OCUFA concerned over leaked “Differentiation Policy Framework”

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On Sept. 18, 2013, a “confidential” proposed policy framework for the differentiation of Ontario’s universities was leaked to stakeholder groups and the media. OCUFA is concerned that the policy framework may lead to government intrusion into academic decision making, and could have damaging funding consequences for Ontario’s higher education institutions.
 
The proposed framework suggests that Ontario’s universities should differentiate according to eight “components”: Teaching and learning; student population (with an emphasis on under-represented groups); jobs, innovation, and economic development; strategic enrolment; research; program offerings; institutional collaboration; and sustainability. In each area, institutions will be asked to focus on their strengths, the needs of their communities, and the priorities of government. The proposed framework suggests “metrics” for evaluating each component, and asks institutions to suggest additional measurement indicators. Although the framework is vague on funding implications, there is a suggestion that failure to meet the government’s objectives will have financial consequences. Administrators have been given until October 11th to provide feedback on the framework.
 
OCUFA has yet to be invited to comment on the proposed framework, which is worrying. Any reforms to Ontario’s universities – particularly those with funding implications – must be determined collaboratively by all stakeholders. The timelines for commentary are also extremely short, which makes meaningful collaboration almost impossible.
 
OCUFA will oppose any policy framework that allows government to interfere in academic decision making, properly the responsibility of university senates. We will also oppose any attempt to create an artificial hierarchy of institutions, with “winners” and “losers” determined by government. Such policies ultimately hurt students and local communities, outcomes at odds with Ontario’s desire for high quality and accessible universities.

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