PC Party white paper "Higher Learning for Better Jobs"

Today the Ontario Conservative paper released its "white paper" on higher education, titled "Higher Learning for Better Jobs". It claims to offer a "bold" vision for higher education in the province, but in fact the policy prescriptions offered indicate that the Conservative party feels emboldened to follow directions that will make worse what is already highly problematic, and draw the wrong conclusions from the concerns identified in the paper.

The paper articulates an instrumental vision of university education as job training with the employment of graduates as the main focus. If pursued, the policy prescriptions will result in further tiering of university education, much more "differentiated" streams of higher education tied to ability to pay -- including the creation and expansion of high tuition elite programs, funding tied to greater performance measures; linking student financial support to "more market discipline" -- i.e. making decisions about who should receive loans and the amount of money allocated to "assessments of future employability" and "good academic behaviour".

The paper also calls for the creation and expansion of full-time, teaching-only faculty at the undergraduate level and reiterates proposals in previous Conservative white papers, including a two-year, across the board freeze on public sector wages, restructuring the arbitration system so all decisions are based on "ability to pay", and the "reform" of public sector pensions whereby all new employees would be placed in defined-contribution plans, where pension plans already exist.

Other recommendations include:

  • Greater focus on college education, called "College First", with greater ability to transfer credits between colleges and universities
  • Creation of a three year college applied degrees, reduced from current four year college applied degrees
  • Expansion of dual credit programs in high schools
  • Expansion of free open source and electronic online courses
  • More funding to businesses who upgrade worker skills
  • Expansion of private career colleges, with greater access to public funding
  • Through legislation, student unions would be required to have transparent disclosure of "non-political" expenditures, students could opt out of paying fees that go toward "political advocacy" -- an initiative which parallels a previous Conservative party white paper advocating the elimination of the Rand formula and "voluntary" union membership. Such proposals are consistent with the Ontario and federal Conservative parties' initiatives to undermine opposition to its favoured policy directions.

A number of the facts and statistics cited in the paper are also either misleading or taken out of context.

OCUFA will be providing a fuller analysis of the paper tomorrow.

The Ontario PC Paper, "Higher Learning for Better Jobs" can be found here: http://ontariopc.uberflip.com/i/108917

Mark Rosenfeld, Ph.D
Executive Director
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations
83 Yonge Street, Suite 300
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5C 1S8
Tel: 416-979-2117 x229
Fax: 416-593-5607
E-mail: mrosenfeld@ocufa.on.ca

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