COLLEGE FACULTY - Report on Education in Ontario Colleges -


Report on
in Ontario
Produced by
OPSEU Communications

Report author
Kevin MacKay,

1st Edition, April 2014
Table of Contents
Executive Summary.................................................................................................................. 2
Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 7
Background............................................................................................................................ 10
Threats to Quality Education: Faculty Experiences.................................................................. 31
Online Course Delivery............................................................................................................ 44
The Need for Academic Freedom........................................................................................... 58
Threats to Quality in Focus..................................................................................................... 62
Public Perception of College Faculty and College Education................................................... 65
Education as a Public Good: Toward an Equal Partnership..................................................... 68
Appendices............................................................................................................................ 78
References............................................................................................................................. 82
Executive Summary

“Faculty need to be equal partners in order to meet the challenges
facing college education today, and to ensure that the CAATs continue
to fulfill their original mandate of access, quality, and service to diverse
communities. Being equal partners with college administration
and the provincial government means faculty having a strong voice
within the classroom, within the governance of each institution,
and when setting priorities for the system as a whole.”
Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Overview                                                     Challenges Facing Quality
The Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technol-            Education
ogy (CAATs) were founded in 1965 as a vehicle to             College faculty perceive the following issues to be
increase access to post-secondary education, to              serious challenges to their ability to provide high
address the needs of learners not served by the              quality education.
university system, and to meet local economic and
community development needs. The CAATs have                  Funding
been highly successful at fulfilling their mandate,          Government funding as a percentage of operating
with 24 institutions currently serving 220,000 full-         revenues to the CAATs was once over 75%. Pres-
time and 300,000 part time students. This level of           ently it is approximately 50%.2 Insufficient funding
enrolment represents a 100% increase over the                is leading to an increase in cost-cutting pressure
past 28 years.1                                              within the colleges, a decrease in academic stan-
This report examines community colleges from the             dards, and a decrease in the quality of student
perspective of the faculty who deliver their public          experience.
service – high quality post-secondary education
and job training. The report is based on conver-             Academic Freedom
sations with over 600 faculty at all 24 CAATs,               Ontario college faculty have no guaranteed aca-
along with historical research and present-day               demic freedom, and no ability to defend academic
inquiry into the sector’s financing, management,             standards in the face of budget cuts and austerity.
and operations. The report is focused primarily on           Faculty lack the ability to criticize management
perceptions by college faculty that there is a crisis        decisions that compromise quality of education
of quality within the college system today.                  or student safety. With no intellectual property
To faculty, the crisis stems from a climate of fiscal        protection, faculty work is used by managers to
austerity and an autocratic management culture in            eliminate full-time positions and to contract out
which faculty are systematically marginalized from           work to private colleges that lack sufficient public
academic decision-making. As a result, decisions             oversight.
about quality, academic standards and student                Workload
success are being made with more weight given
to budgetary imperatives, rather than educational            The current formula for assigning faculty work
outcomes. This report advocates system reforms               does not account for the extra time associat-
that would properly resource Ontario’s colleges,             ed with a high technology workplace with larger
and that would establish an equal partnership                classes and fewer full-time faculty. The perception
between faculty – the professionals responsible for          of faculty is that workloads are maximized at best,
maintaining educational standards – government,              and overloaded in many cases.
and administration.
                                                             Online Courses
                                                             Faculty are deeply concerned about a push to-
                                                             ward online course delivery that is clearly driven by

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Executive Summary

cost-cutting and profit-making, and largely dismis-          by 55%.6 In the colleges today there is now one
sive of the contentious research literature concern-         full-time administrator for every three full-time
ing online’s effectiveness and appropriateness in            faculty.7
different educational contexts.
                                                             Recommendations to Establish an
Non-Full-Time Faculty                                        Equal Partnership
In the colleges today the ratio of full-time to part-        Faculty need to be equal partners in order to meet
time faculty is approximately 1 to 3. The lack of            the challenges facing college education today, and
full-time faculty means less time for dealing with           to ensure that the CAATs continue to fulfill their
students, less time for course and program de-               original mandate of access, quality, and service to
velopment, and a greater challenge to maintain               diverse communities. Being equal partners with
academic standards. In addition, partial load fac-           college administration and the provincial govern-
ulty (teaching between 7 and 12 hours per week)              ment means faculty having a strong voice within
have no job security or seniority when it comes to           the classroom, within the governance of each
applying for full-time jobs.                                 institution, and when setting priorities for the sys-
Student Debt                                                 tem as a whole. To this end, the report makes the
                                    “Over the                following recommendations.
In 1978/79, student
tuitions accounted for         past 20                       1. All-party Select Committee on
between 10 and 15%         years, tuition                    Ontario Post-secondary Education
of college operating          at Ontario                     The first recommendation is for the provincial gov-
revenues.3 In 2011,
they accounted for          colleges has                     ernment to convene an all-party select committee
                                                             to examine the present and future sustainability
approximately 33.3%           outpaced                       of the post-secondary system in Ontario, and to
of revenues, a 300%          inflation by                    work closely with college faculty, university faculty,
increase.4 Over the
past 20 years, tuition         435%.”5                       and students to address issues of funding, tuition,
                                                             and student debt. The committee needs to con-
at Ontario colleges has
                                                             sider the following proposed changes:
outpaced inflation by
435%.5 Higher tuitions have been leading to un-              Commitment to Adequate Funding
sustainable student debt-loads upon graduation,              At the federal level, implement a Post-Second-
and the cost of post-secondary is limiting access            ary Education Act, as endorsed by the Canadian
for low-income students.                                     Federation of Students (CFS).8 This Act would be
                                                             modeled after the Canada Health Transfer, and
                                                             would bring federal funding for post-secondary
While overall government funding for the colleges            education back to 1992 levels, or 0.4% of GDP.
is far below sustainable levels, what resources
                                                             At the provincial level, bring government funding
have been coming into the system have increas-
                                                             per full-time post-secondary student up to the
ingly gone toward expanding full-time admin-
                                                             national average.
istration and increasing administration salaries.
Between 1996/97 and 2011/12, the number of                   Commitment to Affordable Education
full-time college administrative staff has increased         As endorsed by the CFS and CFS-O, reduce col-
                                                             lege tuition fees to 1992 levels.9

