Course of Action


By Ryan Morreale

A Course of Action

You turn to understand where you exist in PSE (post-secondary education) (Canadian Council on Learning, 2010) and how and realize you have been manipulated by their policies over the years. “Not all institutions have to look the same [and] the system we have now is a model for diminished quality and mediocrity” (Tamburri, 2011, p. 4).  You all are part of this PSE system that exists with poor superiority and ordinariness yet we all want more, something existing of change, something better than what we have. Perhaps a single umbrella approach, meaning that the whole cluster of universities be under the mission and mandate of province-wide policy rather than institutional motivation and local pride. (Clark et al, 2011, p. 3). What about a collective pride and motivation?

“It is not too late for Ontario to create… student-focused education that provides more options for a diverse student population at a cost that is more affordable than the traditional model” (Clark et al, 2011, p. 7).   Perhaps this new plan by the Ontario Liberal Party allowing, money to be “available upfront, before tuition bills are due, for families earning less than $50,000” (Rushowy, 2016).  With this new legislation, perhaps education has shifted in favour of you, you know, in favour of a “willingness of government and the public to support a public higher education system [that] is motivated by its understood contribution to a better quality of life and healthier economy” (HEQCO, 2012, p.9).  You can always sit back and wait for something different, something to change, yet “if we waited for the pedagogical and proverbial path to be mapped out for us, we’d miss unlimited opportunities for teaching and learning” (Zak, 2014, p.1). This is scary – your own path of education – isn’t it easier to go with the system rather than transgress it? “It is like embarking on an adventure without a map instead of opting for the highway and a GPS; both roads lead to the same destination, but the trip is very different” (Zak, 2014, p.3).


Different is also something that scares you. On that note, “there is a strong view that a postsecondary education should produce engaged citizens” (HEQCO, 2012, p.12). Share, collaborate, engage with something on the move. “Narrative is on the move…[and]…Of course, using stories to teach has always been part of the practice of adult educators” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p.1). Yet this is just chaos you say! I want substance, I want quality, I want – not stories! Just be rational now. “Coherence creates sense out of chaos by establishing connections between and among these experiences” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p. 62). So sharing your experience, your path of PSE, with debates and assumptions you have with the whole ‘system of things’ is something of academic and societal rigor that “falls under the larger category of constructivist learning theory, which understands learning as construction of meaning from experience” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p. 63).

You as students, as educators, as researchers, as just another student number, you – as you and/or just another person in the chaos of PSE – are something (not even someone) as such – like an object. Mapping your unique path, your stories, your research “informs narrative learning; experience is the object of the meaning making” (Clark & Rossiter, 2008, p. 63). You want to be an object going through a system? Who really does? What about moving someone as to transform them, without that industrialized system, such as a machine, rather someone who is delighted to stir the hearts and shape minds (Riddell, 2015, p.1)? Stories of ourselves in this huge spectrum of PSE – some may say – this messy, messy business, “draws us out, lead us beyond ourselves…[and] functions as a powerful medium of learning, development and transformation” (Rossiter, 2002, p. 2).

Now what?

Run away fast – get outta here! You want to: listen to your story, engage in your experience or understand your PSE map. What about the others?  This current state of PSE “could promote academic freedom and remind us that high-quality education cannot be achieved without institutional commitment to good working conditions” (Stewart, 2010, p. 2). Working conditions that promote, celebrate, and support all areas of education – for the sake of this discussion – even the area of narrative stories of you and your education. You “may be too close to the action to see it clearly…[and the]…view from afar may afford them a fuller picture” (Evans & Tress, 2009, p. 8).  Both sets of lenses fit the whole picture, your whole picture of PSE or perhaps the others’ whole picture of PSE.

What do you want out of your PSE? “It ought to produce critical thinkers, scientifically and culturally literate people who can access evidence, connect the dots and communicate with clarity -the key skills, that, in a fast-changing economy, prepare people for the jobs that haven’t been invented yet” (n.a., 2011). PSE must educate people to connect the dots regarding a fast-changing scientific and culturally diverse populace. Higher education – your ideal form of it, creates spaces for you and the other and to connect the exploration between knowledge, experience and your vivid imagination. (Riddell, 2015, p.2) This is pretty bold, yet “Many universities leaders know it. …Universities have lost their ‘foundational narrative thread’ (n.a., 2011).  Narrative stories allow PSE to educate a populace in a welcoming, rigorous, and academic manner while you connect knowledge, experience and imagination. “We ask one another and ourselves how we know the world and how we can live delightfully, courageously and responsibly within it” (Riddell, 2015).

