Provincial government must adopt more active role in system planning
Ontario College and University Strategic Mandate Agreements
Government must play a more active, assertive and purposeful role to drive system-level planning and change, according to an Expert Panel convened by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) that reviewed Strategic Mandate Agreement submissions from Ontario’s 44 public colleges and universities.
The Panel’s report, Quality: Shifting the Focus: A Report from the Expert Panel to Assess the Strategic Mandate Agreement Submissions resulted from one of a series of initiatives by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) to strengthen Ontario’s public postsecondary sector. MTCU launched the process to establish Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMA) with each of the postsecondary institutions “that will strongly inform future decisions, including allocation decisions and program approvals.”
As part of that process, MTCU requested that HEQCO establish a peer review panel to evaluate the SMAs in terms of their “ability to achieve significant improvements in productivity, quality and affordability through both innovation and differentiation.”
The SMA exercise was intended to address at least three desired outcomes:
- To promote the government’s stated goal of increasing the differentiation of the Ontario postsecondary system by asking each of Ontario’s postsecondary institutions to articulate an institutional mandate statement identifying its distinctive strengths or aspirations and to identify key objectives aligned with that aspiration.
- To advance and inform the discussion about how the Ontario system could increase its productivity so that it could continue to deliver a quality education to more students within the financial constraints expected in the public sector.
- To elicit the best thinking from institutions about innovations and reforms that would support higher quality learning and, in its most ambitious form, transform Ontario’s public postsecondary system.
“Given the multiple objectives and the time and other constraints inherent in this exercise,” says the report, “the Panel believes that its greatest value added is to extract recurring and dominant themes from the SMAs and to provide commentary and advice to government based on these themes to advance the government’s thinking, directions and actions.”
The following is a summary of recommendations from the Panel:
- Government must play a more active, assertive and purposeful role to drive system-level planning and change.
- The funding formulas are the major levers available to government to motivate and steer change. The current funding formulas should be amended to target some proportion of an institution’s funding to the achievement of specific outcomes and tied to specific institutional mandates.
- Funding decisions by government should be guided by external validation.
- The coherent development of more online learning opportunities is a good first use of any discretionary funds available. Particularly promising is the development of online or blended learning materials, especially of common introductory courses, that could be used by many institutions in the province and for which institutions would guarantee credit recognition.
- Although accommodating growth remains a public policy objective, there are other policy objectives that are now equally pressing; any funding for growth must be linked to impact on quality.
- Financial disincentives that impede enrolment of international students in the Ontario system should be removed. Financial incentives to increase international student enrolment, particularly at the graduate level, should be created.
- Initiatives intended to increase the quality of the teaching and learning environment should be evaluated, and the results of these evaluations disseminated.
- A deeper and system-wide commitment to measurement of learning outcomes is an opportunity for the Ontario system to show world-wide leadership.
- A policy of greater system differentiation is beneficial and is compatible with greater institutional collaboration and greater system integration. Achievement of the government’s goal of increased differentiation requires clear policy direction and consistent and disciplined commitment to system re-design.
Among a series of initiatives to strengthen Ontario’s public postsecondary sector, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has launched a process to establish strategic mandate agreements with each of Ontario’s 44 colleges and universities “that will strongly inform future decisions, including allocation decisions and program approvals.”
As part of that process, MTCU has requested that the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) establish a peer review panel to evaluate the mandate submissions in terms of their “ability to achieve significant improvements in productivity, quality and affordability through both innovation and differentiation.” The panel members are:
Leslie Church, Global Communications and Public Affairs, Google Canada
John Davies, President Emeritus, Humber College
Richard DiCerni, Former Deputy Minister, Industry Canada
Cindy Hazell, Former VP Academic, Seneca College
Chaviva Hosek, Former President, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Gilles Patry, President & CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation
Richard Rhoda, Executive Director, Tennessee Higher Education Commission
Michael Stevenson, President Emeritus, Simon Fraser University
David Trick, President, David Trick & Associates
David Turpin, President, University of Victoria
The peer review panel will identify those colleges and universities “whose submissions demonstrate the greatest ability to serve as lead institutions…those that provide the most compelling and promising visions, mandate statements and plans that advance government policies, objectives and goals…The lead institutions selected through this exercise would be the first to receive funding to pursue their mandates starting as early as 2013-14.”
As of August, 2014 strategic mandate agreements have been signed with all 45 publicly assisted colleges and universities. They can be found on the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities website here.