Scholars and Dollars: Politics, Economics, and the Universities of Ontario 1945-1980


270 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-8020-5609-1





Reviewed by P.J. Hammel

P.J. Hammel is a professor of Education at the University of


“The two distinct objects of university education are mental culture and practical utility. In recent years the latter has steadily gained upon the former owing to the utilitarian character of the age and the increased expenditures have doubtless been chiefly responsible for the development of this branch of instruction”; thus the Report of the Royal Commission on the University of Toronto in 1906 characterized the prevailing perception of the university in Ontario. In this detailed study, Paul Axelrod traces the changing role of the university in the economic life of the province and the nature of public financial support of higher education. Axelrod develops and documents the argument that as long as Canadians perceived universities to be contributing directly to economic growth and individual prosperity, they accepted the principle of increased public funding for the operation and expansion of those universities. However, during periods of serious economic decline, universities were accused of failing to relate education to the real needs of the community and public expenditure in support of higher education was questioned and often curtailed. The irony of the situation was that universities, for their very existence, were forced to exploit a system to which their destinies were inextricably bound but which they could not control. Hence, the current dilemma facing all universities: how to develop effective and accountable fiscal policies while dependent on an economic system that prefers no plan.

This work, an outgrowth of Axelrod’s doctoral dissertation at York University, is the fourth in “The State and Economic Life” series which examines the role of government in shaping various aspects of the economy. Obviously the result of a vast amount of scholarly research, the final product is an interesting and readable account of an extremely complex area. Axelrod has successfully translated his dissertation into a work that will have an appeal beyond the confines of university departments of history and higher education.


Axelrod, Paul, “Scholars and Dollars: Politics, Economics, and the Universities of Ontario 1945-1980,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,