total in FY2022 from 91% in FY2021. 

University Tiers

The combined research income at the 16 Medical universities fell by -3.0% to $7.29 billion in FY2022, as did the research income at the 11 Comprehensive universities (down -4.5% to $1.20 billion). Research income at 21 Undergraduate institutions on the other hand, posted an overall increase of 6.0% to $433.3 million and accounted for 5% of the total, up from 4% in FY2021.

The top universities in each tier as measured by research income were: University of Toronto (Medical tier, $1.34 billion, 1st place overall), University of Waterloo (Comprehensive tier, $196.3 million, 14th overall) and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (Undergraduate tier, $47.5 million, 28th overall).

Research Income Growth

Overall, in FY2022, 24 universities recorded gains in research income versus 26 where research income dropped. This compares with FY2021 when 45 universities posted research income growth versus only five where research income fell.

The Medical tier leader standout on research income growth was Université de Sherbrooke (19.9%). University of Victoria led the Comprehensive tier (18.5%) and Laurentian University was the Undergraduate tier and overall research income growth leader (57.6%).

Faculty Research Intensity

In FY2022, faculty research intensity – research income per faculty position – was $219,100, down -3.8% from FY2021. The leading full-service university winners included: University of Toronto (Medical), which topped the ranking for faculty research intensity ($483,100 of research income per faculty) and was joined by other tier leaders University of Guelph (Comprehensive, $194,200) and Université du Québec à Rimouski (Undergraduate, $168,900).

Graduate Student Research Intensity

Graduate student research intensity – research income per graduate student – was also down -7.6% in FY2022. On average, Top 50 graduate student research intensity was $39,600, compared to $42,800 in FY2021. Winners by category were: University of Alberta (Medical tier $71,300 research income per graduate student), University of Guelph (Comprehensive tier, $52,100) and University of Winnipeg (Undergraduate tier, $61,800).
  Top Universities by Tier FY2022
Research Income
Rank Medical $000
1 University of Toronto $1,341,082
2 University of British Columbia $737,129
3 McGill University $699,204
Rank Comprehensive $000
1 University of Waterloo $196,267
2 University of Guelph $163,541
3 University of Victoria $146,650
Rank Undergraduate $000
1 Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières $47,480
2 Laurentian University $39,784
3 Université du Québec à Rimouski $36,144
Research Income Growth
(% Change FY2021-FY2022)
Rank Medical %
1 Université de Sherbrooke 19.9
2 University of Alberta 7.8
3 Dalhousie University 3.8
Rank Comprehensive %
1 University of Victoria 18.5
2 Concordia University 15.4
3 York University 5.6
Rank Undergraduate %
1 Laurentian University 57.6
2 Thompson Rivers University 29.9
3 Université TÉLUQ 24.4
Faculty Research Intensity
($ per Faculty)
Rank Medical $000
1 University of Toronto $483.1
2 McMaster University $407.3
3 McGill University $382.5
Rank Comprehensive $000
1 University of Guelph $194.2
2 University of Victoria $188.3
3 University of Waterloo $160.6
Rank Undergraduate $000
1 Université du Québec à Rimouski $168.9
2 Laurentian University $167.2
3 Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue $134.0
Graduate Student Research Intensity
($ per Graduate Student)
Rank Medical $000
1 University of Alberta $71.3
2 McGill University $69.8
3 McMaster University $68.5
Rank Comprehensive $000
1 University of Guelph $52.1
2 University of Victoria $48.1
3 University of Waterloo $30.4
Rank Undergraduate $000
1 University of Winnipeg $61.8
2 Laurentian University $40.0
3 Université du Québec à Rimouski $28.0
  1. Based on full-service universities on the 2023 Top 50 Research Universities list.

  Top 50 – Leading Provinces
 Province % of Total   
 Ontario (18) 37      
 Quebec (14) 28      
 Alberta (3) 12      
 British Columbia (5) 12      

Provincial Performance

In FY2022, 18 Ontario universities attracted 37% ($3.39 billion) of the national research income total, down from 39% in FY2021. Quebec’s 14 institutions garnered 28% ($2.54 billion) of the Top 50 total, up from 27% the year prior. Three Alberta universities had 12% of research income ($1.12 billion), the same proportion of the total as in FY2021. British Columbia’s five institutions also attracted 12% of all research income ($1.05 billion), up from 11% in FY2021.

Disappointingly, 14 out of the 18 universities in Ontario saw their overall Ontario research income decline in FY2022, posting a combined -6.9% decrease over FY2021. Although only three out of the 14 institutions in Quebec reported negative research income growth, their combined growth was up just 1.0% over the year prior. Alberta’s institutions posted a combined 4.1% growth over FY2021. In British Columbia the combined research income growth was virtually flat over the year prior (0.7%), as was the combined research income for the six universities located in Atlantic Canada (0.4%).

Research Universities of the Year

Research Infosource has designated 3 institutions as Research Universities of the Year 2023 in their respective categories: University of Toronto (Medical), University of Waterloo (Comprehensive) and Ontario Tech University (Undergraduate). These institutions demonstrated superior performance on key measures of research success.

This Year and Next

There is no way to sugar-coat the FY2022 result; university research funding had a very bad year, only the second time in recent memory where funding declined. Some of this can perhaps be attributed to a tapering of emergency research funding in response to COVID-19. Regardless, combined with rising inflation across the economy, that can only mean a sharp drop in purchasing power for the available resources.

Funds received from the Federal Government fell sharply. Federal granting agency funding was down by -6.6% in total and by -8.7% considering only the three core funding agencies (i.e., excluding the Canada Foundation for Innovation). CFI funding was up by 7.9%. Funding through the Canada Research Chairs program was down by -11.2%. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council outlays – which include a substantial element of Tri-Council money – fell a hefty -23.6%.

Funding of university research by Corporations was down by -3.2%, on the heels of a drop of -4.1% the prior year. This can only bode poorly for the country’s long-term economic prospects.

Provincial research funding results – an overall rise of 5.6% – masked a deep divide. Whereas research funding available to its universities through the Province of British Columbia jumped by 17.3% and Quebec Government funding was up 14.2%, Ontario Government funding declined a precipitous -12.5%. Alberta Government funding rose by a modest 3.5%.

The only “winners” in FY2022 were the Undergraduate universities, where research income rose by a combined 6.0% in total, versus declines of -3.0% at the Medical universities and -4.5% at the Comprehensive institutions.

In short, little went right on the research funding scene last year and much of that is down to the Federal Government. So, recent cries for more funds from many university presidents are strongly grounded. At this stage new funding is needed simply to address the funding deficit. However, these calls come against the backdrop of pressure to reduce federal spending, not increase it.

Needless to say, governments are facing many competing funding demands from different parts of society. It will be interesting to see whether next year’s budget will prioritize university research funding or whether universities are in for a new era of belt tightening.