Volume 91, Issue 76

Thursday, February 12, 1998



Toronto board trades controversial report

By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Staff

A report published Monday by the Toronto Board of Trade offers several recommendations which many believe will have serious implications for the future of post-secondary education.

The report was produced as a result of findings made when a task force, formed a year ago with representatives from the business community, colleges, universities and private and vocational schools, was surveyed on several education issues, said trade board director of policy Louise Verity.

The four basic principles behind the recommendations include funding, academic excellence, student costs and opportunities with some specific suggestions including alternatives to academic tenure, establishing private universities and allowing market forces to determine tuition fees.

However, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations believes these recommendations are not the result of a serious attempt to look at the university system, said OCUFA president Deborah Flynn.

Flynn said she is upset with several of the issues addressed by the board, including the suggestion the current university system is inefficient. She explained over the past five years $549 million has been cut in funding and faculty has decreased by over 1,000 professors, yet enrollment has gone up 34 per cent – which she believes is proof of efficiency.

The deregulation of tuition fees and the change to a private school system, which could cause a higher loan defunct rate, were also listed by Flynn as troublesome.

"At a time when students are being deterred from going to university, we now have the board of trade saying students should be the prime benefactor of their education," she said. "The board of trade doesn't recognize there are cultural, social and economic benefit to the province [when students are educated]."

Western's VP-academic Greg Moran said he was concerned about the issue of tenure which he believes does not equal lack of accountability. "Tenure continues to be the fundamental cornerstone of what makes universities unique."

Moran also said although private universities are successful in the United States, their schools were established a long time ago in a culture and system very different from our current one.

Rick Martin, acting executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, a provincial student lobby group, said although he believes there are some positive elements to be drawn from these recommendations, people have to look at where information is coming from.

The next step for the board includes wide distribution of the paper while trying to gauge public support, Verity said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998