Glendon - English

Volume 7 - Issue 1 - Spring 2011

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NEW UNIVERSITIES FOR ONTARIO? Should we create new universities in Ontario dedicated exclu - sively to undergraduate studies? The answer is clearly yes, accor ding to four respected players in higher edu cation in Ontario in the book entitled Academic Transfor mation: The Forces Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario (Clark, Moran, Skolnik and Trick), published at the end of 2009. In arriving at their main recommendation, its authors – inclu ding David Trick who currently chairs the Alumni Association of Glendon College – outline various troubling observations about the current state of higher education in Ontario as well as its future outlook. As the authors explain, the Ontario postsecondary system has not evolved significantly since its introduction in the 1960’s. At the time of its creation, it was agreed that Ontario colleges would not award bachelor's degrees, and that universities would enjoy complete autonomy in developing their mission and goals. What was not anticipated at that time were the major changes that were about to occur. What are these changes? First, Ontario’s rate of enrolment in postsecondary education institutions is around 50% of the eli - gible population, which is accompanied by a mounting pres - sure that favours access to postsecondary education to disad - vantaged groups. Then, there is an increasing desire to improve the quality of education at the undergraduate level. Lastly, governments recognize that higher education and university research - funded by public money – is ‘among the most important elements in ensuring that the nation and province have the talent and innovation to successfully compete in the increasingly competitive international economy.’ (Clark et al, 17) IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCES In terms of participation, Ontario has moved from an elite uni - versity system to a near-universal one. Since 1973, an average of between 3,000 and 8,000 students have gone through Ontario colleges compared to an average of between 10,000 and 20,000 in universities. These are averages; the University of Toronto alone has over 60,000 students. Already feeling the effect of the double cohort since 2003, Ontario universities will now face the great challenge of another decade of significant growth in demand for their services. Notably, if we want mem - bers of disadvantaged groups to succeed in school, universities should dedicate more attention and resources to them than they have in the past. Governments have invested heavily in research facilities in all universities, especially in healthcare, science and engineering. In addition, they have demanded that universities develop strategic plans in terms of research. Over the years, every Onta - rio University has given itself almost the same mission in teaching and research. The duties of full-time faculty have now evolved, due to conflic - ting pressures to increase enrolment and obtain more research grants. The teaching loads for undergraduate studies have been reduced for full-time faculty in light of their increased commit - ment to research, while the average size of undergraduate classes have swelled. The proportion of undergraduate courses taught by temporary or part-time teachers (or lecturers) would now be about 50% in the largest faculties of some universities, which is counterproductive to maintain quality in under gra - duate teaching. The use of an increasing number of part-time teachers who lack the resources to do research is a clear vio la - tion of the principles that Ontario universities hold dear, namely that courses during the three years of undergraduate study should be taught by professors and researchers. In practice, for universities this has become financially impossible to offer. Faced with rising enrolment and the challenge of providing quality undergraduate instruction to a student population with more and more diverse needs, Ontario relies solely on a stan - dardized university network focused on research, comprised of postsecondary institutions that are among the most expensive Glendon Magazine 2011 ] 17 [ La Revue de Glendon 2011 NEW UNIVERSITIES FOR ONTARIO? article by: Michel Héroux

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