Domestic Institutions Remain Top Priority as Northeastern Enters Ontario Market

The EvoLLLution | Domestic Institutions Remain Top Priority as Northeastern Enters Ontario Market
Though Northeastern University, based in Massachusetts, has been granted approval to offer degree programs in Ontario—the first American institution to do so without a regional partner—their programs must not duplicate any offered by local public institutions or negatively impact those local institutions in any way.

Northeastern University recently announced its plan to launch its first international branch campus next year in Toronto, the first non-Canadian university to offer degree programs in Ontario without a local partner. The announcement sparked a great deal of discussion around the impact Northeastern’s offerings will have on the higher education marketplace both in the Toronto area and more widely across the province. In this interview, Ontario Minister for Training Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi reflects on why Northeastern was granted approval to operate these degree programs in Ontario and shares his thoughts on the impact of these moves on Ontario’s postsecondary marketplace.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why did the government of Ontario approve Northeastern University’s request to launch a branch campus in Toronto?

Reza Moridi (RM): Our government continues to strongly support the 44 public colleges and universities in Ontario. That’s why we’ve increased operating funding by 83 percent since 2003.

Occasionally, our ministry receives a request from an out-of-province university to offer specialized graduate programs. This is not a unique case where an out-of-province institution has been granted consent to offer degree-level programming in Ontario. Including Northeastern, there are eight out-of-province public institutions and nine private institutions delivering degree programs in Ontario. Each of these requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis in a process that is guided by clear criteria and that includes direct consultation with the sector. The requested programs must not duplicate existing programs being offered by publically funded colleges or universities and must not negatively impact them.

Evo: How does the province benefit from Northeastern University establishing a branch campus in Toronto?

RM: The Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000 (the Act) allows out-of-province institutions such as Northeastern University to apply for ministerial consent to offer specialized degree programs in Ontario.

On October 28, 2015, Northeastern University received Minister’s consent under the Act to offer three graduate programs in Ontario:

  • Master of Science in Information Assurance
  • Master of Science in Project Management
  • Master of Science in Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics and Medical Devices.

The purpose of the Act is to increase options for Ontarians who want to earn a degree and these three niche programs are providing students with degree options they currently do not have access to. For example, the Master of Science in Project Management program is the only one of its kind in the province. These three programs are targeted at experienced working professionals to upgrade existing competencies and not targeted at recent graduates looking to enter the workforce.

Evo: What were some of the most significant roadblocks Northeastern had to overcome in order to get approval to establish their Toronto branch campus?

RM: Out-of-province institutions, such as Northeastern University, require the consent of the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to offer degrees or part of degree programs in Ontario.

Any application like this must go through comprehensive program and organizational reviews completed by Ontario’s Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB), an arm’s-length agency of the government. PEQAB makes recommendations to the minister on applications for ministerial consent under the act. Each of these requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis in a process that is guided by clear criteria and that includes direct consultation with the sector.

Evo: What do you think will be some of the most significant challenges Northeastern will face in getting a foothold in the competitive GTA higher education marketplace, and how will their entry impact other GTA-based institutions?

RM: Firstly, Northeastern’s programs must not duplicate existing programs being offered by publically funded colleges or universities and must not negatively impact them.

Secondly, unlike our public colleges and universities, Northeastern will not receive any operating or capital funding from the province of Ontario. These three niche programs will be offered on a cost-recovery basis.

Evo: Looking to the future, what impact do you think Northeastern’s establishment of a Toronto branch campus will have on the city’s and the province’s reputation as an educational hub?

RM: Ontario’s colleges and universities offer innovative, high-quality postsecondary education programs that attract both domestic students and those from across the world.

Our government’s ongoing support for its colleges and universities as well as the willingness to consider and grant consent to out-of-province institutions to offer additional degree programming in Ontario will continue to enhance the reputation of Ontario’s postsecondary system.

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Key Takeaways

  • Approval for out-of-province institutions to provide degree-level programming in Ontario is approved on a case-by-case basis and must not duplicate existing programming offered by public institutions or negatively impact those publicly funded institutions.
  • Northeastern will not receive any public support for its operations in Ontario, meaning they must operate on a cost-recovery model.

Readers Comments

Mindy Benson 2015/12/02 at 9:27 am

The ministry seems to be striking a good balance between allowing in new institutions that could stand to benefit the student population here while making sure that our own colleges and universities are still the top priority. It wouldn’t be fair to students or their schools to do otherwise, I think.

Justin Drake 2015/12/02 at 2:16 pm

That strategy definitely puts the onus on the requesting institution to ensure they have their ducks in a row and can actually manage a cost-recovery model in another country. It means they won’t come if they can’t guarantee their programs are solid, and that’s a good thing for students in Toronto.

Molly Wilkins 2015/12/02 at 3:35 pm

This should be an interesting test case, and I look forward to seeing how the project goes and how students in Canada respond to a well known American institution.

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