Ontario faculty concerned about McGuinty's plans to expand university system

New spaces must be funded with public dollars, not on the backs of international students

TORONTO, March 8 /CNW/ - The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) today expressed concern about the Government of Ontario's plan to add 20,000 new spaces at the province's colleges and universities. The expansion, announced in the Speech from the Throne, will harm the quality of education unless it is accompanied by increased operating funding for the hiring of new faculty and the provision of student support.

"Creating new university spaces helps more Ontarians participate in higher education," said Professor Mark Langer, President of OCUFA. "But the McGuinty government, in their haste to put up new buildings to accommodate new students, seems to have forgotten that these new facilities need to be staffed by full-time professors and academic librarians."

Years of under-funding have strained the ability of Ontario's universities to deliver a high quality educational experience. Ontario has the highest student-to-faculty ratio in Canada, at 27-to-1. An increase in enrolment will push this ratio even higher, limiting the ability of students to engage with their professors and hurting their ability to learn. OCUFA research indicates that most universities are now cutting departmental budgets, instituting hiring freezes, and restricting the number of available courses.

"Premier McGuinty is framing the expansion of the university system as a question of access," said Prof. Langer. "But unless these new students have the benefit of full-time professors, reasonable class sizes and meaningful course choices, you really have to ask the question: access to what?"

An additional 20,000 spaces is also inadequate to address the true enrolment demand. Between 45,000 and 75,000 new students will be looking to enter the postsecondary education system over the next five years in the GTA alone. Today's announcement not only ignores the need for increased operating funds in the university system, but barely addresses the problem it is supposed to solve.

OCUFA is also concerned over plans to increase recruitment of international students. Years of chronic under-funding by the provincial government have left Ontario's universities hungry for new revenue sources. Since international students pay much higher tuition fees than domestic students, universities are keen to recruit them. OCUFA is concerned that the McGuinty government's push towards greater international enrolment is a way to increase financial resources in the university system without increasing their own level of investment.

"International students enrich the educational experience and improve our economic and social ties with other nations. The danger in the Government of Ontario's proposal is that international students become 'cash cows' for our cash-strapped university system. This is just unfair," said Prof. Langer. "There is only one way to ensure high quality and equitable university education for every student, present and future: we need to increase government investment in basic operating funds alongside new capital spending, and we need to do it now."

Founded in 1964, OCUFA represents over 15,000 faculty and academic librarians in 26 faculty associations across Ontario. For more information, please visit the OCUFA website at http://www.ocufa.on.ca.

SOURCE Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

For further information: For further information: Graeme Stewart, (416) 979-2117 x232 or (647) 280-3175, gstewart@ocufa.on.ca; or Henry Mandelbaum, (416) 671-3230, hmandelbaum@ocufa.on.ca

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Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

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