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Executive Summary

As endorsed by the CFS and CFS-O, cap college                tection be included in the college faculty collective
administrator salaries.10                                    agreement. In addition, provisions to ensure ade-
As endorsed by the CFS and CFS-O, enact a                    quate numbers of full-time faculty, and sustainable
program of federal student loan debt reduction               workloads must also be included.
intended to cut the amount of Canadian student               Commitment to Faculty Academic
debt in half.11                                              Freedom
Reintroduce a comprehensive, need-based tuition              Include academic freedom in the college faculty
grant program.12                                             collective agreement, specifying faculty control
Commitment to Community-Centered Public                      over academic decisions related to course design,
Education                                                    content, delivery, and evaluation.
End public-private campuses, and ensure that all             Include intellectual property protection in the facul-
new CAAT campuses in Ontario are fully publicly              ty collective agreement.
funded and staffed with CAAT-A faculty covered               Affirm faculty control over how, where, and when
under the collective agreement.                              online course delivery is utilized.
Give equal standing to faculty, along with colleges
and the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Uni-             Commitment to Full-Time Staffing
versities (MTCU), in decisions affecting the devel-          Plan to increase numbers of full-time faculty and
opment of the community college system. Imme-                maintain a minimum ratio within each college of
diately establish the Joint Task Force required by           full-time to part-time.
the faculty collective agreement whenever a major
                                                             Introduce into the collective agreement improved
change in college mandate is proposed.
                                                             seniority for partial load faculty in terms of work
Ensure that program and course offering diversity            assignments and hiring preference for full-time
is maintained at the local level, and that individual        jobs.
colleges are able to determine how best to meet
                                                             Introduce conversion language into the faculty
the educational needs of their community.
                                                             collective agreement for part-time faculty.
Ensure continued funding and support for the
                                                             Ensure that all non-full-time faculty are allowed
unique needs of Northern and Francophone
                                                             to organize into a union without interference and
colleges. Evaluate the specific impact on these
                                                             opposition from management or the provincial
colleges from any mandate change proposed by
the MTCU.
Affirm federal and provincial funding sufficient             Commitment to Sustainable Workload
to maintain appropriate statistics on the college            Modify the faculty collective agreement to account
system, including financing, operations, staffing,           for the additional workload implications of email
enrolment, student tuitions and debt, and educa-             communications, learning management system
tional outcomes.                                             maintenance, developing, preparing and delivering
                                                             online or “blended” courses, and mentoring part-
2. Academic Freedom, Staffing,                               time faculty.
and Workload in Faculty
Collective Agreement
The second recommendation is that articles on
academic freedom and intellectual property pro-

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Executive Summary

3. Task Force on College                                     university administration. This task force would ex-
Co-Governance                                                amine a process to establish institutional co-gov-
                                                             ernance in the colleges.
The third recommendation is that the province
appoint a Task Force on College Co-Governance,               Examine the possibility of a bicameral governance
including representatives from the college faculty           structure in the CAATs province-wide. Each insti-
union, the College Employer’s Council, the Ca-               tution will have an Academic Senate as well as a
nadian Association of University Teachers, and               Board of Governors, with the Senate responsible
                                                             for academic decision-making.

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Introduction


Context                                                 particular, the Report explores growing concerns
                                                        among college faculty that years of neoliberal
The Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technol-       government policy and increasingly corporate
ogy (CAATs) have been in existence for close to         management have eroded quality of education
50 years.13 In this time the landscape of post-sec-     and compromised the collegiality and functional-
ondary education in Ontario has shifted drasti-         ity of the learning environment. The Report offers
cally, bringing new challenges to the quality and       several recommendations to address these con-
integrity of college education. Changes in govern-      cerns, and to ensure that college faculty are equal
ment funding models, management strategies,             partners in maintaining academic standards and
instructional technologies and student enrolment        setting the future course of college education in
are all having a transformative impact. In addition,    Ontario.
old tensions present at the founding of the CAATs
continue to manifest in operational contradictions,     Method
strained labour relations, and decreased system
effectiveness. As the front-line professionals who      Research for the Report was undertaken by a
provide instruction within the CAATs, college           full-time professor who has taught for over 10
professors have a unique perspective on these           years in the community college system. Starting in
challenges. More than ever, this perspective needs      September, 2013, this professor was seconded by
to be accounted for in academic and operational         OPSEU to conduct research and write the Report
decision-making within individual colleges, and in      as preparation for college faculty contract negotia-
decisions that affect the direction of the college      tions in 2014.
system as a whole.                                      The lead researcher traveled to all 24 community
                                                        colleges in Ontario to meet with faculty and with
Sponsor                                                 local union stewards and officers. These visits took
This Report has been commissioned by the exec-          place over the four month period between Sep-
utive of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technol-      tember 24, 2013 and January 18, 2014. At every
ogy – Academic (CAAT-A) division of the Ontario         college the researcher met with the Local Execu-
Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).14 The           tive Committee (LEC) of the faculty union. In addi-
CAAT-A division represents over 11,000 profes-          tion, the researcher attended general membership
sors, counselors and librarians in the Ontario com-     meetings (GMMs) at George Brown, Fleming,
munity college system. The division executive is        Niagara, St. Clair, Georgian, Lambton, Conestoga,
democratically elected from the CAAT-A member-          Confederation, Mohawk, Canadore, and Fan-
ship across Ontario, and is the legal decision-mak-     shawe colleges. At La Cite Collegiale, Cambrian
ing body for the division.                              College, Canadore, Mohawk, and Sault College,
                                                        the researcher also did a campus tour and spoke
Objective                                               with several faculty in their offices, classrooms and
                                                        labs. Member attendance at GMMs varied con-
This Report seeks to understand challenges facing
                                                        siderably, but an average of 40 at each meeting is
Ontario college education, as seen through the
                                                        conservative. The size of LEC meetings also varied
eyes of faculty at all 24 community colleges. In
                                                        based on the size of the faculty local, with a con-