Ordinariness narrative stories wanted – apply within! You should apply! Are you afraid of your story being judged? Enjoy the path it takes you. Don’t be afraid. “Academics tend to be afraid of storytelling as a teaching device. Being seen as ‘storytellers’ rather than rigorous scholars makes professors queasy” (Pacheco-Vega, 2016). You should all be ordinary researchers and educators. You “could be both a storyteller and qualitative researcher and maybe stories are just data with a soul” ( Pacheco-Vega, 2016). Narrative Policy Growth is what you call it? PSE and especially you and your story deserves to be researched, taught, and enjoyed.


Canadian Council on Learning (2010). Navigating post-secondary education in Canada: The challenge of a changing landscape. Ottawa, ON: Author. Online at

Clark, M., & Rossiter, M. (2008). Narrative learning in adulthood. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 119, 61-70.

Clark, I.,  Trick, D., & Van Loon, R. (2011). Book excerpt: Time to consider a new type of university. University Affairs, online at

Evans, L., & Bertani Tress, M. (2009). What drives research-focused university academics to want to teach effectively? Examining achievement, self-efficacy and self-esteem. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 3(2).

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2012). Performance indicators for the public postsecondary system in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Author.

Canadian universities must reform or perish (2011). The Globe and Mail Editorial. Online at

Pacheco-Vega, R. (2016). Syllabus-writing as story telling. University Affairs. Online at

Riddell, J. (2015). The importance of delight in the learning process. University Affairs. Online at

Rossiter, M. (2002). Narrative and stories in adult teaching and learning. Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education – ERIC Digest, 24, 1-2.

Rushowy, K. (Feb 2016). Free tuition for college or university promised to students from low-income families. The Star.

Stewart, P. (2010). Academic values v commercial values. CAUT Bulletin, 57(3). Online at

Tamburri, R. (2011). New kid on the block. University Affairs, 22-25.

Zak, R. (2014) I got my PhD by making YouTube videos -and so can you. University Affairs. Online at














Are Corporations the Solution to Higher Education Issues?


By Lena Miele

Welcome to the Millennial era!  In this era information, technology, personal expression, and freedom have more importance than ever before, especially in education. Prodigies and university drop-outs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have changed the way people communicate (and function) today, but they have also made us question what valued does post-secondary education hold in today’s society? In 2003, Kompf also posed this question by stating, “at some point in the near distant future serious questions will be raised about whether or not institution-based education will continue to be seen as a useful public service for advancing the causes of information, knowledge, and knowing” (p. 9). It appears that we have reached the distant future. Fellowships like Thiel established by Pay Pal co-founder offer students $ 100,000 USD to top undergraduate students to drop out of school to pursue technical projects to provide digital services for the public to make daily tasks easier (Metro News, 2016). Students of this fellowship demonstrate a no-regrets approach to leaving university because unlike past generations, a university degree is no longer a guarantee for job security (Metro News, 2016).

There are examples of prodigies and drops-outs to many debt-ridden, inexperienced, and unemployed university graduates who are concerned and frankly bitter about how the institution of higher education has failed them. University degrees and college diplomas are still required in the workplace, but there appears to be a disconnection between the academic world and the real life-work world. Many people are continuing with post-secondary education by enrolling in college or polytech programs (Coates, 2014) and post-graduate studies in hopes of gaining more skills in order to get permanent-full time employment. Taking this topic from the general public to the academy where graduate students are discussing the future of post-secondary education and how it can serve the needs and wants of students and the greater good of society, the following suggestions/issues surfaced.


  • Governments have cut funding for post-secondary education (Shanahan & Jones, 2007) which increases student debt
  • Universities that focus/ produce more research obtain more grant money. As a result, graduate students in any stream of graduate studies should be eligible for funding to help with education costs.

Experiential learning is of greatest value:

  • Students want more hands on experience in their field of study.
  • Co-op placements should be a compulsory component and credit granting.

