Senate Agenda - EXHIBIT VI - October 19, 2001
Report on the 257th meeting of the Council of Ontario Universities
Thursday and Friday, October 11 and 12, 2001
D.M.R. Bentley, Academic Colleague
Several aspects of the meetings of the Academic Colleagues' Caucus and of the Council itself will be of interest to Senate.
(1) Preliminary Enrolment Data for 2001-02. An enrolment increase of approximately 5.2% rather than the predicted 2.3% has prompted renewed calls for full Government funding of all students in the system. While both the Minister and the deputy Minister are apparently committed to securing such funding, the economic downturn preceding and following the events of September 11 has left the financial future very uncertain (a point reiterated by the representative of the AUCC with regard to that organization's efforts to persuade the federal government to fund research overheads).
(2) ACUMEN Report on the Socio-economic Profile of University Students. The main finding of this Report is that "applicants are not being pulled from an increasingly narrow group towards the top of the income distribution. In fact, it appears that the number of applicants from the lower segments of the income distribution increased somewhat from the 1994 to 1998. In addition, from 1998 to 2001 overall application income did not appear to increase. Instead the pattern of increased applications from lower in the income distribution appeared again with the applicants reporting family income under 30 thousand dollars increasing from 22% to approximately 28%." The upshot of the extensive discussions of the Report among members of Council is that its findings and conclusions should be treated with circumspection for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they are based on applicants rather than registrants, the likelihood that they are skewed by data from the northern universities, and the seeming disparity in some respects between StatsCan data and the data generated by ACUMEN. It was widely agreed that the Report should be carefully examined and weighed, and placed in the context of studies of student debt-load.
(3) EKOS Survey of Public Perceptions of the Quality, Funding, and Accessibility of Ontario Universities. With respect to quality, this Survey revealed very strong agreement on the value of broad-based university education and strong agreement on the desirability of the development of skills leading to employment, strong agreement on the importance of teaching and facilities (laboratories and libraries), on the availability of wide choices of programmes and courses, and on the benefit to students of working with an active researcher, and weak agreement on the importance of comfortable residences and internet access. With respect to funding, it revealed very strong agreement that the Ontario Government should be the main source of funding, that funding should be "core" rather than targeted, and that universities themselves should be responsible for directing funding to areas of "student demand." It also indicated strong support for funding to improve the quality of Ontario universities (which was perceived as fair to good but not excellent) and to deal with the "double cohort." And with respect to accessibility, it revealed widespread agreement on the principle involved, as well as widespread agreement that students should be able to choose programmes leading to future employment.
(4) Ontario Institute of Technology. The most lugubriously anticipated event of the Council meeting was unquestionably the introduction of Mr. Gary Polonsky, the President of Durham College/OIT. (One can imagine that the senatorial reception of Caligula's horse after it had been made a consul was similar in enthusiasm and complexity.) Mr. Polonsky informed Council the OIT would be a fully-shod university in all but name (though it would not be saddled with a senate), that it would focus primarily on education leading to "high-wage employment," that it would be "up and running" by September 2003, that it would reach an enrolment of 6,500 by the end of the decade, and that it would eventually have a student body of 25,000.