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Ontario Considering Making Non-Traditional Traditional

Last week, the province of Ontario released a discussion paper suggesting the province transform its post-secondary system to reflect a few characteristics of non-traditional higher education.

Shorter degrees, offering year-round classes and making all general first- and second-year credits transferable are among the suggestions aimed at keeping higher education more relevant and flexible for students, according to Kristin Rushowy of the Toronto Star.

“The transformation is required because the world we live in, and the world colleges and universities live in, is dramatically different, and the role (of post-secondary education) is different and larger than it ever has been,” Glen Murray, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities told Rushowy.

The paper also suggests drawing a link between public funding for institutions and assessments—using metrics like graduation rates, credits earned. It also recommends a greater focus from faculty on teaching rather than research,

The move heralds a widespread acceptance of the value of online and self-paced learning in higher education. In all, the recommendations seem to be aimed to lighten the load on students who must work to support themselves and their families while studying.

Consultations on the recommendations are expected to wrap up around fall, and the highest-priority changes could be implemented by year’s end.

The biggest critique of the move right now is the possibility that three-year degrees would not be recognized outside Ontario. However, those concerns are allayed by the Australian model, where students who earn three-year degrees are awarded “diploma supplements” which outline specific characteristics and requirements of that program for employer and post-graduate scrutiny.