Future health of Ontario universities uncertain as government refuses to change course on funding

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TORONTO, Nov, 5, 2020—The future health of Ontario universities remains uncertain as the Ford government continues to erode university funding and refuses to change course on their reckless performance-based funding scheme. Instead, the 2020 Ontario Budget promises to squander $60 million dollars on ineffective micro-credentials, which are a solution in search of a problem. With ongoing attempts to further privatize the province’s postsecondary education system by awarding university status to controversial private colleges like the Canada Christian College, this government’s proposals represent a real threat to the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of the province’s universities.

While Ontario’s university faculty and academic librarians welcome more funding for campus infrastructure and mental health, the budget continues to move the province’s postsecondary education system in the wrong direction. Even though the government says it’s cutting red tape, it intends to bury Ontario’s universities in even more administrative bureaucracy by moving ahead with a complex framework that puts approximately $3 billion dollars in postsecondary funding at risk.

“In a time of heightened anxiety and instability, why is the Ford government so obsessed with wasting money on funding schemes that have repeatedly proven to be ineffective and harmful,” said Rahul Sapra, President of OCUFA. “Research shows that performance-based funding is likely to have negative consequences and will slowly but certainly undermine the quality and accessibility of education at Ontario’s universities. Further, newly announced funding for micro-credentials will do little, if anything, to help those hoping for good jobs. Instead, it will further commercialize the province’s education system and squander public money to pay for training that should be provided by employers.”

Over many decades, Ontario’s universities have developed a reputation for providing students with the support, opportunity, and inspiration to push forward in the quest for knowledge and understanding, while consistently producing innovative and ground-breaking research and solutions to society’s most pressing problems—including those we have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ineffective performance-based funding measures and micro-credential programs undermine these benefits and the very purpose of postsecondary education.

The government’s obsession with training students with specific skills for the workforce ignores the reality of today’s dynamic job market and the fundamental benefits of a university education and, in effect, de-skills Ontario’s work force. Higher education should foster creative, curious, and critical minds, while providing students with transferrable skills. Those are the attributes that today’s employers are looking for.

“Under the Ford government’s plans, students will graduate with less knowledge, fewer skills, more limited job prospects, and be less adaptable to Ontario’s dynamically changing workforce,” said Sapra. “This government has spent more than two years intentionally ignoring faculty and student voices. In fact, it has repeatedly tried to silence those voices. This budget shows the poor decisions made by policy makers who don’t understand Ontario’s postsecondary education system.”

No one knows how to advance Ontario’s exceptional postsecondary education system better than the faculty and academic librarians working on its front lines. Instead of introducing ineffective and damaging market-based schemes to fund education, the government should be actively consulting university faculty and academic librarians to chart a path forward that builds on our strengths, supports students, and effectively contributes to Ontario’s economic recovery for years to come.

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents 17,000 professors and academic librarians in 30 faculty associations across Ontario. It is committed to enhancing the quality of higher education in Ontario and recognizing the outstanding contributions of its members towards creating a world-class university system. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at www.ocufa.on.ca.


For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Ben Lewis, Communications Lead at 416-306-6033 or communications@ocufa.on.ca