Increasing Degree Opportunities for Ontarians
A Consultation Paper / April 2000
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More Ontarians than ever before are seeking access to a wider range of degree programs. Changing expectations from employers and increasing demand from students for more choices requires the government to expand access to degree programs.
The Government is committed to providing a space in postsecondary education for every qualified and motivated student. The majority of new spaces created over the coming decade will continue to be in publicly supported universities and colleges.
The current legislative and policy approach limits the choices available to Ontarians who are seeking degrees:
In order to address these pressures, the Government has decided to expand access to degree programs and:
The Government has made a number of decisions about how to increase access to a broader range of degree opportunities. This document outlines those decisions and a number of areas where we are seeking advice.
All of the Government's decisions in this area will be guided by the principles of creating opportunities and expanding choice, assuring quality, and protecting students from the risk of financial loss.
Each of Ontario's 17 publicly supported universities is authorized to grant degrees by a statute of the Legislature (or, in the case of Queen's University, by a royal charter).
Colleges of applied arts and technology may not grant degrees. Some colleges have made arrangements for graduates from certain programs to complete a degree at a university, in Ontario or elsewhere.
Some private institutions are authorized by the Legislature to grant theological degrees (e.g., Bachelor of Christian Studies, Bachelor of Sacred Music). Only one private institution Redeemer College, in Ancaster is authorized by the Legislature to grant secular degrees (e.g., Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science).
Out-of-province institutions wishing to offer degrees in Ontario may seek a "ministerial consent" under the Degree Granting Act. In the absence of a made-in-Ontario process for quality assessment, ministers have normally relied on assessments undertaken in the applicant's home jurisdiction to determine whether the proposed program is of acceptable quality. Most ministerial consents have been limited to three years, after which the applicant may seek a renewal.
Organizations within Ontario seeking to establish new degree-granting institutions require statutory authority to do so. These organisations have not been supported or encouraged by governments over the years, as a matter of policy.
Out-of-province organizations offering degrees via the Internet or other forms of distance education are not subject to provincial statutes or regulations, provided that they do not establish a physical presence in Ontario. The U.S. Department of Education has found that, in the United States alone, 1,680 institutions offered a total of 54,000 online education courses in 1998. The number of Ontarians registered in these courses is not known.
Private vocational schools offering diplomas or certificates are privately owned and are operated as commercial enterprises. They must be registered under the Private Vocational Schools Act. They do not receive operating grants but their students may be eligible to receive government-subsidized student loans and grants. These schools may not offer degrees in Ontario.
As this description demonstrates, the processes by which an institution may gain degree-granting authority in Ontario today are complex. They vary depending on whether the institution is taxpayer-supported or not, and whether it is based in Ontario or out-of-province. One of the government's objectives is to introduce greater consistency and accountability in decisions about which institutions are permitted to grant degrees in Ontario.
The Government of Ontario has approved the establishment of private, degree-granting institutions in Ontario, including for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, and will allow Ontario's colleges of applied arts and technology to offer applied degrees.
The introduction private universities will give students a wider range of degree choices. However, the Government recognizes the importance of ensuring the quality of new programs to be offered by these institutions and protecting the financial investment of students.
Specifically, these new initiatives will:
I. Quality Assessment Board
Ontario degrees have earned a solid and valuable reputation over the years. The Government wants to make sure that Ontario degrees maintain their reputation.
A Quality Assessment Board will be set up to ensure that the quality of new degree programs meets current Ontario standards. The Board will assess the academic soundness of program proposals from new degree-granting institutions; institutions outside Ontario that want to offer degree programs in Ontario; and colleges of applied arts and technology that propose degree programs.
At present, there is no established and consistent government-led process to assess degree program quality. To remedy this, we will establish a Quality Assessment Board (QAB) as |an advisory body to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. The Board will be responsible for assessing applications to offer degree programs in Ontario. The Board will apply standards and use commonly accepted academic review procedures. The Board will advise on whether the name of the institution and the name of the degree accurately reflect the education that is offered. The Board will also call upon the advice of specialized experts in the proposed field of study and other relevant groups. Recommendations from the Board will be submitted to the Minister.
