By Debbie Hernandez
The Ontario government is pushing universities and colleges to specialize their curriculums to create a “differentiated post-second- ary education system.”
The proposal, a confidential draft discussion paper dated September 2013 and named “Ontario’s Proposed Differentiation Policy Framework,” was discovered by The Globe and Mail, and obtained by The Eyeopener. In it, the Ontario government outlined its goal for greater “differentiation” between schools to “build on and help focus the well-established strengths of institutions.”
They will try to get schools to align with its “Differentiation Framework” with “appropriate policy levers” which include funding, program approval and spaces for student enrollment. Simply put, “differentiation” means being able to know what school’s strengths are.
Schools including Ryerson are allowed to make the final call on what they will do and whether or not they’ll choose to follow this proposal.
Vice-president of education of Ryerson’s Students’ Union (RSU) Rochelle Lawrence thinks the government should not be making decisions involving students and schools without their involvement.
“Students have less access to courses they want to take,” Lawrence said. “I feel like it’s not beneficial because it’ll hinder students’ choices for the schools they want to go to.”
Lawrence, who is also a social work student at Ryerson, thinks important sectors like community services will be neglected if programs like hers are no longer offered. “They are focusing more on programs that will help rebuild the economy,” she said.
The document outlines that in order to stimulate the economy, programs with higher employment rates post-graduation should secure the majority of government funding.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said the proposed plan does not mean that the school will be eliminating programs.
“I have to make clear that it’s not about letting go of programs,” Levy said. “We are not going to abandon any programs. We are going to make some programs stronger by specializing.”
Levy added that specializing programs would set schools apart in a positive way, similar to how the University of Waterloo is known for its engineering programs.
The draft framework did not clearly state which programs are going onto the chopping block, but it did state that the government would use categories like student satisfaction rate and the percentage of students who are in co-op to decide which programs are safe and which ones will see funding cuts.
With files from James Brad- shaw of The Globe and Mail