- Ontario announces an education framework
- 'Go on in school and get a good job' . . .
- . . . 'how we want the system to evolve'
- Chris Redmond
- Communications and Public Affairs
Ontario announces an education framework
The Ontario government has announced its long-awaited new plan for post-secondary education in the province, a five-year framework dubbed "Putting Students First".
The announcement came from John Milloy, the minister of training, colleges and universities (and MPP for Kitchener Centre), in a speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto. That's Milloy in the photo at left, making a visit to Waterloo in 2007.
The new provincial plan is a successor to "Reaching Higher", which was introduced in 2005 and expired last year. Like its predecessor, it includes some policy statements as well as a structure for the key financial issues: college and university operating grants and tuition fees.
The announcement comes in the context of a general election scheduled for October 6, in which Milloy's Liberal government, headed by premier Dalton McGuinty, will be challenged by the Progressive Conservatives (led by Tim Hudak) and the New Democratic Party (Andrea Horwath).
'Go on in school and get a good job' . . .
Supplemented by other investments we have made over the years, Reaching Higher has resulted in 60,000 more apprentices and 140,000 more students in the college and university system — all being taught in new classrooms, laboratories, libraries and training centres. Ontario can proudly say that it has the highest postsecondary attainment rate in the world.
Today I want to talk to you about the future — about the next step in the evolution of Ontario's postsecondary system and the new five year plan that our government is launching. It is called Putting Students First — and it is our response to what I believe is the basic goal of Ontario families when it comes to postsecondary education — a goal that can be summarized in one simple sentence: "I want my kids to go on in school and get a good job."
The cost of education is a key consideration in deciding whether to go on in school. Which is exactly why we have capped tuition fees, developed one of the most generous student assistance programs in the country, adopted a more flexible loan repayment program and mandated institutions to provide supplementary assistance to those in need.
No qualified student should ever be denied access to college or university due to financial circumstances. This is a commitment that has guided us for the last eight years and I want to assure you will continue to guide our approach to tuition and student aid policy in the future.
And finally, "going on in school" means that when they get there — to college or university — there has to be a space for them. Which is why, despite unprecedented fiscal challenges, our government has committed to fund the additional student spaces needed to meet enrolment growth over the next five years — estimated to be in the neighbourhood of 60,000 spots.
This is not just about operating dollars — the government is finalizing an infrastructure plan and for the first time in Ontario's history, colleges and universities will be part of the government's long-term capital funding commitments. We will start by focusing on immediate growth pressures while continuing to work with institutions to develop priorities for the medium and longer-term that are aligned with the province's overall needs.
But it is not simply about getting more students through the door. Once there, we have to ensure that they receive a high quality education that leads to meaningful employment.
Putting students first means they have access to a wide range of courses and programs and can move easily from institution to institution as well as between the college and university systems. That is why we have placed such an emphasis on establishing a more mature credit transfer system here in Ontario.
And quality is at the heart of Putting Students First. Students deserve a classroom experience that engages and challenges them in a way that gives them the needed skills for the new economy. One of the goals of the new strategy is to work with students, faculty and our institutions to identify and measure the essential elements of teaching excellence and see it improved across the board.
I want to make one thing clear. In linking postsecondary education to employment, I am in no way suggesting that the only programs worth pursuing are those that align directly with a career — as the proud holder of a doctorate in Modern History with a specialization in the Cold War, I remain a proud defender of the entire spectrum of studies including the arts and humanities.
But what is important is that every program — whether we are talking engineering and auto mechanics or philosophy and theology — is taught in way that gives students the needed skills to function in the new economy — as well as allowing them to recognize the many, many doors that their individual educational and training experience opens for them.
. . . 'how we want the system to evolve'
Individual colleges and universities focus their work on a variety of areas. For better or for worse, our approach to funding these institutions has been mainly on a per-student basis, meaning that one of the principal mechanisms to attract additional government support has been to grow.
The results have been exciting — tens of thousands of new students entering the system every year — new undergraduate and graduate programs, professional schools, satellite campuses and capital builds. And while we have welcomed this growth, it has not always occurred in a particularly well-planned way that always fully aligns with provincial interests or highlights areas of institutional excellence.
What if we had a serious and frank discussion with our colleges and universities on their future plans? Where should growth really take place? Who really needs new programming or professional and graduate schools? What is the individual mandate and purpose of each institution within the overall system? How can we help our colleges and universities use the tools of credit transfer and online learning to allow their students to access the best that other institutions have to offer? This is what our new plan proposes to do.
Beginning this fall, working with each college and university — and using the best third-party advice — we want to negotiate individual mandate and enrolment agreements as a first step to designing a framework of how we want the system to evolve based on the principles of quality, sustainability and most important — the best interests of students.
There is no question that every college and university should be able to offer a full range of core programming, particularly at the undergraduate and entry level. And there is no question that we need to see the continued growth of graduate studies as well as a strong research agenda within both the college and university sectors. But putting students first means focusing our resources on what each institution does best so that collectively they offer the maximum choice, flexibility and quality experience to Ontario students.
