Many postsecondary schools, like Lakehead University and Confederation College, are embracing the challenge of analyzing themselves to improve their performance and differentiation.
In response to new government involvment in Ontario’s public postsecondary sector, Lakehead University and Confederation College have both jumped on board to provide Strategic Mandate Agreements or SMAs. Located in northwestern Ontario, the two schools have taken the opportunity to set priorities and define what makes them unique.
Based on recommendations from an Expert Panel, The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) asked institutions to outline their top ten strengths as a public postsecondary education provider. Provincial funding will be applied based on a condensed list of five priority areas for growth.
Far from resenting the exercise in self-examination, many postsecondary schools are embracing the challange of analyzing themselves to improve their performance and differentiation. Lakehead University’s vice-president academic Moira McPherson said, “It actually has been a very positive exercise because it allowed us to really crystallize what we’re doing.”
So, what is Lakehead doing? The University’s proposed areas for growth include a focus on sustainability, social justice, and meeting the needs of Aboriginal learners. Although teacher training was not listed in their top five, McPherson says they will continue to put emphasis on graduate programs in education, as has been their long-standing tradition.
“We really see as an area of growth for us, our graduate programs in education and specifically the specializations they have in those programs around social justice, meeting the needs of Aboriginal learners, Aboriginal communities and also around sustainability,” states McPherson.
Drawing up an action plan based on a clear vision for improvement has also benefited Confederation College by allowing them to address the needs of their community. Confederation College president Jim Madder states, “Unfortunately northwestern Ontario has a really low high school completion rate compared to many other parts of the province.”
To help provide a solution to this situation, Madder says his institution will focus on preparing students for post-secondary learning.
“We’re absolutely committed to doing things like pre-flight, pre-health, pre-techonology. All of the ‘pre’ programs to bring people’s numeracy, literacy and technical skills up to a level [where] they will be successful,” says Madder.
As other postsecondary schools present their Strategic Mandate Agreements, the public will be able to learn about their priorities and goals. Although SMAs are not meant to be an exhaustive resource of a school’s programs and courses, they can help prospective students see what the future holds for postsecondary education in Ontario.