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Introduction

servative average of 10 members at each meeting.         low participation rate is largely due to the precar-
Finally, approximately 10 additional faculty were        ious nature of employment in these groups, and
consulted on each of five walking tours. As such,        the potential negative consequences of openly
via the consultation process the researcher inter-       supporting the union. It is revealing of the cur-
acted with over 600 faculty members.                     rent state of labour relations in the CAATs that at
The goal of college visits was to listen to local        every college I visited, full-time professors actively
faculty concerns and also to engage in dialogue          discouraged partial load and probationary mem-
about outstanding issues that had been identified        bers from openly supporting the union, for fear of
by faculty in previous contract negotiations. Chief      retaliation from management. Other groups not
among these issues were the lack of full-time fac-       represented in the consultation include the large
ulty, increasing workloads due to online learning,       number of part-time and sessional faculty. These
academic freedom, decreasing quality education,          two groups are not members of the faculty union,
and the erosion of workplace collegiality.               and as such were not easily accessible using this
                                                         survey’s methodology.
Secondary research was also conducted into the
operational history of the college system, focus-        Another limitation of this primary research is that it
ing on funding, resource allocation, staffing, and       was explicitly focused on the 2014 round of con-
student tuition. This information was obtained           tract negotiations, and on faculty concerns about
through the Colleges Council, Colleges Ontario,          their work environment and quality of education.
the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities,     At local meetings the researcher gave a presenta-
and the Canadian Federation of Students.                 tion on outstanding issues from previous rounds of
                                                         bargaining. As such, the consultation was not an
Tertiary research was also conducted on academ-          open-ended discussion about what faculty both
ic freedom in Canadian post-secondary institu-           like and dislike about the college system. College
tions, online learning, changes to provincial and        professors are passionate about their work and
federal tax regimes, legislation governing com-          care deeply about student success and their pro-
munity colleges, and models of post-secondary            fessional integrity. In many ways their work allows
funding.                                                 them to express these aspirations, and this is
Finally, to access public views on such issues as        what makes being a faculty member in an Ontario
quality of education, academic freedom, and the          college a fulfilling career. While there are undoubt-
reduction of full-time faculty, two online opinion       edly positive aspects of teaching, counseling and
polls were conducted with Ontario citizens, one          providing information services in the college sys-
with a sample of 1,180, and the other with a sam-        tem today, these aspects of faculty experience
ple of 1,000.                                            were not the focus of this study.
There are several limitations to the primary re-         Despite these limitations, the consultation process
search conducted for this report. As the method          did involve over 600 full-time faculty members, in-
of contacting faculty was via the local unions at all    cluding a much smaller number (approximately 20)
24 colleges, the results cannot be taken as repre-       partial load. As such, the results can be viewed as
senting the views of all college faculty. A particular   representative of a broad range of faculty opinion,
difficulty was accessing the perspective of partial      and particularly of persons who are active in the
load faculty and probationary full-time faculty, both    union, and who are engaged most directly in hear-
groups being union members, but having a much            ing faculty complaints and resolving workplace
lower rate of active participation in the union. This    conflicts with management.

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background


History of the Ontario College                               industry, and with social and other
                                                             public agencies, including educa-
System                                                       tion, to ensure that curricula are at all
The Ontario community college system was                     times abreast, if not in advance of the
founded by an act of provincial parliament in 1965.          changing requirements of a technolog-
Then minister of education Bill Davis introduced             ical society;
Bill 153, an amendment to the Department of
                                                         4. they must be dedicated to progress,
Education Act, to create Colleges of Applied Arts
                                                            through constant research, not only in
and Technology (CAATs).15 Colleges were originally
                                                            curricula but in pedagogical technique
mandated in 18 defined areas, and several were
                                                            and in administration.20
converted from existing Institutes of Technology
and Ontario Vocational Centres. Oversight of the      When the community college system was found-
colleges was assigned to a Council of Regents         ed in 1965, Ontario, and Canada more generally,
appointed by the provincial government, while         were in the midst of a boom in industrial produc-
each institution was directed by a Board of Gover-    tion and a period of growing prosperity and equal-
nors (BOG) appointed from the community.16            ity. From the beginning of the Second World War
                                                      to 1977, the income share of the richest 1% fell
Centennial College in Toronto was the first CAAT
                                                      from 14% to 7.7%, as the gains from economic
to begin operations in 1966.17 By 1967 there
                                                      growth led to more people working and better
were 20 community colleges spread through the
                                                      paid jobs.21 This redistribution of wealth was large-
18 areas. In 1972, the campus of Cambrian Col-
                                                      ly attributable to the Labour Movement, as work-
lege in North Bay became a separate institution,
                                                      ers formed and joined unions and went on strike
Canadore College, and the Sault St. Marie cam-
                                                      for higher pay, benefits, and improved working
pus of Cambrian became Sault College.18 Two
                                                      conditions.22 From the 1940s to the 1950s, econo-
francophone colleges were also established: La
                                                      mist Simon Kuznets identified a trend of increasing
Cite Collegiale founded in Ottawa in 1990, and
                                                      equality in both North America and Europe.23 The
College Boreal founded in Sudbury in 1995.19
                                                      trend continued into the 1970s, and this broad-
Bill 153 based the mandate of community colleges      er socioeconomic climate influenced the CAATs’
on four principles:                                   commitment to accessible education, and ensured
    1. they must embrace total education,             that the colleges had strong government support
       vocational and avocational, regardless         at their inception.
       of formal entrance qualifications, with        From the outset the CAATs were seen as a sep-
       provision for complete vertical and            arate, but complementary system to Ontario’s
       horizontal mobility;                           universities. The colleges would focus on providing
    2. they must develop curricula that meet          education and training to students who for many
       the combined cultural aspirations and          reasons could or would not attend university, while
       occupational needs of the student;             also meeting the educational, economic, and
                                                      social needs of the diverse communities in which
    3. they must operate in the closest pos-          they were located. Funding for the CAATs treated
       sible cooperation with business and

