A Provincial “discussion paper,” “Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge” (SOC), was issued by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) on 28 June 2012, and was followed up with a series of “consultations” (really more like promotions*) in July and August.
Like so many recent initiatives by government and administration (many of which are folded into this one), SOC speaks of enhancing education while its proposals are more certain to cut educational costs. It could be a prologue to government policies increasing credit transfer, differentiation, and virtualization, for instituting three-year degrees and “outcomes” assessment, and for other changes of serious concern to educators. For a brief critical précis, see Donald Abelson’s memo to faculty at UWO (July 2012).
The MTCU followed its “consultations” up very quickly (in early August) with a directive to college and university executive officers to file 8-page “Strategic Mandate Agreements,” or SMAs, by 30 September. These are apparently to be used in determining funding and differentiation (see Mark Rosenfeld, “OCUFA Memo on SMA’s,” 23 August 2012). At Queen’s, the Principal and Provost have rightly called for community responses to SOC, but without strong support from below they cannot assume leadership in the critique of a government paper, its “consultation” process, or its contents. See:
- Daniel Woolf, “Changing postsecondary education must be a collective process,” Globe & Mail, 9 Aug. 2012
- Alan Harrison, “Join the Discussion About Post Secondary Education’s Future”
- Queen’s News Centre, “Your thoughts on changes to post-secondary education,” 6 Sept. 2012
OCUFA has promised a response paper for early October 2012, and it is sure to be critical. But it may not be wise to wait so long. Queen’s is asking for responses “before September 20,” presumably for shaping the official Queen’s reply to the ministry.
Meanwhile, Queen’s faculty and students should not let more rhetoric of “putting students first” fool them into thinking that SOC is in their interest. This is the province that puts less funding per capita into post-secondary education than any other in Canada. Virtualizing classrooms and compressing four-year degrees into three are ways of making-do with that–or “doing less with less.” SOC is not pleasant reading, but it is important that we actually read it and respond in numbers. Let’s sic SOC before SOC sacks us.
* See, for instance, the sessions at Fanshawe College, 24 July 2012:
MTCU Innovation and Productivity Roundtable – A.M. Session –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhJWVOkxig0&list=UUL3eVKyxmsbLk3kMLntl7Ew&index=4&feature=plpp_video
MTCU Innovation and Productivity Roundtable – P.M. Session –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqUsQE2CMqY&list=UUL3eVKyxmsbLk3kMLntl7Ew&index=2&feature=plpp_video