Considering these suggestions, researchers in higher education have offered various alternatives for universities; however, an option exists and is flourishing today in academia which appears to be the current solution: private funding from corporations. This funding can and is doing the following:

  • Re-invent the university and provide space for teaching experiential learning. Professors in collaboration with corporations provide students theory with hands on This can be done through curriculum writing, in-class instruction, and co-op placements (CAUT, 2013; Hepburn, 2009). Students gain transferable work place skills because they are learning from the people who will potentially hire them in the near future.
  • Provide funding. Universities and students no longer have to rely only on the government for money. Corporations can expand the campus infrastructure, facilities, and research materials for students. They can also provide part time employment to students who wish to work for them (Bradshaw, 2012).
  • Keep the greater good of society with future generations at the core of education. Corporations working with universities (and students) are taking current ideas and concerns to make things better for the general public such as global affairs, environmental sustainability projects, and technology (CAUT, 2013).

Seems too good to be true…you are right it is… for some people such as those  who value the university being an educational institution rather than a “training arm” for corporations (Brown, 2013, para. 7). For those that value  ” teaching and […]research based on scholarly criteria, not on third party interests” (Bradshaw, 2012 para. 12), and having academic freedom of one’s own research ideas rather than simply “patenting” and “packaging” (Hepburn, 2009 para. 8) with a price tag, it is too good to be true, and frankly not worth it. For other people however, they see it as just another ends to justify the means– students still graduate with a degree and potential job offers.


Bradshaw, J. (2012). The tricky business of funding a university. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Brown, L. (2013). Corporate deals seen as dangerous for Canadian universities. The Star. Retrieved from

Canadian Association of University Teachers. (2013). Open for business on what terms: An         analysis of 12 collaborations between Canadian universities and corporations, donors, and governments. Retrieved from

Coates, K. (2014) University vs. college: Why pressuring your kid to go to university is a big mistake. CBC News. Retrieved from

Editorial (2012, Monday October 10). Canadian universities must reform or perish. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Editorial (2016, Sunday February 07). Meet the Waterloo dropouts living the digital dream. Metro news. Retrieved from

Hepburn, N.C. (2009 May 8). The entrepreneurial university. Academic Matters OCUFA Journal of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Kompf, M. (2013). Social epistemology, higher education and cultural convergence. In  M. Kompf & P. M  Denicolo (Eds.), Critical Issues in Higher Education (pp. 3-13). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Lowrie, A. (2007). Branding higher education: Equivalence and difference in developing identity. Journal of Business Research, 60, 990-999.

Shanahan, T., & Jones, G.A. (2007). Shifting roles and approaches: government coordination of post-secondary education in Canada 1995-2006. Higher Education Research and Development, 26 (1), 31-43.


How Did We Get Here? A Brief History on PSE Funding over the last Two Decades


By Christopher Yendt

We seem to talk about a funding problem in the university realm of post-secondary education as unique to the Ontario context.  While it is fairly well known, (if not universally known) that Ontario undergraduates provide the greatest contribution through their tuition dollars in comparison to students in other provinces this does not mean that the issues we face in Ontario are not present across the country.

With the increased pressure universities have faced in Ontario, particularly recently, it seems that it is all we can do in the academic world to talk about this problem as one created in the short term.  While there have been murmurs and discussions with operating grants decreasing year over year it wasn’t until 2012 that we reached the boiling point, when university budgets were no longer publicly funded (Brown, 2016) but rather publicly assisted, with student tuition dollars and fees are tasked with making up the shortfall.  No action stands alone so we need to cast an eye back further to try to understand how our provincial post-secondary education systems got to be the relative quagmire it is today.

In the early 1990s, the province of Ontario and Canada as a whole was rocked by a sizable economic downturn that would shift priorities at both levels of government.  Ontario elected an NDP majority government in 1990 and it attempted to mitigate the effects by spurring investment into the provincial economy.  The results have been disputed, but it did cause Ontario’s debt and deficit to soar.  When Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives swept to power in 1995 there was little choice but to slash program funding.  Two years prior the federal had hit a record high and this helped facilitate the sweep of the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives by the Chretien Liberals.  Both levels of government would start reductions that would devolve much of the responsibility and funding and training to the provinces and territories, though the deferral the federal government retained its responsibility for “labour mobility across Canada, and continues to fund national youth, Aboriginal, persons with disabilities, at-risk youth, immigrants, apprenticeship and literacy programs” (Fisher et al., 2005).

