Today, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) released the Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) signed with every Ontario college and university. Each SMA covers a three-year period, expiring in 2017. The agreements are intended to determine a university’s key priorities, and to align these priorities with the government’s Differentiation Policy Framework. It is expected that the SMAs will have an impact on new program approvals. It has also been suggested that the SMAs will also have an impact on university funding and potential reform of the university funding formula. However, the funding implications are not clear from the existing SMA documents. OCUFA is seeking clarity on this point from the MTCU.
OCUFA has expressed serious concerns over the government’s Differentiation Agenda. The initiative has the potential to negatively impact the autonomy of our institutions, the integrity of academic planning, and even academic freedom. While there is some value in focusing on strengths and key priorities, such processes should serve the needs and interests of students, not the government’s desire to reduce its own investment in universities. Any reform of the university sector should also preserve the principle of province-wide comprehensive university education, to ensure that students across Ontario have access to the high-quality programs of their choice.
Over the coming weeks, OCUFA will be analyzing the SMAs closely. We encourage students and faculty members to do the same, and to alert us to anything in your institution’s agreement that runs contrary to the interests of faculty, students, and the academic quality of your university.