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

each college equally, and the bulk of operating          imately 8% of Canadian youth went to university.
revenues came first from provincial grants, and          As of 2004, approximately 40% of youth attended
second from federal funding of apprenticeship            either college or university.28 The vision of expand-
programs. Tuitions initially provided only a small       ing educational access and serving community
percentage of operating funds – between 10 and           economic development guided the college system
15%.24 Since their founding, levels of government        throughout the 1970s and 80s. During this time
funding to the CAATs have fluctuated greatly,            period, the structure of the colleges remained
leading to a perpetual climate of financial insecu-      stable, while the main areas of conflict within the
rity. Apart from a brief infusion of funds in 1986       system concerned the difficulty of transferring
in response to the 1984 faculty strike and 1985          credits between colleges and between colleges
Skolnik Report on workload, the trend from 1970          and universities, increasing the general education
to present has been a steady decline in provincial       component of college education, ensuring ade-
and federal support for the colleges.25 An infu-         quate levels of government funding, and address-
sion of new government funding by the McGuinty           ing chronic workplace tensions between faculty
Liberals in 2005 briefly reversed the trend, but         and management.29
beyond 2009 funding resumed its decrease.26 This
recurring lack of resources for the CAATs has had        The Skolnik Report
profound effects on the issues highlighted by fac-       In 1984 college faculty went on strike over recur-
ulty in this report, and an equally significant impact   ring workload issues. As a result of the strike, the
on increasing student tuition and student debt.          provincial government created an Instructional As-
As part of the differentiation between colleges and      signment Review Committee tasked with exploring
universities, the CAATs were administered accord-        issues around workload and management-faculty
ing to an “industrial” model, in which management        relations within the CAATs. The Committee was
decisions were made without consulting faculty,          chaired by professor Michael Skolnik, and in 1985
and in which the professional autonomy of facul-         it released Survival or Excellence? A Study of In-
ty was de-emphasized. The Board of Governors             structional Assignment in Ontario Colleges of Ap-
(BOG) of each college was the institution’s prima-       plied Arts and Technology, hereafter known as The
ry decision-making body, and the administration          Skolnik Report. This report highlighted a number
carried out the BOGs directives. This governance         of issues that were affecting the quality of educa-
structure was in contrast to the bicameral struc-        tion and functionality of the academic work envi-
ture of Canadian universities, which had both a          ronment. In particular, Skolnik noted that reduced
BOG and an academic senate. In universities the          funding, an inequitable approach to workload, and
senate was tasked with making decisions on aca-          poor management – faculty relations were keep-
demic matters, and faculty had academic freedom          ing the CAATs from fulfilling their mandates and
enshrined within their full-time appointments. As        achieving excellence as centres of post-secondary
the CAAT faculty taught at institutions focused on       education.30
teaching, not research, and on instruction in voca-      Skolnik highlighted the fact that since the CAATs
tional skills, it was thought that they did not need     were founded, government funding had been
academic freedom.27                                      steadily reduced. He noted that “enrolment in
With Bill 153, the primary goal of the commu-            provincially funded programs increased by nearly
nity colleges was seen as expanding access to            50 percent between 1978/79 and 1983/84, and
post-secondary education in Canada, a goal               that real provincial operating grants per student
which the CAATs have undeniably achieved.                funding unit decreased by 33 percent over this
Before the college system was founded, approx-           period.”31 This lack of government funding meant

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

that colleges “experienced a 20 percent reduction           of the colleges does not require clocking
in total real expenditures per student funding unit         faculty time as much as it does motivat-
between 1978/79 and 1982/83”.32 In his recom-               ing, supporting, and involving faculty, and
mendations, Skolnik pointed out the critical impor-         assessing educational outcomes, rather
tance of increasing provincial funding for the              than inputs of time.35
colleges, arguing that “the financial pressure under    To address the lack of collegial management-fac-
which the colleges have been operating is a major       ulty relations, Skolnik recommended that colleges
source of instructional assignment problems; and        establish academic councils, populated by admin-
without alleviation of this pressure it is doubtful     istration, faculty, and students, to oversee aca-
that any of the other recommendations… can be                                         demic matters. These
implemented, as the colleges will continue to be                                      councils would enable
preoccupied with mere survival”.33                        Faculty should academic priorities
On the issue of workload, Skolnik’s research              not be seen as to be advanced and
concluded that “a substantial proportion of faculty          educational              educational standards
workloads are unreasonable and excessive”, and                                        to be maintained.
recommended considerable changes to the col-                 technicians              Skolnik intended
lege faculty collective agreement to alleviate this         who must be               academic councils to
problem. Skolnik advocated for a workload for-              told in detail            increase collegiality,
mula that limited weekly and annual instructional                                     and to avoid situa-
hours; that set limits to classroom size, student to         what to do.              tions such as college
faculty ratios, and number of different courses as-                                   administration decid-
signed in one semester; that allotted sufficient time   ing unilaterally to reduce the number of contact
for course preparation, curriculum development          hours students received in each college course.
and faculty professional development; and that          Concerning this change, Skolnik remarked:
acknowledged additional time required for clinical          We find it inconceivable that colleges
and field supervision and for special needs student         would introduce such significant changes
groups.34                                                   affecting faculty and academic programs
Finally, Skolnik’s report emphasized the complete           without substantial consultation with
unworkability of an “industrial” or “military” model        faculty. This type of blatant disregard for
of management within the colleges. Skolnik ar-              the legitimate professional concerns of
gued that even if sufficient funding were secured,          faculty could hardly fail to evoke cynicism
and equitable workload formulas established, a              among faculty regarding the colleges’
continued lack of faculty participation in academic         genuine commitment to quality education
decision-making would be catastrophic. He stat-             and equitable treatment of faculty. The
ed:                                                         attitude toward faculty that is reflected
     What is perhaps most at issue here is                  in such an action needs to be replaced
     the extent to which faculty are viewed                 by one of commitment to collegial deci-
     and treated as responsible professionals               sion-making.36
     whose judgment in academic matters is              The Instructional Assignment Review Committee’s
     valued and whose opinions are sought.              recommendations led to substantial changes in
     Faculty should not be seen as educa-               the college system. A brief influx of government
     tional technicians who must be told in             funding in 1986 enabled the hiring of hundreds
     detail what to do. Effective management            of new full-time faculty, and negotiation of Article

