Reform plan all for nothing?

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By Lee Richardson

Canada’s universities are losing ground. It doesn’t matter whether you’re studying dance at Ryerson or biomedical engineering at Queen’s – on the global scale a Canadian university education isn’t as valuable as it once was.

In this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings list, the University of Toronto dropped to number 21, meaning that as of now there is no Canadian university in the Top 20.

Other universities dropped further, in some cases falling 21 places on the list.

As you would expect, this news led to cries for educational reform, especially from university top brass.

The growth of Asian universities was outed as a potential cause of Canadian universities being pushed down the ladder, with attention drawn to funding going into – and research coming out of – universities in countries such as South Korea, Singapore and China.

Cue another debate on whether Canadian universities are up to scratch. In Ontario a certain newspaper has began a study into the current provincial university system, based off of a proposal paper released earlier this year. The paper has set three main goals to restructure universities – shifting course material online, stretching courses to last year-round and allow threeyear undergraduate degrees.

All well and good, and some interesting proposals, though the future of the proposal paper could be unsteady. Monday night saw the surprise announcement by Dalton McGuinty that he is leaving his post as Liberal leader. (Another announcement regarded the suspension of parliament, which is not to restart until the liberals find a new leader – not expected to happen until next year.) So now the question is what will happen to the proposal paper.

Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Glen Murray, who released the paper, is now seen as one option as a potential successor.

Depending on the outcomes the ideas could be applied or the paper, which has already drawn criticism, could be altered. It’s too early to tell, but whoever takes the role of Premier has the option of restructuring Ontario’s universities in what could be a radical way, or just ignore the proposals.

In the end, whether a focus is placed on students or profitable research, a choice has to be made.

Even if it’s only to claw a way back to spot 20 on the list.

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