The Board will have the mandate to assess all new degree programs, including those offered by out-of-province institutions, by new free- standing institutions, and Ontario college applied degree programs. It will be expected to provide objective and expert advice to the Minister and act in the best interests of the public and students.
Existing Ontario degree-granting institutions will be exempt from having their programs assessed by the QAB.
The Board will consist of a chair and a part-time board of stakeholder representatives.
Revenues from application fees are expected to fund the operating costs of the board within two to three years.
Ontario's colleges of applied arts and technology have an excellent reputation for offering high-quality, vocationally-oriented education and training in applied arts, business, health sciences and technology. This training is recognized through the certificate, diploma and post-diploma credentials. Colleges currently do not have the authority to grant degrees.
On a pilot project basis, colleges of applied arts and technology will be allowed to offer selected programs leading to an applied degree in key areas of economic need or where current diploma programs are not fully meeting emerging needs.
Increasingly, employers are demanding a more highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce to keep up with the demands of a fast-paced and changing economy. Colleges are well-positioned to provide the requisite combination of advanced training and education to meet this demand. This type of advanced career training and education would go beyond what is normally provided in a college diploma program and should be appropriately recognized through the applied degree credential.
The government is implementing a pilot project to provide colleges with the opportunity to seek applied degree status for selected college programs. Up to eight projects per year will be introduced over three years. For this purpose, a project will normally be defined as one program offered by one college.
A college seeking applied degree status for a selected college program will be required to make an application to the Quality Assessment Board. The Board will assess the quality of proposed pilot projects and advise the Minister. The Minister will decide whether to approve each pilot project, taking into account:
College applied degrees will be offered in areas where there is a demonstrated employer demand for degree-level applied education and training, and where current diploma programs are not fully meeting emerging needs. These degrees will combine a solid grounding in theory and analytical skills with career-oriented, practical education and training. To avoid duplication, college applied degrees will not be offered in program areas normally offered at universities in Ontario.
The primary role of Ontario colleges will not be altered by the applied degree pilot project. Colleges of applied arts and technology will continue to focus their efforts on providing high-quality certificate and diploma programming in programs of one to three years' duration. The principal role of college faculty will continue to be to provide excellent instruction. Efforts will continue through the Ontario College-University Degree Completion Accord (Port Hope Accord) and the College-University Consortium Council to facilitate college-university collaboration on degree completion arrangements for college diploma holders.
At the end of three years, each project will be assessed and a decision made whether and how to continue permitting colleges to seek applied degree status for college programs.
Once the Quality Assessment Board is in place, groups wanting to establish new degree-granting institutions in Ontario may apply to do so. The Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities will be prepared to consider approving such applications, if they pass a new quality assessment.
New degree-granting institutions will give Ontario students a wider range of degree choices. Subject to government approval, new Ontario-based institutions will be eligible to offer degree programs in Ontario. These institutions will not be eligible for provincial capital or operating funding.
Allowing private universities to offer degree programs in Ontario may create significantly more opportunities for:
These new degree programs and the institutional capacity to offer degrees will be subject to review by the newly established Quality Assessment Board, which will advise the Minister.
In allowing private universities to be established, we have identified two main criteria for any new degree-granting institutions or degree programs:
The Government wants to ensure protection is available to students who attend any private postsecondary institution. Students should be protected from the possibility that a private institution would cease operations before they have completed their course of study and received their degrees. Students also need a guarantee that they will continue to have access to transcripts of their academic records after graduation, even if the institution ceases to operate.
A new consumer protection approach will be put in place
Measures to protect students could include establishing a sector-funded compensation pool via mandatory contributions. The pool would be available to compensate students in the event of institutional failure. Institutions could be required to post a bond as is the case with private vocational schools. Such protections could also include mandatory agreements whereby institutions negotiated a "teach-out" provision with other degree-granting institutions in the event they were unable to offer a complete degree program or ceased operations.
A new degree-granting institution wishing to offer OSAP to its students will be required to go through the same process that applies to private vocational schools. In general, this process requires that an institution operate in Ontario for 3 years and have at least one graduating class before being fully eligible to offer OSAP.
The maximum tuition fee that will be recognized for purposes of OSAP at new degree-granting institutions will be $4500 for a normal academic year. This is the same maximum that applies to Additional Cost Recovery programs at publicly-supported institutions.