The Government of Ontario recently announced that in the coming months it will put forward legislation to create a new French-language university, by and for Francophones.
The announcement follows the August 28, 2017 release of the French-Language University Planning Board’s report on the feasibility of establishing a new French-language university in Central-Southwestern Ontario. Struck last fall and chaired by Dr. Dyane Adam, a former official languages commissioner of Ontario, the Board’s mandate was to establish a vision for a new university, encompassing everything from a potential educational project to its business model.
The report recommends the creation of an autonomous, French-language university in downtown Toronto that would be named the “Université de l’Ontario français”. Its educational project would be structured around four areas of programming and research: human plurality, urban environments, globalized economy, and digital cultures. The university would also offer joint undergraduate and graduate programming entirely in French, as well as provide certificates of French-language proficiency to support Francophone and Francophile students. The Board anticipates that by 2029, enrolment at the university would reach 2,000 full-time students.
Establishing a new university provides an opportunity to implement a governance model more representative of the university community, which could serve as an example for other institutions. There is also room to advocate for the creation of good jobs that are fairly compensated, have access to benefits, and are not precarious.
However, there are several areas of concern, including the potential negative impacts the university could have on existing bilingual and Francophone institutions and a proposed business model that reaffirms current trends towards privatization. The report also features proposals for faculty hiring, with a heavy reliance on contract faculty and substantial demands for faculty to plan and deliver the new teaching initiatives recommended by the French-Language University Planning Board.
Thankfully, the recommendations in the report are not set in stone. There will be several opportunities for OCUFA and faculty associations to engage with government about the proposed plan for this new French-language university, particularly through the legislative process. OCUFA will continue to monitor this file and ensure the voices of faculty are strongly represented in the development of Ontario’s newest university.