“By adapting the successful B.C.
model, Ontario would finally
create a credible college-university
a campus of an existing university the provision of all of these adminis-
trative and academic support services are incremental, building on the
existing infrastructure in which taxpayers have already invested, and the
academic degrees and programs of the existing university can be offered
immediately. Creating a brand new institution from scratch exponentially
increases the costs compared with building a new campus of an existing
institution, and Academic Reform ignores this in its analysis. Furthermore,
a 2003 national study comparing instructional costs in the U.S. found that
80 percent of cost differences are accounted for by discipline and program
mix, and that comparing institutions with similar program mixes shows no
appreciable differences in overall unit instructional costs between research
universities and baccalaureate colleges. 3 This study is not referenced in
Also, the authors claim that by offering the same salaries as existing
universities, the new institutions would compete for faculty on an equal
basis with traditional universities. Nothing could be further from the
truth. Faculty hired by these new universities will be highly qualified
scholars, most having PhDs. They will want to do research and will not
be satisfied with working in an institution that does not support them
conducting a reasonable amount of research and establishing themselves
as credible scholars. Most of them will be constantly on the lookout for
positions at a “real” university, but in the meantime they will work dili-
gently to push the university administration to provide them more time
to do research, administrative support to compete for external funding,
and financial support for engaging their students in their research activities.
I lived through the latter period of the B.C. experiment with “university
colleges,” and that is exactly what happened to those institutions. As they
expanded and developed their own degrees and identities, hired excellent
faculty who wanted to teach undergraduates and conduct research, and
competed with traditional universities for students and resources, they
grew out of the legislative box that the government had placed around
them and demanded that they be treated as real universities.
Today, the university colleges are no more, having evolved into re-
gional universities (except Okanagan University College, which was split
into a separate college and a university campus of the University of British
Columbia) that are teaching-focused, primarily serving undergraduates
but with scholarly research activities that, while limited by their mandates,
support and enrich the undergraduate student learning experience.
So, is there a better approach for the Ontario government to consider?
Rather than create costly new institutions, it would make much more sense
to use the existing postsecondary infrastructure by identifying a number
of colleges in the GTA to offer two-year arts and science programs that
would articulate directly into third year at any Ontario university. Such
an approach is mentioned in Academic Reform, but is dismissed, sadly, in
favour of the “new universities” proposal. Increased upper-level capacity
at existing universities could be addressed through the government’s ex-
pansion of graduate education, as those professors hired to teach and
supervise graduate students would also teach upper-level undergraduate
1Clark, I.D., D. Trick, and R. Van Loon (2011). Academic Reform: Policy Options for Improving
the Quality and Cost-Effectiveness of Undergraduate Education in Ontario. Queen’s University
Policy Studies Series, McGill-Queen’s University Press.
2Clark, I.D., G. Moran, M.L. Skolnick, and D. Trick (2009). Academic Transformation: The Forces
Reshaping Higher Education in Ontario. Queen’s University Policy Studies Series, McGill-Queen’s
3Middaugh, M.F., R. Graham, & A. Shahid. (2003). A study of higher education instructional
expenditures: The Delaware Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity. (NCES Publication No.