Volume 96, Issue 65
Friday, January 24, 2003

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Upper-year classes: the next double cohort threat

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Talk of the double cohort's arrival next year has overshadowed any discussion of what will occur when the influx of students begin filtering through to the upper-year university classes.

University administrator's and student groups have raised concerns over the burden the double cohort will place on Ontario's post-secondary system once next year's flock of first-year students begin entering their second and third years of study.

Western is not just concerned with what will happen in September 2003, but also for the years after that, said Western President Paul Davenport. Funding from the province is needed to ensure there is a quality student to faculty ratio in the years that follow, he explained.

"The stresses and strains of the double cohort should be a wake-up call for society, and the provincial government, that now is the time for a significant renewal of public funding for universities," he said.

According to Dave Ross, spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, any increased funding will be announced when the provincial government presents their spring budget.

The government needs to get through this year's budget before it can begin looking at what will happen in the future, he explained.

"We would stand firm with the administration on calling on the government for these initiatives," said Josh Morgan, University Students' Council VP-education and president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.

Specific government commitments must be made to ensure the quality of upper-year programs as the double cohort filters through, he said.

"At Western, these concerns are enhanced by several factors," Morgan said, noting the administration's plan to restructure undergraduate degrees in order to eliminate three-year general degrees. "This will result in more students on campus."

"The Ontario government has not adequately prepared for the double cohort in first-year and [they] have not thought of the devastation on the university budget after that," said Sarah McCarter, VP-external for the Society of Graduate Students, adding the government's lack of foresight is especially true in the case of graduate studies.

"In the [university's] Strategic Plan, we are committed to maximizing student choice, [while] realizing the goal of the Strategic Plan requires a renewal of public funding," Davenport said.

Without renewed funding, the student to faculty ratio will increase even further, Morgan said. "You really need some one-on-one time with a professor [especially in upper-year courses] to ensure high academic quality," he added.

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2002 THE GAZETTE