Sustainability of Ontario’s Model for Baccalaureate Education questioned

A new book released today argues that Ontario’s model for providing baccalaureate education is no longer sustainable…

New Book Offers Solutions for Improvements in Postsecondary Education

Toronto, November 30, 2009 – A new book released today argues that Ontario’s model for providing baccalaureate education is no longer sustainable.

Academic Transformation: The Forces Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario finds that the standard model of undergraduate education in Ontario is based on the belief that students should be taught only by faculty members who are actively engaged in original research. Such full-time faculty are expected to spend about 40 percent of their time and effort on research, 40 percent on teaching, and 20 percent on service to the university and the community.

Two developments over the past two decades have made it impossible to maintain this model of  education. One is the increased expectation from the public and the government for universities to produce knowledge that will enhance Canada’s economic well-being and international competitiveness. The other is the pressure to dramatically increase accessibility to baccalaureate level education.

The authors find the high costs associated with the research-university model have led to chronic financial strain. “With foreseeable levels of government funding and tuition, it is simply not affordable to have undergraduates taught only by faculty who devote the same amount of time and effort to research as to teaching,” said Michael Skolnik, Professor Emeritus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

“In addition to the cost problem, reliance on this research-university model provides insufficient variety in the types of baccalaureate experience available to students who have diverse backgrounds, situations, aspirations and learning styles,” said David Trick, President, David Trick and Associates.

Academic Transformation: The Forces Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario makes the following recommendations for improving Ontario’s postsecondary system:

  • Use the expected growth in demand for university enrolment as an opportunity to create a new sector of baccalaureate institutions that focus on teaching. Faculty would be expected to be current in their fields but would not do discovery research.
  • Encourage universities to create or maintain a high-quality three-year undergraduate degree.
  • Provide each university and college with an agreed amount of money each year to continue teaching and research operations at current levels, and then consider how much additional funding is required to increase enrolments, expand research and scholarship, or undertake other new priorities.
  • Foster increased efficiency by encouraging differentiation among existing universities through a combination of regulation and financial incentives.
  • Encourage balance and differentiation in the college sector. A small number of colleges should become substantial providers of baccalaureate education, while some focus on trades training and serving under-prepared learners.
  • Improve opportunities for college to university transfer. Develop specific programs in universities aimed to facilitate transfer from college career programs.
  • Develop an Open University of Ontario that would offer high-quality learning based on flexible credit recognition, open admissions, and access for learners who are unable to attend the existing universities.
  • Rethink ideas about quality to ensure they support innovative practices in higher education that are appropriate for the 21st century.
  • Recognize the need for more effective provincial policy leadership in higher education.

As the funder for this project, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario will evaluate these findings and provide policy recommendations to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. “These recommendations will be useful to the Council as we work with our partners in higher education to provide advice to the government on the best design for Ontario’s postsecondary education system,” said Dr. Ken Norrie, Vice-President Research of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

The book is available for purchase at

About the authors

Ian D. Clark is a professor in the School of Public Policy and Govern­ance, University of Toronto, a former federal deputy minister, and past-president of the Council of Ontario Universities.

Greg Moran is a professor and member of both the clinical and develop­mental groups within the Department of Psychology, University of West­ern Ontario, and a former Chair of Psychology, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at Western.

Michael L. Skolnik is professor emeritus in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and held the William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership in the University of Toronto from its establishment in 1999 until 2007.

David Trick is president of David Trick and Associates, consultants in higher education strategy and management, and is the former assistant deputy minister for post-secondary education in the Government of Ontario.

About the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario is an arm’s-length agency of the Government of Ontario dedicated to ensuring the continued improvement of the postsecondary education system in Ontario.  The Council was created through the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Act, 2005. It is mandated to conduct research, evaluate the postsecondary education system, and provide policy recommendations to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities with a view to enhance the quality, access, and accountability of Ontario’s higher education system.

For further information, please contact:

Jeff Rohrer
Communications Manager
Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
(416) 212-5242