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Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

An arranged marriage, or a shotgun wedding?

The Ontario government wants its universities and colleges to get closer. The Government wants easy mobility for students moving between the different sectors with an official system of transfer agreements allowing a seamless transition from college to university. Others provinces have such arrangements: BC, Alberta and Quebec. But Ontario ? Colleges and Universities cooperating in that province? Better chance to have Conservatives make nice with the Liberals?

For decades in Ontario, its universities have looked down on colleges. Universities don’t want to give up the high ground they feel they reside upon and they didn’t like it when colleges started granting their own degrees. Get the university folk aside and alone at a cocktail party and they will tell you that the university sector is superior to colleges.

Universities look upon colleges as being for students at the lower end of demonstrated academic abilities. Admission standards of each sector in the main reflect this (there are exceptions as a few niche college programs attract students the highest academic pedigrees coming out of high school).

Many colleges just smirked back in the post double-cohort year, when they saw their incoming classes dwindle as universities shrunk percentages to fill up their bigger class sizes. Chat quietly with colleges and they will tell you that universities are hypocrites if they look down on them.

Colleges emphasize their more applied nature in contrast to the theoretical focus of universities. Sometimes this gets overstated as if that is the only difference sweeping away some meaningful differences in academic calibre. Take Business. What proportion of high schoolers with an 80 or 90% average in high school pursue business at a college? Yet when it comes to articulations, colleges want to make the case their programs are a true substitute.

Confusing the matter even more in recent years has been the peculiarly lenient position of some universities accepting international transfer students from programs whose appropriateness and calibre would be more in doubt than of those students whom they do not accept from neighbouring colleges.

College kids have for years struggled to get their credits recognized. Sure most of their courses are a different standard, but they feel they get a raw deal. There’s even a law suit launched by a group of students from one Ontario college against the university in that city.

If money talks, then it’s time that people are going to be listening – at both colleges and universities. The Ontario government has never been in a better position to force both sides to get together, as everyone is hurting for operating revenues and will have their hands out (or at least their backs for scratching). And the Government? Well it sees an opportunity to win votes and cash in on the large number of college bound kids who may be influenced before polling dates.

“The Edge” by Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. The CUAC has brought almost 5,000 students to Canadian universities since 1998, and in doing so, injected approximately $200+ million dollars into the Canadian economy.

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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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