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

11 in the faculty collective agreement addressed         manufacture a crisis in public service funding. The
many, but not all, recurring issues around work-         economic rationale given for tax cuts is to stim-
load. However, the achievement of collegial faculty      ulate investment in the real economy via job cre-
– management relations saw little advance in the         ation, expanded production, and innovation.39
years since the 1985 report was released. Lack           In practice, neoliberal policies have led to sharp
of change in this key structural flaw has prompted       declines in taxes and government revenues, and
faculty to take up the issue of academic freedom         sharp increases in income inequality. In Canada
in subsequent rounds of collective bargaining.           neoliberal policies were first enacted by the fed-
The Neoliberal Turn                                      eral Progressive Conservative government from
                                                         1984 to 1993, were perpetuated under successive
With the election of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive        Liberal governments, and have intensified under
Conservative government in 1984, federal funding         the Conservative Harper government, from 2006
to the provinces for health, education and social        to the present.40
services began to decline. This increased budget
pressure on the provinces to maintain levels of          A significant policy change at the federal level
public service delivery. Tensions caused by un-          has involved personal income taxes, which in the
derfunding were exacerbated with the election            neoliberal era have been changed from a progres-
in Ontario of a Conservative government under            sive system (in which the wealthy pay a higher
Mike Harris in 1995.37 This change of government         proportional share of income in tax) to a regres-
led to a radical reorganization of public services,      sive system (in which the wealthy pay an equal or
post-secondary education, and the college system         lesser proportion of tax in relation to lower income
in particular.                                           groups).41 In 1948, the highest marginal income
                                                         tax rate in Canada (on incomes of $250,000
The 1995 Ontario Conservative government en-             and higher) was 80%. Today the highest mar-
acted a series of sweeping reforms under the ban-        ginal income tax rate, for incomes over 126,000,
ner of “The Common Sense Revolution”. These              is 42.9%.42 As a result of these changes, today
changes were informed by a neoliberal ideology,          middle income Canadians have the highest tax
described by David Harvey as:                            burden as proportion of income.43 Under neolib-
     … a theory of political economic practic-           eral governments similar cuts have been made to
     es that proposes that human well-being              corporate taxes. In 1960 the federal corporate tax
     can best be advanced by liberating indi-            rate was 41%, and by 2012 it had been slashed
     vidual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills          to 15%.44 Today Canada’s corporate tax rate is the
     within an institutional framework charac-           lowest in the G8 and 11th lowest among the 30
     terized by strong private property rights,          country Organization for Economic Cooperation
     free markets, and free trade.38                     and Development (OECD).45
Proponents of neoliberalism argue for the su-            In contrast to the idea that lower corporate taxes
premacy of markets in all aspects of social and          would lead to more investment, research shows
economic activity, and seek to minimize the role         that it has instead led corporations to hoard cash.
of the state in providing public goods and ser-          As of 2012, cash reserves for Canadian corpo-
vices, in redistributing wealth, and in regulating       rations were valued at $567 billion.46 Contrary to
economic activity. In relation to public services like   neoliberal orthodoxy, during the period when cor-
education, healthcare and social services, neolib-       porate taxes were being steadily cut, investment
eral advocates favour privatization, deregulation,       in the real economy (as a percentage of GDP) has
and reduced funding support. Funding cuts are in         fluctuated, but experienced an overall decline.47
turn directly tied to tax cuts on the wealthy and on     This decline has also occurred in Ontario, where
corporations. As neoliberal governments radically        lowered corporate taxes have been accompanied
reduce their revenue streams, they simultaneously        by declines in economic investment.49
Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

Changes to Highest Marginal Income Tax Rates (%) – Canada and Ontario

                      1960            1970             1980            1990            2000          2010
 Federal              80              80               43              31.32           30.5          29
 Ontario              -               2.4              18.92           16.91           17.4          17.41
 Combined             80              82.4             61.92           48.23           47.9          46.41
(Brown & Mintz 2012:26)

Changes to Corporate Income Tax Rates (%) – Canada and Ontario

                 1960            1970           1980           1990            2000           2010        2013
 Federal         41              41.41          37.8           28.84           29.12          18          15
 Provincial      9               12             14             15.5            14             12          10
 Combined        52              53.41          51.8           44.34           43.10          30          25
(Brown & Mintz 2012:28)

Changes to Total Tax Revenue as a Percentage of GDP – Canada and OECD Comparators

                      1980            1990             2000            2005            2007          2008
 Canada               31              35.9             35.6            33.4            33.3          32.2
 Germany              36.1            34.8             37.2            34.8            36.2          36.4
 France               40.1            42               44.4            43.9            43.5          43.1
 U.K.                 34.8            35.5             36.3            35.8            36.1          35.7
 Denmark              43              46.5             49.4            50.8            48.7          48.3
 Sweden               46.4            52.2             51.8            49.5            48.3          47.1
 Norway               42.4            41               42.6            43.5            43.6          42.1
 Italy                29.7            37.8             42.3            40.8            43.5          43.2
 U.S.                 24              26.3             27.5            26.3            26.5          26.5
(Brown & Mintz 2012:5)

Changes to Total Government Revenue as Percentage of GDP – Canada and OECD

                      1990            1995             2000            2005            2008          2009
 Canada               43              43.2             44.1            40.8            39.8          38.5
 Germany              43.4            45.1             46.4            43.5            43.6          44.3
 France               47              48.9             50.1            50.5            49.5          48.1
 U.K.                 39.3            38               40.4            40.8            42.5          40.4
 Denmark              54.1            56.4             55.8            57.8            55.3          55.9
 Sweden               -               57.6             59.1            56.5            54.7          53.8
 Norway               -               54.2             57.7            57.2            59.3          55.5
 Italy                41.5            45.1             45.3            43.8            46.2          46.6
 U.S.                 32.9            33.7             35.2            32.9            32.4          30.5
(Brown & Mintz 2012:6)