Take the issue of satellite campuses. Everyone agrees that the presence of a college or university can benefit an under-serviced community. But instead of communities and institutions self-identifying as the next location for a satellite, what if we turned the process around? What if government — with a careful eye on the province's growth plans — identified key areas that might be suitable for satellites and worked with interested parties to develop a model that would best benefit local students as well as preventing unnecessary competition from other colleges and universities that might be nearby?
That is only one example of the new approach we want to take. And yes, it means that government will have the right to say no to requests because they fail to align with system-wide priorities. But it will give Ontario students the reassurance that our system is evolving in a way that focuses on quality and excellence.
To complement these mandate agreements, we will also be negotiating a new round of multi-year accountability agreements with each college and university. These agreements will establish baselines and targets for each institution in key areas related to the goals of this new strategy, such as teaching excellence, and tie future funding to their achievement.
The way we fund is of course the final piece of the puzzle. The new approach we have outlined today will require a modernization of our funding formula away from one that simply rewards growth at all costs, to one that makes sure that we are achieving our goals in areas like teaching, overall quality and helping institutions fulfill long-term plans and mandates.
Funding formulas may appear to be a long way removed from the concerns of those who simply want their kids to go on in school and get a good job. Yet, if we can get it right, if we can continue to see our postsecondary system evolve in a way that rewards excellence and focuses on our strengths — it is going to result in significant benefits for students across Ontario.
In case of a postal strike
A memo from Carmen Jaray of Central Stores, which handles the university's mail: "Canada Post received notice that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers intends to begin strike activities at 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 2, 2011. In the event of a strike, Canada Post will not operate. Mail and parcels will not be delivered. All UW mail to the USA and foreign will still go through, but any Canadian mail will not. Central Stores will pick up the mail from your departments as usual and we will hold the Canadian mail here until the strike is over."
Link of the day
When and where
Warrior golfers at Canadian University/College Championships, Royal Ashburn Golf Club, through Thursday. Details.
Employee Assistance Program sponsors UW Campus Walk, May 9 to June 5, individuals and teams welcome. Details.
Co-op employer interviews for fall work term (main group) continue through June 16. Rankings open June 17 at 1:00, close June 20 at 2:00; match results available 4:00.
Library workshop: "Find Books and More" 10:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.
Career workshop: Business Etiquette and Professionalism, 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.
Library workshop: "Introduction to RefWorks” today 1:30 or Thursday 3:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.
Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Faculty Teaching Philosophies” 2:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.
Perimeter Institute lecture: Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, “Living Through Four Revolutions” 7:00, Waterloo Collegiate Institute. Details.
‘Introduction to Rails Development for Web Developers’ hosted by Federation of Students IT manager Eric Gerlach, 7 p.m., Student Life Centre room 2143. RSVP .
Conrad Grebel University College presentation of building plans 7:30 p.m., Grebel great hall.
East Campus Hall electrical power shutdown Thursday 6 to 6:30 a.m.
Children’s show: Judy & David, “JiggiJump” Thursday 10:00 and 1:00, Humanities Theatre.
Country presentations: St. Maarten, Thursday 12:00 noon, Needles Hall room 1116.
Propel Centre lecture: Rob Sanson-Fisher, University of Newcastle, Australia, “Bridging the Evidence Gap” Thursday 1:00, Lyle Hallman Institute room 1621.
‘The Rogers Story’ presentation by Nadir Mohamed, president of Rogers Communications, Thursday 2:00, Davis Centre room 1350.
Career workshop: Work Search Strategies, Thursday 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.
VeloCity venture fund finals, Thursday 4:00, Student Life Centre great hall.
Waterloo Public Interest Research Group volunteer workshop: “Principles of Inclusivity” Thursday 5:00, Student Life Centre room 2135.
Midnight Sun X solar car unveiling Friday 11 a.m. (car appears at noon), Engineering 5 first floor.
Spring Rainbow Social for LGBTQQ faculty and staff and allies, Friday 4:30 to 6 p.m., University Club Burgundy Room.
International Development student fundraiser: Roy Sesana, Botswana medicine man, speaks (with interpreter) on land claims issues in the Kalahari, Friday 7 p.m., Davis Centre room 1350. Donation requested.
Bike repair workshops sponsored by WPIRG and Bike Centre, June 4 and 18, noon to 5 p.m., Student Life Centre room 101A. Details 519-888-4882.
Department of English debate: author Christopher Hitchens and academic Barry Brummett, “Religion, as a literary value, is a force for good” Saturday 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets $20 from Humanities box office; part of Literature, Rhetoric and Values conference.
Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 sponsored by Waterloo Global Science Initiative , June 5-9.
President’s Golf Tournament in support of Athletics Excellence and Awards Fund, Monday, Westmount Golf and Country Club. Details.
Keystone Campaign picnic, Tuesday 11:30 to 1:30, Graduate House green (rain location: Student Life Centre).