POLITICS

Ontario's plans for university and college overhaul raises questions

10/03/2012 02:20 EDT | Updated 12/03/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Ontario's plan to overhaul its post-secondary education system is drawing criticism from groups including students, staff and faculty.

Critics say the proposed plan — outlined in a government discussion paper released in June — sacrifices quality of education to cut government spending.

The paper — titled "Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge" — proposes three-year bachelor's degrees, year-round schooling, more online courses and a reformed transfer credit system.

Representatives from four of Ontario’s largest student, staff and faculty organizations made their concerns public at a news conference Wednesday.

"This paper is not strengthening but an attack on Ontario’s centres of creativity, innovation and knowledge," said Ted Montgomery, chair of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union’s bargaining team.

Constance Adamson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, said she had hoped there would be a real conversation about the changes to post-secondary education. But the solutions proposed in the discussion paper, she said, were not what they had hoped for.

Canadian Federation of Students Ontario chairwoman Sarah Jayne King said the paper ignores key concerns over tuition fees, student debt and accessible education.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities held roundtable consultations with administrators, union members and students and also invited written feedback from the public on the paper's proposals.

But critics said the consultation process lacked sufficient input from students and faculty.

"While we agree with the minister that changes need to happen, we believe any process that doesn’t meaningfully engage all affected groups and allow discussion on a range of topics affecting those groups is fatally flawed," said Janice Folk-Dawson of CUPE Ontario.

The discussion paper says "a separate forum will be used to engage stakeholders in a dialogue about tuition."

"The information gathered through the roundtable discussions and from written submissions will guide us on how best to achieve our goals for the modernization of Ontario’s post-secondary education sector," ministry spokesman Gyula Kovacs wrote in an email.

Kovacs said the ministry expects to release a report with its findings later this year after it reviews feedback submissions, which were due by Sept. 30.