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

As the above tables show, levels of corporate tax      provincial legislation, but by changes at the federal
in Canada and Ontario are now half what they           level as well. In 1995, the federal government cut
used to be in 1960. In addition, the highest mar-      $7 billion dollars from its transfers to the provinces
ginal income tax rate has experienced a similar        for social programs.54
decline of 42%.49 Canada now has among the
lowest percentage of tax revenues as percentage        The Rae Report
of GDP in the OECD, and lags far behind countries      The neoliberal turn in post-secondary education
like Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark in           sent the system in the exact opposite direction
terms of the United Nations Inequality Adjusted        from that advocated by Skolnik in his 1985 report.
Human Development Index.50                             Instead of improved system funding, government
As a result of tax cuts, over the past 15 years,       support for the CAATs was cut more deeply than
federal tax revenue as a percentage of GDP has         ever. Instead of a more collaborative and collegial
declined 4%, which amounts to approximate-             relationship between faculty and administration,
ly $80 billion per year in lost revenue.51 This has    this relationship became more autocratic, punitive,
meant less money for funding public services and       and driven by cost-control. As a result of neoliber-
public infrastructure. Another result of tax cuts is   al restructuring a significant percentage of full-time
that income inequality has been steadily rising. Af-   faculty were laid off in the mid to late 1990s, and
ter declining from 1946 to 1977, the income share      class sizes in the colleges spiked. At the same
of the top 1% is once more 14%, and in 2009,           time, increases in student tuitions and student
3.8% of Canadian households owned 67% of all           loan debt began to far outpace inflation.55
wealth.52                                              In 2003 a provincial Liberal government was
The neoliberal turn in national and Ontario politics   elected, with a mandate to re-visit the neoliber-
has had important impacts on post-secondary            al policies of Mike Harris’ so-called “Common
education. One of the changes that occurred un-        Sense Revolution”. In 2004 the new McGuinty
der the Harris government concerned the manner         government commissioned a study of the On-
in which colleges recruited students. Originally       tario post-secondary education system, with a
the CAATs recruited students from their regional       mandate to look at its design and funding. This
catchment areas, and thus each institution had         study was chaired by Bob Rae, and in 2005
a defined territory from which to draw students.       Ontario: A Leader in Learning, hereafter referred
With the new government, the catchment areas           to as the Rae Report, was released. The Report
were abolished, and colleges and universities were     analyzed five key areas of post-secondary edu-
encouraged to compete for students in a de-reg-        cation: accessibility, quality, system design, fund-
ulated “educational marketplace.” In keeping with      ing, and accountability. In the Report, Rae noted
the Harris government’s neoliberal ideology, other     that countries world-wide were investing heavily
changes were made that increased the compet-           in post-secondary education, and that Ontario
itive nature of the post-secondary environment.        needed to do the same in order to remain globally
The CAATs were allowed the right to grant de-          competitive.56 As a vision for Ontario’s post-sec-
grees, and were encouraged to partner with uni-        ondary system, he stated:
versities on collaborative degree programs. Finally,       We need governments and institutions
funding to the colleges was drastically reduced,           that are irrevocably committed to access
and CAATs were forced to develop corporate                 for every Ontarian who is qualified to
sponsorships and raise tuition fees to make up             attend. Because the new economy de-
for funding shortfalls.53 The effects of neoliberal        mands it, the number of people attend-
restructuring were not just caused by changes in           ing will need to rise substantially in the

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

     years ahead. We also need governments             Aboriginal peoples, some racial minorities and
     and institutions that are unwaveringly            francophones should be better encouraged and
     committed to excellence in teaching and           supported”.60 In particular, Northern and aboriginal
     research. Opportunity and excellence are          communities require extra attention in terms of
     both diminished when governments and              access. In describing education in these commu-
     students spend less than they should, or          nities, Rae stated:
     when institutions are reluctant to focus              Strong efforts are being made in a num-
     and insist on better outcomes. Ontario                ber of existing colleges and universities,
     has the chance now to muster the politi-              particularly in Northern Ontario, where
     cal will to create a sustainable framework            the demographics of the student pop-
     for a system that allows each student,                ulation are changing – to provide more
     and each university and college, to be                opportunities for students from First Na-
     at their best. Our higher education insti-            tions communities, as well as those living
     tutions should both inspire and produce               off-reserve and Ontario’s Metis commu-
     leading research. Our best will allow us to           nity. But these efforts will require more
     compete with the best in the world. We                resources, particularly from the federal
     should not settle for anything less.57                government. In addition, I was impressed
Rae argued that a lack of government funding               with the work being done by the Aborig-
for post-secondary stood in the way of achieving           inal Institutes, which work on reserves.
accessibility and excellence, noting that “Ontario’s       They receive very little support from the
postsecondary system is decidedly under-re-                province. They should not be seen as
sourced when compared to its U.S. and Canadian             competitors to the existing system but as
peers”.58 The impacts of underfunding were also            legitimate agencies of collaboration and
clear, as “revenue to the institutions may have            partnership.61
grown, but it has not kept up with enrolment, high-    In terms of system design, Rae stressed the
er costs and new technologies.” Under-staffing         need for greater collaboration between colleges
had become an issue, with Rae noting: “Contact         and universities in providing students with clear
hours between students and faculty have been           pathways to employment or to further study. This
reduced, because we have far more students and         would necessitate a structure of province-wide
not enough new teachers.” Ultimately, Rae linked       credit transfer, in which courses taken at one in-
underfunding and understaffing to quality in the       stitution can be used for credit in similar programs
college system:                                        at other institutions. Rae advocated government
     The viability of some colleges, in particu-       oversight of evolving college-university collabo-
     lar, is in doubt. Underfunded institutions        ration to maintain standards, while also affirming
     put the quality of student experience at          the important role of faculty, noting “enthusiasm
     risk. Underfunding also affects the ability       for ‘greater accountability’ should not become
     of some institutions to provide enough            a synonym for more government control. Aca-
     spaces for a wider group of applicants.59         demic freedom is also an important value. So are
In addition to challenges caused by overall under-     self-government and institutional flexibility”.62 Rae
funding, Rae acknowledged that more needed to          also directly linked the number of faculty, and their
be done to increase post-secondary access for          amount of contact with students, to quality of
marginal groups, arguing that “Outreach programs       education:
for low-income groups, persons with disabilities,

