Faculty, staff, students and administration respond to Rae panel with unified voice on key issues
Former premier Bob Rae’s review of post-secondary education in Ontario represents the most important forum we have seen in years to address the chronic problem of university underfunding in our province. The fact that Ontario’s student funding is the lowest of any Canadian province (and 40 per cent lower than public universities in the United States) is unacceptable. This is why preparing a response to Mr. Rae’s panel on behalf of our campus community has been one of my highest priorities.
Following close consultation with Western’s faculty, staff and student leaders, I am pleased to report we have reached a shared understanding of the major challenges we face along with a shared sense of priority about the recommendations we hope to see in Mr. Rae’s final report, expected early in 2005. I am profoundly grateful to the faculty, staff and student leaders who worked together with a remarkable cooperative spirit on this project. We may well be the only post-secondary institution in Ontario with such a joint submission.
After several lively and productive discussions, a group consisting of the leaders of UWOFA, USC, SOGS and all of the staff associations agreed to co-sign a written submission to the Rae panel voicing our collective support for the following recommendations:
- Fund all students at the undergraduate and graduate level using the existing operating grants distribution formula. To fund the 25,000 student places in Ontario not currently funded will require an investment of $150 million.
- Raise Ontario’s per-student operating grant to the national average within the next three years. Taking into account projected inflationary costs and enrollment growth, this will require an additional investment of $850 million.
- Reform the student aid system. Our priorities include the need to improve the assessment formula; remove arbitrary limits to aid; integrate the various sources of aid more effectively; help students who have low incomes after graduation with debt relief. Further, we recommend that the level of tuition revenue be accompanied by adequate provincial grant support.
- Expand graduate program capacity. To fund this expansion, which entails expanding the faculty and staff complement needed to support such an expansion, will require an investment of $150 million.
- Adopt and maintain programs that ensure the health of the research enterprise across all disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences. Provincial research infrastructure programs are integral to providing appropriate facilities for research and graduate studies.
- Adopt a strategy for the elimination of deferred maintenance. Western supports a recommendation to be made by the Council of Ontario Universities to invest $200 million in the Facilities Renewal Program.
- Celebrate the richness of choice available to students through both the college and university systems. Colleges and universities should continue to work together to deliver collaborative programs that draw upon the unique strengths of each partner.
- Rebuild and improve guidance counseling services available to secondary students. Universities and colleges will work with secondary schools to help ensure students make informed decisions about the opportunities available to them in terms of education and career.
While we were unable to reach a consensus position on the issue of who should have control over the setting of tuition fees (my own position for the last two decades is that Boards of Governors should set tuition fees), the consultation process undertaken to reach our shared recommendations on behalf of the campus community was a remarkably positive and collegial experience. On several issues of critical importance to Western and, indeed, the future of higher education in our province, our campus community is clearly unified.
Watch Western’s home page and Western News for details on a town hall meeting scheduled for December 1, at which all members of the campus community will have another opportunity for input and to learn more about Mr. Rae’s review.
To share your views please reply to Paul.Davenport@uwo.ca
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November 10, 2004
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