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Drummond Report – Implications for Ontario Universities February 19, 2012

Posted by Andre Vellino in Universities.
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The Drummond Report, as everyone in Ontario knows by now, offers 362 recommendations (why not 365? – they could have created a desktop annual calendar out of them!) for public service deficit-reduction.  Since this is a 500+ page report and I was especially interested in the report’s recommendations for colleges and universities (note that “PSE” in the report means “Post Secondary Education”), I thought it might be useful to extract some of them here.

From the Executive Summary.

Tuition Fees: they shouldn’t be frozen, but they also shouldn’t increase faster than inflation.  Freezing them would likely result in “further deterioration of the student experience — larger classes and less opportunity to debate and develop critical thinking skills”

Teaching vs. Research: “Increasingly, universities are letting professors sacrifice teaching commitments to conduct more research. There must be a better balance; excellent research should not trump excellent teaching.”

Overall Recommendations:

The current system is unsustainable from both a financial and a quality perspective.

The Commission recommends the following:

  1. Contain government funding and institutional expenses;
  2. Use differentiation to improve PSE quality and achieve financial sustainability;
  3. Encourage and reward quality;
  4. Revise research funding structures;
  5. Maintain the current overall cap on tuition-fee increases, but simplify the framework;
  6. Re-evaluate student financial assistance; and
  7. Generate cost efficiencies by, for example, integrating administrative and back-office functions.

Now to expand on a few of these points (items 2 and 3 in particular).

2. Universities and colleges should not overlap in their functions (degree-granting) and programs (i.e. be more differentiated)

The division of roles between the college and university systems should include the following features:

  • After two years of study, college students who meet specific academic achievement criteria should be able to transfer into the university system;
  • Colleges should not be granted any new degree programs, but existing programs should be grandfathered;
  • The government should approve no new PSE programs until existing programs are rationalized and mandate agreements completed;
  • No new professional and specialized programs should be approved without a compelling business case; and
  • The Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology should work with the College of Trades to optimize the delivery of apprentice training in non-degree programs.

3. Encourage and Reward Quality means, among other things, focusing on more rewards for teaching:

Resources and rewards should be refocused towards teaching: Post-secondary education institutions should devote more resources to experience-based learning such as internships, allow for more independent study, develop problem-based learning and increase study abroad. Universities should be encouraged to include in their collective agreements flexible provisions with faculty regarding teaching and research workloads. Top-performing teachers and researchers should be recognized with the appropriate workloads and rewards. Eleven Ontario universities already have such flexibility; others should follow. Institutions should redesign incentive systems to reward excellent teachers, as they do now for researchers.

Refocus provincial funding to reward teaching excellence: Provincial funding allocations should be linked to quality objectives, and the funding model should reward degrees awarded rather than just enrolment [sic] levels. Government and PSE institutions should work to ensure that the capacity to integrate ideas and create innovative solutions to problems is at the heart of the higher education experience. This will be critical to the economic and social success of Ontario, in an economy where graduates will be working over their career in ways that cannot even be imagined now.

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