Frank Iacobucci: Lightning struck twice in 2010-11

HEQCO Board of Directors Chair Frank Iacobucci

Because of the fundamental importance of people to any organization, I begin with a key turning point last year when we said goodbye to our founding president, Jim Downey, and welcomed our new president, Harvey Weingarten.  With Jim and Harvey, lightning has struck HEQCO twice:  Jim got HEQCO going and recruited most of our talented staff led by Ken Norrie as vice-president, research, and Diana Macri, chief administrative officer. As you will see from my summary of various activities, Harvey has impressively built on Jim’s foundation and persuaded Susan Bloch-Nevitte to lead our communications efforts.

Although not leaving HEQCO’s board until June, I wish to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of two colleagues, Catherine Henderson and David Marshall.  They have been superb board members in so many ways and we sincerely thank them for their dedication and service not just to HEQCO but to postsecondary education generally in Ontario. I’d also like to acknowledge board member Norie Campbell, who was recently named a recipient of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Awards.  This is a prestigious recognition of her many talents and abilities and we are all very proud of her.

As for HEQCO’s annual activities, I simply do not have the space to discuss them all in detail, but I have grouped some of the highlights under key areas of impact for HEQCO: as a major contributor to PSE policy discussions; as a catalyst for inter-institutional collaboration on best practices; and its efforts toward greater public transparency and awareness.  I conclude with a brief description of HEQCO’s projects and events going forward.

From this brief summary, one can easily observe how active HEQCO has been in providing evidence-based policy research as well as stimulating and contributing to discussions on improvements to Ontario’s PSE sector. HEQCO’s record of activities, accomplishments and initiatives has been most promising.  On behalf of the Board of Directors, I wish to recognize the leadership of Harvey and the collective effort of HEQCO’s talented staff.

Some 2010-11 highlights

Key contributor to PSE policy discussions

Among the 126 research reports HEQCO has conducted or commissioned since it became operational in 2007, this year’s projects included:

  • The Benefits of Greater Differentiation of Ontario’s University Sector report
  • Tuition Fee Policy Options for Ontario report
  • Entering its second printing: Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the book based on a 2008 HEQCO symposium
  • Research exploring the efficacy of student engagement measures as a critical new dimension to the postsecondary accountability mix
  • And in October, HEQCO hosted a public talk by former BMO chief economist Tim O’Neill, who made national headlines last fall with the release of his controversial recommendations for restructuring Nova Scotia’s university system.

Catalyst for inter-institutional collaboration on best practice

  • Hosted a series of research study-related workshops for college and university administrators and faculty on teaching and learning, work-integrated-learning and student services initiatives that support increased retention and student success.
  • Launched an ambitious two-year project comprising 13 research studies to assess and highlight innovative and effective teaching/learning practices at Ontario’s colleges and universities.

Greater public transparency and awareness

  • HEQCO’s first community report to be published in the Toronto Star in June, with an expanded report on line
  • Improved public access to HEQCO research using news-style summaries, extensive media relations and introduction of YouTube videos, Twitter and Facebook
  • A website summary of presentations and speeches given by HEQCO staff (HEQCO Connects)
  • Monthly expenses of all HEQCO executive staff posted on website

Going forward

  • On May 19-20, HEQCO will host an international conference on measuring learning outcomes, bringing to Toronto the world’s leading experts on learning assessment
  • Access-based research in the coming year will continue to explore socio-cultural barriers to PSE with a focus on under-represented groups, educational pathways for adult learners and the state of access for Ontario’s highest academic achievers.
  • Quality-based research will explore teaching effectiveness, measurement of learning outcomes and doctoral degree-holder alignment with labour markets.
  • From an accountability perspective, HEQCO research will further the discussion on differentiated funding models and financial sustainability of the sector from an international perspective. And in partnership with Ontario’s PSE institutions and community groups, HEQCO will expand its involvement in interventions to address gaps in postsecondary access.


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