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

     The most common complaint from                      colleges (PCCs) that offer courses and programs
     students, in addition to concerns about             in competition with the community colleges. As of
     money and the affordability of their ed-            2013, over 60,000 students are enrolled in over
     ucation, has to do with the quality of              500 private colleges in Ontario.65 For many years
     contact time with professors and teach-             PCCs were unregulated by the MTCU, and were
     ers. This must be addressed. If students            allowed to charge substantially higher tuitions for
     feel that they come and go and no one               accelerated versions of community college pro-
     cares, something is out of balance. A               grams. Because of a lack of regulation, several
     commitment to excellence includes a                 PCCs with dubious educational credentials were
     commitment to an outstanding student                established, and a host of issues soon followed
     experience.63                                       that questioned the quality of education provid-
The Rae Report led to a significant increase in          ed by private colleges. Prominent in the media
investment in post-secondary education from both         throughout the 2000s were articles concerning
the provincial and federal governments. In their         scandals, unregistered institutions, student com-
2005 budget, the provincial Liberals committed           plaints, and even warnings from foreign govern-
$6.2 billion in funding for post-secondary educa-        ments about attending Canadian private col-
tion over four years, and this partially ameliorated     leges.66
fiscal short-falls in the CAATs.64 The funding infu-     In 2008 the Canadian Federation of Students –
sion allowed for more college faculty to be hired,       Ontario (CFS-O) noted that the OSAP repayment
and for upgrades to the physical infrastructure of       default rates for students at PCCs were 6.5%
colleges. In addition, there was money allocated to      higher than for students at public colleges, and
reducing student debt. These investments moved           13.2% higher than the rate for public universities.
the CAATs back from the brink of crisis, but sev-        According to then CFS-O chair Shelley Melanson,
eral aspects of the neoliberal turn were left un-        “For-profit businesses offering credentials prey
touched. These included the proliferation of private     on immigrants, undocumented students and first
career colleges, a focus on attracting international     generation Canadians.” She also noted “Students
students and on marketing education globally, and        expect that, by studying in Canada, they will be
a failure to re-examine the dysfunctional relation-      protected from the type of dishonesty and fraud
ship between college faculty and administration.         that tends to be associated with private, for-profit
These conditions continue to define the Ontario          companies selling education. We have an excel-
college system today, with other key trends in-          lent public system of colleges and universities and
cluding steadily increasing enrolment, the push to       these fly-by-night outfits undermine the quality of
expand online learning, a return to chronic under-       education in Ontario.”67
funding, and the vision of a competitive, “differenti-   In 2005, mounting criticism of PCCs led the gov-
ated” system of institutions.                            ernment to pass new legislation, the Private Ca-
                                                         reer Colleges Act, to regulate PCCs and attempt
Current Trends                                           to set educational standards. The new Act re-
Private Career Colleges                                  quired PCCs to register with the provincial govern-
                                                         ment, to subject themselves to basic standards
Part of the neoliberal shift in Ontario politics was     of operation and to allow periodic inspection from
to open up private competition in areas that were        the MTCU.68 Despite these provisions, concerns
previously the terrain of government-funded pub-         about the quality of private college education have
lic service providers. As such, the late 90’s and        continued, and in 2009 the provincial ombuds-
2000’s saw the explosive growth of private career        man, Andre Marin, published a damning report

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

of PCC regulation in Ontario.69 In his report Marin        vided in our colleges and universities to students
argued for sweeping changes to the regulation              from other countries”.72 From 2004 to 2012, the
of PCCs, including hiring more inspectors and              number of foreign students studying in Canada
increasing rates of inspection. Since the ombuds-          grew by 60%.73 International students are charged
man’s report, there were 47 formal complaints              much higher tuition fees than domestic students,
made to the MTCU by students of PCCs in 2011               making them attractive to cash-strapped colleges.
and 2012 alone, indicating that the quality of edu-        However, attracting students with specialized
cation offered at these private, for-profit institutions   educational needs, particularly concerning ESL
continues to be a concern.70                               instruction, is simultaneously contradicted by the
Despite continuing complaints about private                fact that many colleges are cutting language ser-
colleges, provincial government support for PCCs           vices, increasing class sizes, and cutting support
extends to the present Liberal government. Brad            for foreign students. This contradiction has led
Duguid, the minister for Colleges, Training and            faculty at several colleges to question the ethics
Universities, recently announced that a 30% tuition        of international student recruitment, as students
rebate to Ontario public colleges and universities         are being “ripped off” by receiving a sub-standard
would also be extended to students of private col-         educational experience. This fear has also been
leges. The announcement once more prompted                 echoed by professors outside of the Ontario col-
criticism from the CFS-O, prompting a representa-          leges.74
tive to respond “The priority of the provincial gov-       The desire to profit from international student tu-
ernment should be to make public post-secondary            itions is also leading community colleges to part-
education more affordable, not find new ways to            ner with private, for-profit corporations in opening
fund and promote private institutions.”71                  satellite campuses in Ontario. Examples of this
                                                           phenomenon include the Mohawk College Pures
Globalization                                              campus in Scarborough, the Cambrian College
Globalization has also impacted the functioning of         Hanson campuses in Brampton and Toronto,
Ontario community colleges, and has manifested             and the St. Lawrence College Alpha International
in a scramble by colleges to attract international         Academy campus in Toronto. All of these campus-
students to Canadian campuses, in increased                es are run by private colleges that have curriculum
partnerships between CAATs and foreign educa-              licensing agreements with their respective publicly
tional institutions, and in increased public-private       funded community college. All of these private
partnerships with domestic private colleges. A final       campuses are targeted toward international stu-
aspect of globalization concerns the drive to have         dents, and are important sources of profit for the
CAATs become competitors and profit-generators             CAAT that sponsors them. Questions of quality
in a “global knowledge economy”, in which edu-             education at these private, for-profit colleges
cational curriculum is transformed into intellectual       have been raised by faculty, and are dealt with in
capital that can be sold internationally.                  the “Threats to Quality Education” section of this
The 2005 Rae Report, although advocating for
increased funding for Ontario post-secondary edu-          Another aspect of globalization sees Ontario com-
cation, also couched its analysis and recommen-            munity colleges increasingly seeking partnerships
dations in the language of global competitiveness.         to establish foreign campuses, a strategy being
Rae noted that colleges and universities are at-           pursued by post-secondary institutions across
tracting higher numbers of international students,         North America. An example of this trend among
and maintained that the institutions “need to do           the CAATs is Algonquin College, which in Febru-
a better job of marketing the opportunities pro-           ary, 2014 announced opening two new campuses