From the federal government’s standpoint their reduction in financial support came through adjusting transfer agreements, thus provincial governments had to ask institutions to either make cuts or increase tuition.  (Shanahan & Jones, 2007, p. 33) Unfortunately the dramatic cuts to transfer payments by the federal government forced the hand of the provinces, many of whom had no choice but to call for tuition fees to increase or be deregulated altogether. (Shanahan & Jones, 2007, p. 33) These cuts were so substantial that it is estimated between 1994/95 and 2004/05 per student funding “decreased by almost 50%” (Fisher et al., 2005).

While the federal government’s approach to provincial transfers was often changed, the 1995 federal budget served to reshape the entire agreement (Shanahan & Jones, 2007).  The argument now remains split along the lines you would expect, the provincial and federal governments on one side arguing in essence that universities should operate more efficiently and reduce costs in order to balance budgets; meanwhile universities argue that these governments have set them up to fail with various efficiency targets and tuition freezes that has only made their financial situation more dire.  All the while, students are protesting the rising cost of education as they are caught in the middle.

At what point can we come to agreement that the solutions being proposed are bandages to a broken system? We seem vested in developing a fix to the problem as though it is only a few years old when in fact it has been decades in the making.  It is easy to see that without a solution this slide will bring our society back to the point where only the wealthy can afford a university education.  A solution will need to involve participants at all levels, it will need government recognition that universities and colleges need more financial support, but also that they must cooperate more directly to reduce costs.  It means that faculty overall need to be paid less, an often unpopular opinion, but the fact remains that the 66% of the operating budget at Brock goes to salaries/wage/benefits and 65% of that is on Faculty/Teaching Staff, making up 43% of the overall budget (Brock University Budget Report, 2015).  Beyond this there does not seem to be a concrete solution, which is likely why the situation remains such a problem.  It seems that no one has any money, and when they do there are always other priorities.


Brock University, Budget Report 2015-16). (2015). St. Catharines, Niagara Region, ON: Brock     University.

Brown, L. (2016, Jan 13). Student group calls for tuition freeze to combat ‘death of public universities’. The Star. Retrieved from            tuition-freeze-to-combat-death-of-public-universities.html

Fisher, D., Rubenson, K., Clift, R., MacIvor, M., Meredith, J., Shanahan, T., Jones, G., Trottier, C., & Bernatchez, J. (2005). Canadian federal policy and post secondary education. New York, NY: Alliance for International Higher Education Policy Studies.

Shanahan, T., & Jones, G. A. (2007). Shifting roles and approaches: Government coordination  of post-secondary education in Canada, 1995-2006. Higher Education Research and Development, 26(1), 31-43.

Additional Articles of Interest


The Geography of Differentiation


By Christopher Ventura

Institutional differentiation within Ontario’s Post-Secondary Education (PSE) sector began to unfold in real terms in April of 2014, with that being the effective starting date for all of Ontario’s PSE institutional Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) (Brock University & Ontario Government, 2014). The first round of SMAs negotiated between the government and the 44 PSE institutions in Ontario is set to expire in 2017, so within institutions, discussions are already underway of what the next SMA process may look like.

In 2013, Weingarten, Hicks, Jonker, & Liu published The diversity of Ontario’s universities: A data set to inform the differentiation discussion as a major paper through the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The paper’s intention was to show statistical reasoning for the Ontario government’s clustering of institutions in a differentiated system based on, “variables that other jurisdictions have used to differentiate their university systems”.

This blog post will examine a sample of the institutions identified in the cluster described as, the “mainly undergraduate universities that are less involved in graduate education, especially at the PhD level, and attract a lower level of research income” (Weingarten et al., 2013) The institutions identified were Algoma, Brock, Laurier, Lakehead, Laurentian, Nipissing, Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCADU), Trent, and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). The sample chosen for this blog excludes OCADU, UOIT & Algoma University, because they have a specifically different mandate already, as noted in the HEQCO (Weingarten et al., 2013) paper, and Algoma Universit’s SMA (Algoma University & Ontario Government, 2014).

