Northern students say: new report recommending specialised universities ignores their interests

TORONTO–Sault Ste. Marie–Students studying in Northern Ontario question the recommendations in a report of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) entitled, The Benefits of Greater Differentiation of Ontario’s University Sector. The calls for a rigid system of specialisation to be imposed on Ontario’s universities that would threaten the ability of the province to offer comprehensive educational choices in every community.

“Universities in Northern Ontario have already been cutting programmes or moving programmes to satellite campuses in other regions of the province,” said Vanessa Gastaldo, Northern Region Caucus Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario. “Using terms like ‘differentiation’ or ‘streamlining’ is another way to push for funding cuts and limit access to particular programmes for northern students.”

The report suggests that Ontario’s education system can be streamlined by providing incentives to universities to be more specialised. Students are concerned that such a restructuring will impact rural and northern communities disproportionately and thus limit the academic progress of students from these communities.

“Students in Northern Ontario must have the same access to comprehensive programme offerings that are available to students in other regions of the province,” Said Sandy Hudson, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario. “Having a full range of academic programmes is vital to addressing the social and economic realities of northern communities.”

“Students are already having difficulty getting their education and this report overlooks the unique challenges that students in the north are facing,” said Gastaldo. “With further specialisation, students from northern communities could be forced to move far from home for their desired programme–leaving them to choose between incurring large additional expenses or sacrificing their educational goals.”

The Northern Region Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario unites every university student studying in Northern Ontario.

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