Ontario Faculty Report Decline In University Quality

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A new study reveals a decline in university quality from 2005-2008, despite government initiatives to allocate new resources for post-secondary institutions.

“We are expecting more from our universities with ambitious participation targets, research mandates and a continued role in our broader society. Yet, our frontline faculty and librarians are telling us that we are in a downward spiral,” says Mark Langer, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and a faculty member at Carleton University.

“Bigger classes, deferred hiring, and the outright cancellation of programs are the exact opposite direction in which Ontario should be heading.” —Mark Langer, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

The study asked faculty and librarians at Ontario universities to report on the quality of post-secondary education in Canada.

42% of respondents indicated a decline in quality in the past year and more than 57% perceived a decline in quality between 2005 and 2008.

This study was conducted to examine university quality during the government’s implementation of the “Reaching Higher Plan,” which was a cornerstone initiative to re-invest in the province’s post-secondary institutions. Its specific goals were to reduce class size and hire faculty to respond to the increase in enrollment.

Despite these goals, more than 60% of respondents indicated that class sizes have increased over the past five years.

And at 26:1, Ontario has the worst student-faculty rate in the country. The Canadian average is 19:1, still considered high by international standards.

“This is a disturbing result and a clear warning bell for our universities, our governments and our students as we attempt to deliver quality education to an ever increasing number of students,” says Langer.

In graduate education, respondents had a more positive review. 58% of respondents reported an increase in the number of graduate students in their department from 2005-2008, a time when the government of Ontario funded the expansion of graduate education at Ontario’s universities.

However, in 2008, this number declined to 36%, coinciding with the winding up of the province’s graduate students expansion initiative.

The study also found that increased budget cuts are decreasing the quality of education and limiting students resources. “Bigger classes, deferred hiring, and the outright cancellation of programs are the exact opposite direction in which Ontario should be heading,” concludes Langer. “We need to do a better job for our students by providing new investment in our universities to hire new full-time faculty and expand our research capacity.”

69% of students reported larger class sizes and 51% reported cancellation of classes or programs, due to budgetary constraints.

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About the author

Vicky Tobianah recently graduated from McGill University with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English Literature. She also works as a freelance journalist. When she is not busy blogging, making new contacts or researching articles, she enjoys catching up on current affairs, encouraging her friends to become active in political matters and, of course, writing.