Austere innovations

Queen’s University’s administration is due to submit comments on the provincial Government’s Discussion Paper on the reform of post-secondary institutions at the end of the month.

The document offers a clear guideline for changes to the structures of these institutions, and the administration should support the essence of it. In the wake of recent budget cuts and deficits in Ontario, the province released this discussion paper outlining useful and innovative ways for post-secondary institutions to reform their structures to save money and modernize, suggestions that the administration should take seriously while still fighting to maintain a high standard of quality for students.

In a perfect world, all universities in Ontario would have the highest quality of education. They would be able to maintain small class sizes, high levels of student-teacher interaction and give students the best resources available.

However, in the current economic climate, some major changes have to be made in order to try and meet these expectations.

Specifically, the Discussion Paper’s suggestion to move in the direction of an online learning platform while still maintaining a high quality classroom environment is a positive recommendation to help universities cut costs.

Queen’s has already begun the shift towards online learning in many cases, a trend that deserves further exploration by the University.

With the creation of more online alternatives for education and through training professors to use proven, effective online platforms, the school can create a learning model that is more current, more effective and potentially less expensive.

Keeping this in mind, there are still many online learning models that don’t work well. A great deal of research and testing needs to be carried out to ensure that quality is prioritized over simply moving to a cheaper online platform.

Furthermore, online learning isn’t the only thing that will help Queen’s make up for impending cuts in government funding.

It’s an unfortunate reality that Queen’s has to continue being run as a business — an institution that is inherently designed to turn a profit while acting as a service provided to students.

This is the only way that the school will be able to financially sustain the provision of high-quality education.

In this kind of model, students are ultimately the University’s primary client. While Queen’s needs to be realistic with their fiscal planning, quality cannot be cut for the sake of good business.

The last thing that should be sacrificed in this culture of cuts and austerity is the student’s learning experience in the classroom.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the time to expect our University administration to produce an ideal educational model, given the economic climate.

The best course of action for the administration in attaining high-quality education is to support the spirit of the province’s Discussion Paper in its present form, work to find innovative ways to cut costs through online platforms while still running a financially viable institution.

— Journal Editorial Board


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