Each SMA negotiated between the Ontario government and the institutions follow an identical format, which makes it very easy to compare and contrast objectives and differentiation methods. Within each document’s executive summary there is a small section entitled, “[Institutions] key areas of differentiation”, which gives a brief insight into each institution’s vision of how their institution is differentiated from others. By coding each of these sections from the selected institution’s SMAs, patterns, similarities and differences emerge.

Between the six institutions identified, the author identified key phrases and themes that appeared in more than four of the SMAs. The findings of this coding resulted in a further split of the cluster around geographical lines, as well as a clear and measured difference between all of the institutions within the identified cluster, and a sample of those considered a cluster of, “Universities at the upper end of research intensity” (Weingarten et al., 2013).

There was a clear distinction between the SMAs presented by Brock & Laurier, as opposed to those from the other institutions within the cluster, and even the language of the similarities across all institutions varied. The four most prevalent themes were community engagement, a focus on growing research, inclusiveness, and improving access. Not of all these were evident across all institutions in the study, but were noted in at least four of the six SMAs.

Community engagement was cited by all institutions except Laurentian in their SMA (Brock University, Trent University, Nippising University, Lakehead University, Wilfred Laurier University, Government of Ontario, 2014). There was an interesting distinction in the language used by northern institutions versus their southern counterparts. Each of the northern institutions spoke more of engagement and improvement within their community. Lakehead opens their statement by saying, “Lakehead has a significant impact on the economic, social, and cultural life of Thunder Bay, Orillia, and their surrounding communities” (Lakehead University, Government of Ontario, 2014). By contrast, the southern-based institutions used community engagement language in terms of community partnerships.

This distinction between the language of northern institutions and southern ones is further exacerbated by the focus that all of the northern institutions put on access and inclusiveness, which neither Brock or Laurier mentioned as key differentiators. Trent University has the most impactful statement on their focus on these two key points. Their SMA states, “Trent has a culture of inclusivity and has placed a significant emphasis on improving access to postsecondary education by underrepresented groups including Aboriginal, first-generation postsecondary, LGBTQ, and international students” (Trent University & Government of Ontario, 2014).

This is an interesting distinction, because no institution studied has any language around inclusivity, or improving access that is located around the Greater Toronto – Hamilton Area (GTHA) and even beyond that within Southern Ontario. Since Brock University’s and Laurier University’s SMAs have nearly all of the same key tags, perhaps they belong in a separate category. Would it be fair to put all of the northern institutions in a cluster unto themselves?

To take this a step further, the author looked at three of the institutions in the next category identified by the HEQCO (Weingarten et al., 2013) report, that were primarily research intensive, to see if Brock and Laurier were misidentified and placed in the wrong cluster. The difference between the three institutions, Waterloo, McMaster & University of Ottawa could not be more different from the submissions of Brock and Laurier. The three research intensive institutions’ SMAs were primarily focused on their specific research areas and how they were unique within the Higher Education system in Ontario (University of Waterloo, McMaster University, University of Ottawa, Ontario Government, 2014). The differences specifically between Laurier University and University of Waterloo could not be starker, and their main campuses are approximately 1 km apart!

So, what conclusions can be drawn from this analysis?

  1. Brock and Laurier should be in their own cluster, as they are significantly different from their northern sister institutions.
  2. Brock and Laurier are severely lagging behind their fellow southern sister institutions in terms of focus on research.
  3. The Ontario Government needs to be clearer when setting the parameters by which institutions differentiate, as some focused heavily on their research strengths, while others focused on community strengths or being an accessible location.

This surface level investigation has revealed some interesting differences that the geography of institutions has on their core values, which do not diminish in an east/west split, but rather a north/south division. Future research on this topic can be aimed at digging deeper into the SMA submissions by these institutions to examine if there are more fundamental differences between institutions based on age, location, research income, and each’s own unique vision of itself.


Brock University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Lakehead University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Laurentian University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Laurier University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

McMaster University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Nippising University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Trent University, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

University of Ottawa, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

University of Waterloo, & Government of Ontario (2014). Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-2017). Toronto: The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Weingarten, H. P., Hicks, M., Jonker, L., & Liu, S. (2013). The Diversity of Ontario’s Universities: A Data Set to Inform the Differentiation Discussion. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.