By Julianna Cummins
While Ryerson may be getting a boost from the provincial budget, expanding the university and maintaining a high quality of education may not go hand-in-hand.
Last Thursday’s budget will give Ontario universities $150 million of one-time money to help ease funding shortfalls that have led to hiring freezes and smaller staff at some campuses.
Even with some operating budget relief, Ryerson still has 70,000 applicants vying for 5,000 first-year spots, according to Charmaine Hack, the director of admissions at Ryerson. While Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said that he would like to keep the university accessible, the school cannot expand beyond its teaching capabilities.
“We can’t open the doors so wide that we reduce the quality of education for everyone,” said Levy.
Concerns about educational standards for students is not only a Ryerson worry. A survey released by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association last week revealed that the calibre of education in Ontario universities has seen a decline in the last three years.
Toronto universities have it worse because of increased class sizes and hiring freezes. Of the 2,000 faculty members interviewed across 20 universities, 40 per cent said that Ontario’s campuses are worse off today than they were in 2005.
A report released by the Canadian Council on Learning cites the National Survey of Student Engagement to show that Canadian universities trail U.S. schools in student and faculty interaction.
Alan Shepard, provost and VP academic, said that a hiring slowdown continues at Ryerson, although the anticipated budget money has authorized the hiring of some new positions, particularly in the school of occupational and public health.
“And if you were to look at their quality indicators… what you would see is that in the university, they have one of the most stressed student to teacher ratio across campus,” said Shepard in a presentation to the Board of Governors on March 30.
Duncan MacLellan, a politics professor at Ryerson, said he applauds the government’s move.
“If we’re looking at increasing enrollment we also need increased capacity, we need additional buildings and support services for students over the long term,” he said.
— with files from Shirley Lin