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Who Grants Degrees? An Overview of Ontario’s Evolving Credential Landscape

Who Grants Degrees? An Overview of Ontario’s Evolving Credential Landscape was written by Julia Colyar, Ryan Tishcoff & Janice Deakin, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

New HEQCO report details the history of credential expansion in Ontario

A new report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) charts the influences that have shaped Ontario’s credential offerings at colleges and universities over the past several decades. Who Grants Degrees? An Overview of Ontario’s Evolving Credential Landscape explores the factors that influenced the government’s initial decision to extend degree granting to colleges and describes how the postsecondary sector has evolved in the years since. This backdrop provides context as the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) considers making changes to the range of credentials available to postsecondary students in Ontario, including expanding college degree granting. It also points toward future credential-related issues that should be considered in the months and years ahead.

In fall 2021, the Ontario government announced the Supporting People and Businesses Act, 2021: an omnibus, red tape reduction package containing regulatory and policy changes across ministries. The section of the act relating to MCU focused on improving students’ access to high-quality programs that help prepare them for the labour market. Several options were identified, including increasing degree-granting caps at Ontario colleges, expanding degree-granting authority and expanding the credentials offered at Ontario colleges to potentially include applied master’s and three-year baccalaureate degrees.

The current deliberations about expanding college degree granting echo and extend policy discussions that have been taking place for decades. Changes to credential offerings have been historically driven by a mix of student demand, enrolment, graduation rates, cost, labour market needs and employment. A review of Ontario’s current postsecondary landscape identified two issues that warrant exploration as part of degree expansion decisions: costs and labour market needs.

If expansion of degree granting at Ontario colleges takes place, it must be affordable for government, institutions and students. And new degree granting should be aligned with labour market needs and employer expectations. With this paper serving as an overview and introduction, HEQCO will address the following questions with two upcoming reports:

  • What are the costs (to government, institutions and students) of credential expansion?
  • What do student enrolment, graduation rates and employment outcomes indicate about the alignment or gaps between Ontario’s credential landscape and the labour market?