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

in Qatif, Saudi Arabia. This will bring the total cam-   One of the first forays of the CAATs into the field
puses Algonquin runs in Saudi to three, and col-         of online learning was Ontario Learn, established
lege administrators expect to receive $20 million        by Contact North, a consortium of colleges that
in net revenue from the new campuses over a five         provide a common interface for students to take
year contract.75 In 2013, Mohawk, Fanshawe and           online courses provided by CAATs. The consor-
Seneca Colleges were all considering investing in        tium was started in the 1995-96 school year with
a campus in Medina, Saudi Arabia. In discussing          seven member colleges, predominantly from
the proposal, Fanshawe administration noted that         the North. As of the 2012-13 school year, all 24
the college was seeking to augment the money             CAATs were participating in Ontario Learn. Since
they receive from the provincial government.76           its inception, Ontario Learn has been expanding
Forging international links in education and inviting    in size. In 2000-01, there were 285 online courses
foreign students to study in Canada both have            with 11,314 registrants, whereas by the 2012-13
positive aspects. However, concerns exist that the       school year this had climbed to 1,115 course of-
focus on globalizing the community college is driv-      ferings to 69,838 students. This represents close
en by decreased government funding and a desire          to a 400% increase in courses offered, and over
for colleges to profit from higher international         600% increase in registration.80
student tuitions and lucrative foreign campus con-       It is difficult to determine how many faculty mem-
tracts. These motives, like the neoliberal motive of     bers are teaching through Ontario Learn. The
competitiveness, risk moving colleges further from       colleges are not required to divulge the information
their mandate of serving local communities and of        of who teaches these courses, or what institutions
providing access to education for marginal student       they are offered from. It is known that most of the
groups.                                                  teachers are part-time, and that the majority of
                                                         this work involves delivering courses that would
Increasing Enrolment                                     otherwise be taught in regular day academic
Student enrolments have been increasing steadi-          programs. Using the standard workload formula
ly since the CAATs were founded. In 1986 there           currently contained in the college faculty collective
were 110, 281 full-time students enrolled in On-         agreement, the number of courses being taught
tario Colleges.77 Today, there are 220,000 full-time     on Ontario Learn is roughly the equivalent of 500
and 300,000 part-time students in the colleges, a        full-time faculty jobs.81
100% increase in 28 years.78 When combined with          An additional impetus for online course delivery
decreased funding per full-time student, increasing      is coming from the creation of Ontario Online, an
enrolment means that college faculty are teaching        initiative announced by the provincial government
more students with fewer resources.                      as part of its strategy of post-secondary “differen-
                                                         tiation”. Under this initiative, community colleges
Online Learning
                                                         are being offered hundreds of thousands of dollars
Over the past 10 years, use of online learning has       to develop “flagship” online courses that can be
expanded throughout the post-secondary system            enrolled in by students at any institution, and that
in Ontario. The CAATs have increasingly started to       earn students credits that are transferrable to all
develop online courses with incentives and direc-        institutions. Unlike Ontario Learn, Ontario Online is
tion from the Minister of Training, Colleges and         being designed as an independent, degree and di-
Universities (MTCU). In pronouncements from the          ploma granting institution.82 Ontario Online is envi-
MTCU, and in the research literature assessing           sioned by the province as a non-profit corporation
online learning, use of online is clearly cited as a     in which all Ontario public universities and colleges
rationalization and cost-control strategy.79             are able to participate. According to a 2013 con-

Report on Education in Ontario Colleges: Background

fidential MTCU memo, the corporation will be            eliminate “duplication” of programs and/or cours-
run by a board of directors composed of “senior         es, and operate as areas of specialty within an
administrators from the college and university          open and competitive educational environment.84
sectors, experts in online learning, and students”.     In the Ministry’s discussion paper, the overarching
There is no mention made of faculty input into the      mandate of post-secondary moves from providing
conceptualization, operation, or governance of          access to high quality education and job training,
Ontario Online.83                                       to a focus on “innovation and productivity.” This
At present, the community colleges are greatly          new mandate is explicitly related to continued
expanding their quota of fully online and blended       government under-funding of post-secondary. The
courses, with Mohawk College in Hamilton being          discussion paper states:
the most aggressive. In 2013 Mohawk mandated                In light of the current financial climate,
that all courses taught at the college, save a few          and as we continue to recover from
exempted labs, would become 33% blended by                  the recession, it is necessary to lead
January of 2014, in which students would lose an            the province’s publicly funded high-
hour of face to face class time and have it re-             er education system toward lower
placed with an hour of online work. In addition to          rates of spending growth. Costs in the
the across-the-board blending mandate, dozens               postsecondary sector have grown at a
of fully online courses are also being developed.           rate above inflation during a time when
Under the Challenges to Quality Education sec-              growth and grants from government have
tion, the significant pedagogical, workload, staffing       become constrained.85 (emphasis mine)
and academic freedom impacts of online learning
are more fully discussed.                               The discussion paper then acknowledges that
                                                        decreased funding and the resulting cost-cutting
Differentiation                                         imperative lead directly to reductions in quality:
As an extension of neoliberal reforms to post-sec-          Efficiency-focused strategies to contain
ondary begun in 1995, the Ministry of Training,             costs can reduce the capacity of criti-
Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has recently               cal services and may not always deliver
mandated a policy of “differentiation” for the sec-         sustainable operational savings. This
tor. In 2012 the MTCU published Strengthening               often leaves citizens feeling as if they are
Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation, and            paying more and getting less. In the short
Knowledge, a “discussion paper” on differenti-              term, cost reductions and the elimination
ation. This report suggests sweeping changes                of redundancies are essential parts of our
to Ontario’s post-secondary system, designed                government’s fiscal plan. However, they
to account for continued financial austerity, a             alone will not be sufficient to meet the
high-technology learning environment, and a need            fiscal challenges facing the postsecond-
for global competitiveness. As part of the push for         ary sector.86
differentiation, Minister Duguid mandated all col-      The discussion paper claims that declining gov-
leges and universities to submit Strategic Mandate      ernment support and reduced quality of education
Agreements (SMAs) that highlight their institution’s    will be offset by “adopting innovation in the sector
areas of specialization. The overarching goal of the    to drive productivity.” Stated plainly, the MTCU is
SMAs is to facilitate a process of “differentiation”,   arguing that the post-secondary sector must be
in which individual colleges and universities would     made to innovate and do more with less in the
                                                        face of austerity and service decline. Not surpris-

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