President seeks feedback for Rae Advisory Panel
President Alastair Summerlee is seeking advice from the University community on how to maintain quality and improve accessibility at U of G and Ontario’s other universities and colleges.
Summerlee is gathering information and ideas to present to former Ontario premier Bob Rae, who is reviewing post-secondary education in the province. The review, which will be overseen by a seven-member advisory panel, will examine the design, funding and accessibility of the post-secondary system. Currently, Ontario’s universities are ranked 10th out of 10 provinces in per-capita government funding.
The Rae review will include consultations through the summer and fall with institutions, students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the public. “It is crucial that the University community play a pivotal role,” Summerlee says. “Our faculty, staff and students are aware of the monumental problems we are facing in terms of public support for quality programs, student assistance and facilities. More importantly, they have first-hand knowledge of the effects of such underfunding. Their feedback is crucial to this process.”
The Rae Advisory Panel is expected to meet with university presidents as well as with U of G’s Presidential Task Force on Accessibility to Higher Education, which was organized in 2003 as the first initiative in a long-term strategy to address issues of accessibility. The government panel already has access to an interim report that the task force released this winter.
Central issues for Summerlee include the overall funding of universities, tuition policy and the process of financial support for students. “We have to preserve the excellent higher education system in this province,” he said. The last provincial budget included no increases to the Quality Assurance Fund, which was designed to protect quality even as universities responded to demands for increased access. The provincial budget provided no additional money for deferred maintenance, a $200-million challenge for U of G. Summerlee is also worried about research funding, as the province no longer matches infrastructure support provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation through the Ontario Innovation Trust. He hopes to see increased financial support for students, including government grants.
Rae and the advisory panel are expected to address differentiation, tuition, operating grants, student assistance, collaboration and accountability. Rae is expected to provide a report to Premier Dalton McGuinty and Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, by Jan. 2005.
“Whatever the recommendations of the advisory panel, it is critical that funding be directly allocated to maintaining quality in Ontario universities.”
In addition to gathering information through normal processes of meeting with staff, faculty and students, Summerlee is inviting the University community to give direct feedback on how to maintain U of G’s quality and improve its accessibility by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.