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Bill C-525, the Employees’ Voting Rights Act, proposes amending the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act to revise the union certification and revocation procedures.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), representing 17,000 professors and academic librarians in Ontario’s universities, including those under federal jurisdiction, opposes Bill C-525 on the grounds that Bill C-525 does not protect employee secrecy, is contrary to established representation procedures,  disregards employee choice,  and promotes decertification.

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Recommendations for a meaningful successor to Reaching Higher

The Government of Ontario’s Reaching Higher plan was a visionary document that provided needed funding to Ontario’s postsecondary system. However, it was not sufficient to overcome the long history of university under-funding in our province. Its impact was also eroded by unanticipated increases in enrolment and the current economic downturn.

The 2010 Ontario Budget must address this under-funding and its associated effects. OCUFA believes there are three areas of urgent concern in the university system:

  • The student-to-faculty ratio is too high, damaging the quality of the student experience at Ontario universities;
  • Educational facilities, libraries and information technology resources are in need of renewal in order to support a quality learning environment; and
  • Tuition fee levels in Ontario require students to pay for more than their fair share of operating revenue, harming the accessibility of the university system.

Each of these challenges is best resolved through increased public funding. In particular, OCUFA recommends:

  • The Government of Ontario invest an additional $153 million in 2010-11 to hire additional academic staff and renew campus learning infrastructure. This amount will increase to $765 million by 2014-15, rising by an additional $153 million per year during that period;
  • The Government of Ontario freeze tuition fees at current levels; and
  • Compensatory funding be provided to institutions for lost revenue from proposed tuition increases.

These investments will greatly improve the quality and accessibility of Ontario’s higher education system. In addition, OCUFA recommends that new Multi-Year Accountability Agreements between the Government of Ontario and individual universities be developed in consultation with faculty and students. These agreements should provide meaningful and comparable data that facilitates collaborative quality improvement.

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The provincial government has established policies that obligate universities to produce skilled graduates and cutting-edge research that will contribute to Ontario’s economic development. This “strategy for prosperity” seems innocuous. However, these market-based higher education policies and targeted research funding programs are narrowing the scope and function of our universities, and perpetuating the business model of higher education.

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The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations invited Ontario university faculty and librarians to respond to an on-line questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about a range of issues including class size, faculty hiring, research capacity, departmental budgets, and the overall quality of education being delivered to students. Close to 2,000 responses from 22 Ontario universities were received between February 16 and March 13, 2009.

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The research was initiated in response to concerns about the effects of the current envelope funding practice on the institutional autonomy of universities and on faculty association negotiations with the university administrations. In addition to a discussion of these issues, the discussion paper provides a background on the history of envelope funding in Ontario, recent developments, and an assessment of the provincial government’s intentions. It concludes with an outline of policy positions that OCUFA could adopt, the issues each would address and some of their respective implications.

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Because of larger-than-anticipated enrolment increases, the Liberal Government’s $6.2-billion increase to post-secondary education, announced in 2005, will have a minimal impact on the quality of education offered Ontario students. Ontario falls behind the rest of Canada and American peer institutions in terms of per student funding and student-faculty ratios.

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The quality of undergraduate education in Ontario remains at risk despite the government’s five-year, $6.2-billion Reaching Higher plan, which pledged enough funds to hire more professors. There has been no improvement in student-faculty ratios, however, because inflation-adjusted, per-student funding is still well below the 1990s. Faculty hiring has not kept pace with enrolment increases, so in 2003-04 Ontario had a student-faculty ratio of 27 students to each full-time professor, while American peer institutions had a 15 to one ratio. Ontario needs 11,000 more professors by the end of the decade and needs to make a commitment to recruit full-time, tenure-stream faculty.

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Ontario Budget 2007 contains no new initiatives for universities that will be sustained through the life of the government’s Reaching Higher plan. As with last year’s Budget, Reaching Higher funding targets were re-announced. A one-time injection of $390 million from federal funding was also announced for post-secondary education (PSE).

The year 2007-08 is crucial for Ontario universities. Reaching Higher announced that 12,000 more graduate spaces would be created by this time than were in place in 2002-03. Undergraduate enrolments are now expected to have increased by over 66,000 over the same period.

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The government’s plan to expand graduate education by an additional 14,000 students by 2010, although laudable, has put the quality of graduate education at risk. Ontario universities are not hiring enough faculty to ensure graduate students a quality education. Ontario universities need to hire 2,205 additional faculty to reach 1995-96 graduate student-faculty ratios. The government is not providing enough operating funding, not enough graduate-student financial assistance support, and not enough funding to address overdue repairs and expand space requirements. The report demonstrates that failing to involve faculty in the expansion planning leads to oversights.

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As a requirement of Reaching Higher, Ontario universities are obliged to meet certain conditions contained in their multi-year accountability agreements with the government. The interim accountability agreements for 2005-06 provided the first glimpse at the yearly “contract” between the institutions and the government. The interim agreements provided details about the quality Improvement Fund, as well as information on the quality of teaching and learning, educational resources and student supports. In terms of faculty hiring, for example, of the 614 net new hires reported in 2005-06, only 35 per cent were tenure-stream.

