OCUFA: Update on Ontario Government Consultations on Postsecondary Education (30 Jun 2012)

Dear Colleagues:

As you may know, on Thursday, June 28, 2012, OCUFA President Constance Adamson and OCUFA staff met with Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities Glen Murray. The purpose of the meeting was for the Minister to present a discussion paper on reform to Ontario’s postsecondary sector, “Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge: A discussion paper on innovation to make our university and college system stronger. Minister Murray also outlined a consultation process on the discussion paper which will take place throughout the summer of 2012, in which OCUFA will participate.  The proposals contained within the paper (linked and summarized at the end of this message) roughly correspond to ideas floated by the government over the past few months.

In addition to being somewhat vague (normal for a discussion paper of this kind), it should be stressed that none of these proposals are active policies for implementation. Rather, they are ideas that the Minister wishes to explore through the consultation process. It appears that the government has backed away from the prescriptive nature of previous reform announcements. For example, instead of “60 per cent of undergraduate education online”, the government seems more interested in expanding online options without forcing institutions or students to use them. Likewise, the proposal to create three-year degrees has been modified to suggest that a renewed three-year option be offered alongside traditional four year programs as an additional student option.

Despite this more exploratory stance, OCUFA continues to have significant concerns with many of these proposals, and will work hard to ensure the faculty perspective will be clearly heard throughout the consultation process.

The Minister indicated that a series of roundtables will be held on the discussion paper, including four half day sessions in the GTA and full day sessions in the North, East and West of Ontario. Each stakeholder group is also invited to provide a written submission, and OCUFA plans to take full advantage of this opportunity. The roundtables have not yet been scheduled. Once we have more information, we will be in contact to provide the latest details and coordinate our participation.

Many of you are also aware that the Minister met with the University Presidents on Wednesday, June 27, 2012. The purpose of the meeting was again to introduce the discussion paper and the consultation process. In addition, the Minister asked each executive head to consult with students, staff, and faculty on their campuses to establish “institutional priorities” that will be part of the new Multi-Year Accountability Agreements (MYAAs). You should be hearing from your president soon on this consultation process. If you do not, I encourage you to contact your president and inquire about his or her plans for consultation.

The discussion paper is organized into five general areas, each with several proposals for discussion:

1. Innovation to drive system transformation

a. Expanded credential options and supplements

i. Supporting flexible degree structures that provide new learning options made possible by advancements in technology
ii. Developing revitalized , labour market-focused three-year degrees that could include specific experiential learning opportunities
iii. Exploring the creation of a provincial credential supplement to facilitate labour market credential recognition and transferability between jurisdictions

b. Credit transfer, credential compatibility, and student mobility

i. Make 100 per cent of first- and second-year introductory and core courses fully recognized across institutions
ii. Provide new and enhanced tools for the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) to assist student in achieving academic success sooner
iii. Develop a better credit transfer system to enhance student mobility between and among institutions, including between colleges and universities
iv. Evaluate establishing “Bologna compatible” credentials to improve international mobility of Ontario graduates

c. Year-round learning

i. Moving to a full trimester (Fall, Winter, Summer) system at Ontario universities and colleges, with the goal of increasing choice and flexibility for students and reducing per-student costs

2. Quality teaching and learning outcomes

a. Consider more widespread implementation of the Collegiate Learning Assessment (http://www.collegiatelearningassessment.org/index.html) or other similar assessment tools to measure the achievement of desired learning outcomes and skills
b. Consider flexible provisions for the teaching and research balance of faculty
c. Encourage the establishment of teaching and learning centres to promote and support a culture of teaching.
d. Develop benchmarks for the sector, including building on the current college Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure growth in outcome-based learning.

3. Technology-enabled learning opportunities

a. More widespread use of technology in the classroom
b. Revamping the vision for the Ontario Online Institute to provide Ontario students with online degrees and diploma options to serves students who prefer to learn online, lifelong learners, and students with dependents who are unable to easily attend physical campuses/

4. Creating a tuition framework that is fair for students and institutions

a. Creation of a multi-year tuition framework that balances affordability for students and families with institutional revenue needs, and recognize the public and private benefits of higher education.

5. Entrepreneurial and experiential learning

a. Find ways to make “incubators” and entrepreneurship mentoring centres more financially sustainable.
b. Work with institutions to create better links and build relationships with employers, investors, and community partners to increase opportunities for experiential learning
c. Expand co-op and work-integrated learning options to make future Ontario students more career and job ready than ever before
d. Work with institutions to increase sector awareness of the benefits of experiential learning and to provide recognition for faculty for their related work and experiential learning.

The discussion paper can be downloaded at:

http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/publications/DiscussionStrengtheningOntarioPSE.pdf

Over the summer, OCUFA will be in contact to ensure you have the latest information. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Mark Rosenfeld, OCUFA

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