Ontario postsecondary system must increase productivity to maintain quality

While Ontario’s colleges and universities are already quite productive, constrained resources and increased demand mean the system must increase productivity to maintain quality, according to a preliminary report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).

The report, The Productivity of the Ontario Public Postsecondary System, was initiated at the request of the provincial government to identify opportunities for postsecondary system improvement. It notes that increased productivity can result from government redesign of the postsecondary system and how it is funded, and at the institutional level by attention to faculty workload distribution.

While Ontario universities have received increased absolute levels of funding and funding per student since 2002, they are teaching more students per full-time faculty member with less money per student than all other Canadian provinces, the report finds.  They also lead Canada in research profile and output. The data available for colleges do not generally allow for inter-provincial comparisons, but Ontario’s colleges are now teaching and graduating more students per faculty member with more funding per student than they were in 2002.  And in research competitions targeted to the college sector, Ontario receives a level of funding proportionate to the province’s share of the population.

However, further critical information is required to better assess productivity and identify the most promising steps for improvement, including: measurement of the quality of education, especially whether desired learning outcomes are achieved; better information on graduation rates; more input from employers on their satisfaction with the knowledge and skill sets of postsecondary graduates; more detailed measurement of relevant information in the college sector, both within Ontario and across Canada; and greater detail on the workloads of university faculty.

The report was produced with the assistance of Colleges Ontario, the Council of Ontario Universities, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and Statistics Canada, as well as an expert panel HEQCO assembled to guide, inform and support the preliminary analyses and preparation of the report. The views expressed in the report are those of HEQCO. 

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