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Despite the controversy around the efficacy of indicator-driven funding in post-secondary education, the multi-year accountability agreements required as part of the government’s Reaching Higher plan include so-called performance indicators to measure quality changes resulting from the plan’s $6.2 billion in increased funding. While faculty support efforts to enhance quality in the classroom, they caution that the types of measures used will not necessarily improve quality, while increasing the burdens placed on faculty and staff. The report urges the government not to repeat the mistakes of previous governments in Canada and abroad but to balance its desire for accountability with respect for institutional autonomy and academic freedom.

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Performance indicators periodically emerge as a topic of discussion in Ontario. This is no surprise, as since the 1980s, the use of performance indicators in post-secondary education has multiplied across OECD nations. The United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand have been using performance indicators to monitor higher education targets for years. Countries in the Mediterranean as well as Central and Eastern Europe are beginning to establish performance indicators. Many American states are well into performance monitoring, though some are ratcheting down efforts after hitting glitches in the process. This paper investigates and considers the merits of various systems and measures related to performance indicators.

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Vol. 7 No. 1 – Despite the ongoing controversy over the validity and value of the annual Maclean’s university rankings, it continues to be the most widely read issue of the magazine, so parents and students must consider the results to be useful. This analysis of the rankings includes 2005 — the last year in which all Ontario universities participated — and reveals troubling trends in areas such as student-faculty ratio, funding, and class size. Of particular interest is the assessment of the increasing number of classes with more than 100 students in the upper years of undergraduate education.

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The Tuition Trap

This OCUFA study presents the results of a decade of fiscally motivated tuition increases and the lack of a coherent tuition fee policy in Ontario. The report cautions against a narrow framing of tuition policy, warning that embracing past practices of either annual incremental fee increases or radical expansion of fee deregulation will have a negative impact on access. The report laments in particular the situation of middle- and lower-income families, who are struggling after a decade of rising tuition fees.

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Vol. 6 No. 1 – This report presents three scenarios for Ontario universities in terms of the student-faculty ratio. The first scenario is the status quo, where the 2005 ratio of 24 students for every faculty member puts Ontario universities at the bottom of the list when compared to Canadian and American peers. The second and middle-of-the-road scenario harkens back to the 18:1 ratio of 10 years ago. The third scenario, where Ontario becomes the North American leader in terms of quality, envisions a student-faculty ratio of 15:1. This scenario would mean that Ontario would have to hire an additional 11,000 faculty by 2010. OCUFA urges the Ontario government to immediately implement a faculty recruitment and retainment strategy or risk an even greater quality gap in future years.

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This research study commissioned by the Ontario Coalition for Post-Secondary Education demonstrates that during a time of increasing reliance on educational attainment, the province is investing less in post-secondary education and charging higher tuition fees to students than any time in the last 30 years. The purpose of the study is to broaden debate within the higher-education sector by challenging the assumptions about public funding for higher education, outlining the access implications of increased tuition, and presenting alternative models to the status quo. The paper also investigates income-contingent loan repayment schemes and finds them lacking.

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Vol. 5 No. 4 – Ontario universities are not covered under the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). It has become increasingly difficult to obtain even noncontroversial data that would be readily available were Ontario universities covered by provincial freedom of information legislation. This led the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) to examine and test the efficacy of access to information policies at Ontario’s universities by making identical access requests for faculty hiring data.

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Vol. 5 No.4 – Recent studies into Ontario’s economic future suggest setting ambitious targets for greater achievement in our university sector, a proposal requiring significantly increased public funding. This paper looks at what results could be accomplished by meeting such targets. It examines the projected cost of a series of proposed improvements and suggests that Ontario government funding should rise at least to the national average. Great improvements could be achieved by making Ontario universities the best-funded in Canada, and even settling for national-average funding would stop deterioration and allow some improvements. Substantially increased public support would be amply repaid in benefits to the province and to Ontarians.

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Vol.5 No.2 – Increased user fees and other charges imposed under Conservative premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves outweighed the benefits of income-tax cuts for many Ontario families. This paper examines the mathematics of increased user fees and other charges now levied by government, school boards, universities, and other institutions and presents their net effect on hypothetical Ontario households. This paper suggests that the Liberal government should look to other sources of revenue. The report also demonstrates that increased public support for Ontario universities would yield significant returns in the overall prosperity of the province.

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This paper reviews the Harris/Eves governments’ funding cuts to the province’s universities, whose negative impact is reflected in the Maclean’s rankings of Canadian universities. Universities were among the hardest hit of Ontario’s transfer-payment agencies during the Conservative budget cuts, and funding increases in the later years of the Conservative government only partially restored lost funding. The consequences of these cuts on universities were striking in areas such as tuition, operating funding, enrolment, and student-faculty ratios. Universities were also affected substantially by the government’s decision to eliminate Grade 13 from secondary schools, creating the “double cohort.”

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