The University of Western Ontario

Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

June 22, 1999


Western's Response to the Increased Cohort?


Provost's Discussion Paper


Letter to the Members of the Western Community

A. The Context

B. The Increased Cohort

C. The Costs of Expansion

D. What will this increased cohort mean for Western?

E. The Increased Cohort, Student Quality, and Program Diversity

F. Toward a University Position on the Increased Cohort

A. The Context 1

In March of this year, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) released a report entitled "Ontario's Students/Ontario's Future." This report predicts an increase in demand for university places of between 25% and 40% by the end of the next decade. This substantial increase in demand is anticipated as a result of a number of factors: growth in the 18- to 24-year-old segment of Ontario's population, an increased university participation rate, and more string ent educational requirements in the workforce. The timing of this increase in demand will be accelerated substantially by the impending elimination of grade 13 and the OAC structure in the province's secondary school system and the resulting double cohort .

The COU report also documents the financial investment that will be required if Ontario's universities are to ensure that all qualified students continue to have access to a high quality education. COU calls for this investment to include two component s: 1) funds that will move Ontario's level of funding to the average of the other provinces, and; 2) funds sufficient to support the additional students and maintain the necessary level of ongoing funding.

Although these proposals were constructed in consultation with the government, the Ministry of Education and Training has not responded. It is clear, however, that with the first group of students to graduate from the reconfigures secondary school syst em beginning grade 9 in the fall of this year, plans must be accelerated. Decisions will need to be made without delay if there are to be sufficient qualified members of faculty available to teach additional students and if physical facilities are to be r eady to accommodate them.

As one of the province's largest and leading universities, Western will be expected to play an important part in responding to the need for additional university spaces. As a publically funded institution, we have a special responsibility to ensure tha t qualified students wishing to enter university in the coming decade have the same access to a quality education as did their counterparts in the past. We have It is likely that the timeline available to the University to decide on the nature and extent of its role will be short. This document is intended to provide the University community with information about the increased cohort and a sense of the choices that we are likely to be facing in the near future - choices that could have a profound impact on the quality, nature, and shape of our University for some time to come.

1. A more comprehensive description of issues related to the increased cohort can be found in the following document, available from any Dean's Office: Ontario's Students/Ontario's Future, Council of Ontario Universities, March, 1999.

B. The Increased Cohort



C. The Costs of Expansion



 * Total Cost Scenario Graphs: Student Assistance (Green); Capital Requirements (Brown); Operating Grant Requirements (Yellow)



D. What will this increased cohort mean for Western?


E. The Increased Cohort, Student Quality, and Program Diversity

Answers to the following questions will determine Western's response to the increased cohort:

  1. What size share of the increased provincial cohort should the University, as a whole, strive to accommodate? What are the trade-offs between size, student qualifications, and program quality?
  2. How should this share be allocated across Western's various undergraduate and graduate programs?
  3. What are some of the issues and unknowns that provide the context for internal discussions of Western's position?

What should be Western's share of the increased cohort?

The following considerations will influence our response to this question as it relates to our admissions to first-entry undergraduate programs:



How should the enrolment expansion be allocated across Western's programs?

The increased cohort will not be limited to admissions to first-entry undergraduate programs. Western could choose to respond to the increased cohort in a wide variety of patterns across its undergraduate and graduate programs. Although the fun ding formula for such expansion will have an important impact on these options, a number of issues deserve consideration:

Western's rich program diversity and the high quality of our programs provide us with many options in planning overall enrolment expansion. It is essential that Faculties, Departments, and Schools begin without delay the task of modelling plans that ar e consistent with their strategic objectives. The opportunity and challenges posed by the increased cohort and the promise of real investment in Ontario's universities will not arise again soon for Western. The choices made at this time are likely to shap e the University for decades to come.

What are some of the issues and unknowns that provide the context for internal discussions of Western's position?


F. Toward a University Position on the Increased Cohort

  1. This discussion paper will be circulated widely across campus in an effort to provide the community with the information necessary to understand the issues facing Western in the coming 6-12 months.
  2. The Provost will meet with Deans and and Faculty Executives/Council of Chairs, and with the unit heads of Physical Plant, Housing and Food Services, and other support and ancillary units in June and July, 1999, to discuss the planning issues and proce ss.
  3. The Provost will hold open meetings in the early fall of 1999 to discuss the issue. These meetings will include both open-invitation and Faculty-specific gatherings.
  4. Deans will be asked to begin a process of planning within their Faculties that will culminate with proposals that will be included in their Faculty Annual Plans as part of the 2000-01 University planning cycle.
  5. A working group will be formed immediately by the Provost to begin analyzing the academic and financial impact of various options and responding to information arising from COU and MET in the coming months. The group will involve the Chair of SCUP, tw o Deans, Directors of IPB, ITS, PPD, and the Registrar.
  6. The Provost will report regularly to SCUP and the Senior Operations, and Property and Finance Committees of the Board of Governors on discussions towards the formulation of a plan to be submitted to these committees regarding enrolment and expansion i n response to the increased cohort as part of the University's annual plan for 2000-01.


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Last revised: 1999/07/08