Board of Governors Agenda - APPENDIX V, Annex 2 - May 25, 2000
D.M.R. Bentley, Academic Colleague
At the meetings of the Academic Colleagues and then at Council much concerned and constructive discussion was devoted to the present situation and future challenges of the COU. This was largely prompted by the announcement by the Provincial Government that it would "allow Ontario's colleges of applied arts and technology to offer applied degrees on a pilot-project basis" and that it had "approved the establishment of private, degree-granting institutions in Ontario" (Government of Ontario Press Release) - decisions that fly in the face of the advice of the COU Task Force on "Access to Degrees for Ontario's College Students" (January 1999) that the "government ... not expand degree-granting authority." As one Academic Colleague was moved to observe darkly, COU seems to be "relegated to painting the back doors of the government's buildings." It is clear that both the political climate in Ontario and the diverse needs of Ontario's seventeen universities are putting pressures on COU that are demanding urgent and creative attention. The appointment of Tom Turbovitch, a long-time advisor to Conservative governments, as a temporary consultant is one of a number of positive steps being taken by COU to ensure that it continues to serve its constituency as well in the future as it has in the past.
Council received and discussed three reports of very considerable significance:
(1) A Time to Sow, the Report of the COU Task Force on Learning Technologies;
(2) "Will there be enough excellent profs?", the Report on the prospective demand and supply conditions for university faculty in Ontario by David C. Smith; and
(3) "How will I know if there is quality?", the Report on quality indicators and quality enhancement in universities, also by Dr. Smith.
At the heart of the first of these reports are three recommendations: (1) that "[e]ach institution develop a strategic plan to guide its policies and practices related to L[earning] T[echnologies]"; (2) that the "degree of commitment to LTs ... be established as part of [each] universit[y's] strategic plan"; and (3) that COU develop a "system-wide view of the appropriate role of LTs at universities." In addition, the Report proposes, among other things:
• that "[r]esearch in LTs [as measured by publication in refereed journals, etc.] should be considered scholarly work and improved teaching through the use of LTs ... recognized";
• that "[u]niversities assist in advancing LTs by allowing faculty time off to acquire needed LT skills"; and
• that "the faculty-student ratio [should be] reduced to more competitive levels to ensure adequate interaction and support".
With regard to resources, the Report recommends:
• that "the Government of Ontario ... provid[e] $50 million annually over the next five-year period... [to be] used to wire classrooms and laboratories and other needed infrastructure" and that these funds be matched by the "federal government in the area of "telecommunications, information infrastructure, and related matters."
• that "[i]nstitutional commitments [to LTs] should be equal to 2% of operating budget"; and
• that "appropriate collaborations [should be pursued] among institutions and between institutions, government, industry and communities."
A copy of A Time to Sow has been forwarded to the Educational Development Office.
In presenting "Will there be enough excellent profs?" and "How will I know if there is quality?", Dr. Smith emphasized four overarching tasks that, in his view, must be squarely faced by the Ontario university sector if it is to remain (or become?) competitive with the best university sectors in the world:
(1) The persuasion of the Government to allocate resources to the university sector that are commensurate with those in comparable jurisdictions;
(2) The establishment of a collaborative and competitive framework that will enable and motivate Ontario's universities to function according to international standards;
(3) The encouragement of aggressive searches by university faculties and departments for the best available faculty; and
(4) The abolition of restrictions and impediments to the hiring of the best available faculty (for example, the current "two-tier search" protocol).
Copies of both reports can be obtained from the COU Secretariat at 416-979-2165 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Both are also available on the COU web site: www.cou.on.ca.
Council also heard from the President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Robert Giroux, that the Federal Government is showing growing sympathy for the concept of funding universities for the indirect costs of research; however, Mr. Giroux also warned that, should the Federal Government decide to direct a projected $400 million towards university research, some provincial governments might seek to reduce university budgets accordingly.
The meeting of Council ended on a cheerier note with a reception for several past presidents of COU, including Dr. George Connell. The proceedings were conducted by Dr. Paul Davenport with his customary grace and panache. The sparkling beverage served was appropriate both in cost and nomenclature: Bright's "President" champagne.