Ministry proposals harmful to quality, won't improve access to colleges and universities, says OPSEU

"This government is not interested in a genuine conversation with stakeholders on how we can improve and expand the post-secondary education system," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President.

logo for OPSEU Ontario Public Service Employees Union
logo for the Canadian Federation of Student Ontario
logo for OCUFA Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations
 

Toronto (04 Oct. 2012) - Proposals put forward in a Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities discussion paper will damage the quality of post-secondary education and increase government interference in higher education in Ontario, according to faculty, staff and students. On October 3, provincial faculty, staff and students' unions released their responses to the discussion paper, Strengthening Ontario's Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge, noting the government expects institutions to do more with less and provides no relief for students paying the highest tuition fees in the country.

"This government is not interested in a genuine conversation with stakeholders on how we can improve and expand the post-secondary education system," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE). "Instead, the Ministry discussion paper and roundtables show their agenda is sector-wide cost-cutting that threatens quality education."

"After decades of underfunding, the Ministry's proposals expect colleges and universities to do even more with less," said Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of the Ontario University Workers Coordination Committee of the Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario. "Now we're being asked to swallow wage freezes, but the Minister won't discuss the real issues universities face-a lack of transparency and accountability, chronic underfunding and decreasing affordability. Ignoring the real issues facing the sector is a setup for a fatally flawed process."

Currently, colleges and universities in Ontario receive the lowest per-student funding, and pay the highest tuitions fees, in the country. The Minister of Training Colleges and Universities Glen Murray has made it clear throughout the consultation process that the province will not address underfunding in the sector, nor will it address the province's high tuition fees.

"The Ministry's proposals would take away the ability of students, staff and faculty to make meaningful academic decisions," said Constance Adamson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). "Already, staff, professors, and librarians are expected to do more with less, even as government threatens to undermine our constitutionally protected collective bargaining rights. Now the government wants to exert­­ more control over our work. The government does not have the experience or expertise to make good decisions for students. We do."

"Students have been speaking out on our campuses about everything from the impact of high fees on students' mental health to not having enough seats in our lecture halls," said Sarah Jayne King, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. "With tuition fees and student debt at record levels in Ontario and youth high rates of youth unemployment, the government's priority should be increasing funding and dropping fees, not cutting corners."

Faculty, staff and students are calling on the government to improve the quality of colleges and universities and make sure that all students can afford to attend.

Collectively, CUPE, OCUFA and OPSEU/NUPGE represent more than 65,000 academic and support staff at colleges and universities, and CFS-Ontario represents over 300,000 college, undergraduate and graduate students across Ontario.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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