Access Reboot: New Directions for Higher Education took place on Friday, November 3 in Toronto. The event brought together institutional staff, community partners, representatives from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and other postsecondary education (PSE) stakeholders to share best practices, develop ideas and challenge traditional approaches to equity, diversity, inclusion, decolonization and accessibility in our PSE system.
Now that our 2023 conference is over, HEQCO has been considering what went well, how we can improve and what we hope to achieve when hosting future events. Here are three major takeaways from Access Reboot:
1. There is something special about the in-person experience.
The last three and a half years have advanced the potential of remote work and education. As HEQCO now operates as a remote agency, we have benefitted from many of these newfound advantages. Gathering as colleagues in the same physical space, however, provides the opportunity to make new or strengthen old connections and professional relationships. HEQCO is an agency that frequently relies on partnerships, and in-person events can help us create these connections and improve our research. While we will continue to take advantage of the broader hiring reach and increased flexibility of remote work, we will also explore new opportunities for both large and small groups to collaborate and connect in person.
2. We are well-served by keeping our focus on students and their experiences.
We received a great deal of positive feedback regarding our keynote speaker, Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, who gave an inspiring and memorable presentation on her experiences as the only black student in her University of Toronto medical school class. Much of HEQCO’s research focuses on students, but connecting with and hearing from them more directly is vital. A comment on our Sticky Wall articulated this well: “we need to talk to students, and we need to listen.” Our conferences have historically offered a discount price for students, Access Reboot carried on this tradition, and we will continue to advocate for the importance of student voices in these conversations.
3. Our sector agrees that access to good data about the postsecondary system is vital.
We were pleased to see a large turnout at our closing plenary about our work with the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation on postsecondary non-completion. And one of our morning sessions on the potential of linked student data between K-12 and postsecondary was so popular that extra chairs were needed! The engagement in these rooms drove home for us that our sector cares deeply about access to PSE data — and the potential of that data to help inform system improvement. Information is a powerful tool, but what we do with it is also important. As a comment on our Sticky Wall stated, “data matters only if we have good questions and tie [them] to action.” HEQCO will continue to advocate for better and more transparent information sharing across the sector.
Presentations from many of our speakers are now available on our conference website, so be sure to have a look if there was a session that piqued your interest that you were not able to attend.
We were pleased to be able to connect with so many stakeholders from across the province and the sector. We would like to extend our thanks to Academica Group, our promotional partner for this event, and to the Hon. Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities, for attending and providing opening remarks.
As we wind down our work for 2023, we are looking forward to our upcoming events and research for 2024. Subscribe to our mailing list to keep up to date on all HEQCO’s news!