OCUFA Release: HEQCO Differentiation (27 October 2010)

Press release from OCUFA (Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations), 27 October 2010:

Council’s vision for university differentiation just won’t work, say faculty

TORONTO – The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is deeply concerned about a new paper published by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) on promoting more university differentiation. The paper, titled The Benefits of Greater Differentiation of Ontario’s University Sector, seeks to outline a model for encouraging a broader variety of missions among the province’s universities.

“In many ways, this paper is an answer to a question nobody asked,” said Prof. Mark Langer, President of OCUFA. “Our universities already offer a wide variety of programs and institutional specialties that serve diverse student needs. Greater differentiation may provide some benefits to our higher education system, but HEQCO’s recommendations are exactly the wrong way to go about it.”

HEQCO’s opinion paper argues for a system of university funding that, far from promoting increased differentiation, will effectively make universities minions of government. Rather than improving student choice, it will compromise the autonomy and academic freedom of Ontario’s higher education institutions. The HEQCO plan is a form of centralized planning for the university system, something that has seldom worked for Ontario in the past.

Increasingly, HEQCO appears to be pursuing a research agenda aimed at satisfying political goals, not creating sound public policy that addresses real issues in the university system. The paper is motivated by the desire to accommodate increasing enrolment in Ontario’s universities without increasing government investment in the sector. A more progressive definition of differentiation, designed to protect institutional autonomy and student access, has the potential to address some issues within the university system. Unfortunately, when designed with only the bottom line in mind, it does little to protect or improve the quality of Ontario’s institutions.

“HEQCO is taking the ‘let’s do more with less’ approach to our universities. But when we’re talking about education, you only get less with less,” said Prof. Langer. “Given the importance of our institutions to Ontario’s economic and social success, we can ill afford to choose stunt policies over sustainable and robust public funding.”

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 16,000 faculty and academic librarians in 26 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at http://www.ocufa.on.ca.

Contact: Graeme Stewart – 416 979 2117 x232 (office) or 647 280 3175 gstewart@ocufa.on.ca

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