was a unique food and nutrition program that lured
Caitie Cheeseman to Brescia University College in London, Ont. What sealed the deal was the moment when the
admissions officer who had come to her high school on a
recruiting visit quickly recognized her by name when Ms.
Cheeseman showed up for a campus tour. That person,
Wendy Latimer, made a point of staying in touch with Ms.
Cheeseman to guide her through the application process
and eventual course registration.
Four years later, “she’s my academic advisor,” says Ms.
Cheeseman, now 21 and in her final year at Brescia, where she’s also the
student council president. It’s just one example, she says, of how the place
makes it easy for students to feel like they belong. “It’s that small campus
community where people recognize you, know your name, and you really
feel connected to it.”
Ms. Cheeseman is one of 1,350 students at Canada’s only all-women’s
university and is a testament to its commitment to developing young wom-
en’s leadership skills along with their intellectual pursuits. Most of her
courses must be taken at Brescia, but she is also within easy reach of the
courses, services and activities at the main campus of Western University,
a six-minute walk away and with about 20 times the enrolment. Brescia,
founded by a group of Ursuline nuns with its first class of seven students
in 1919, has been affiliated with Western since the beginning. Two other
colleges, Huron and King’s, are also Western affiliates.
Brescia’s story is fairly typical of affiliated and federated colleges, and
its history speaks to that of the country itself. Higher education in the
19th century was frequently an initiative of religious groups seeking a
place to train the next generation of clergy in communities big and small.
Eventually, to build credibility and sustain themselves financially, these
denominational institutions either banded together or joined with secular, publicly funded universities. This desire for credibility and the ability
to offer recognized degrees led to many creative arrangements, surmounting geographic distances as well as linguistic and religious differences.
The University of Manitoba was founded as a non-denominational
university in 1877 from three colleges: the francophone and Catholic
Collège de Saint-Boniface; the Anglican St. John’s College; and the Presby-
terian Manitoba College. Campion College, founded by Jesuits in Regina
in 1917, first affiliated with U of Manitoba, then in 1923 was recognized as
a junior college of the University of Saskatchewan. In 1964, it was granted
federation with the Regina Campus of U of S, which later became the
University of Regina. The fledgling Victoria College in Victoria, B.C., mean-
while, was affiliated with Montreal’s McGill University between 1903 and
1915, becoming the independent University of Victoria much later.
Affiliated and federated colleges are in many ways “artifacts of history,”
writes former Ontario senior public servant David Trick in a 2015 report
on the subject for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Affiliation and federation arrangements are often taken for granted or misunderstood in the fabric of everyday campus life. Yet their typically smaller
classes, unique programs, distinct missions and priority given to teaching
make them “highly relevant,” he says, to the goal of providing high-quality
undergraduate education in an era of near-universal access.
For a new student trying to find their place in a large and sometimes
bewildering campus, it can all add up to a highly satisfying and engaging university experience – exactly what Canadian universities and their
policymakers are aiming for. “It’s a little bit smaller and a little bit quieter,” says Ms. Cheeseman at Brescia. “There is a lot of history. It’s a very
when considering the history of affiliated and federated institutions,
“I’m in awe,” says Kenneth-Roy Bonin. “We don’t realize where we’ve come
from. There are a lot of lessons to be learned.” Dr. Bonin, a senior fellow
in the faculty of public affairs at Carleton University and a former president of the University of Sudbury, has made it his mission to collect and
catalogue as many of the country’s affiliation and federation agreements
as possible, working in conjunction with Glen Jones, a professor of higher
education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, and Pat Moore, a systems librarian at Carleton, along with
a group of graduate students. At last count, the team had amassed more
than 250 such documents, 25 still current. The agreements are archived on
a digital objects database maintained by Carleton.
By far the largest concentration of affiliates was found in the Catholic
collèges classiques system, the dominant form of upper secondary and early postsecondary education in Quebec and in francophone communities
outside Quebec during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dozens of these
schools affiliated either with Université Laval starting around the 1860s
or later, or with Université de Montréal, which itself was initially a branch
of Laval. The affiliations fell away in the secularizing times of the 1960s