Without academic accountability, universities suffer

High schools in Ontario make a huge effort to prepare graduating students for post-secondary education, but there’s one thing they can’t prepare them for: the unregulated academics of Canadian universities.
Public education in Ontario is governed by the Ministry of Education—each school is expected to follow the same curriculum and evaluate students based on the same principles and guidelines. And while Ontario’s high school curriculum and grading system aren’t flawless, their intention is to guarantee educational consistency and fairness across the province.
Universities, on the other hand, are almost completely independent in their academic development and execution.
The autonomy of universities is vital to their purpose and integrity, and politicizing their administrations would interfere with their independent research and academic freedom. However, as institutions with an ever-increasing role in Canada’s education system, their autonomy should not interfere with the quality of their work.
While the provincial government holds public schools accountable for the education they provide, there’s no similar system to protect post-secondary students from exploitation and to ensure universities are fulfilling their academic obligations. This lack of accountability leaves room for inconsistencies in instruction and evaluation.
University professors aren’t required to receive any formal training in teaching before stepping into the classroom, and the curriculum and evaluations of faculties don’t have to uphold any predetermined standard.
Given the amount of money Canadians invest in their post-secondary educations, university students should, at the very least, be guaranteed a minimum degree of quality in teaching and content.
Universities may be private institutions, but their autonomy shouldn’t be so heavily prioritized that they can’t work cohesively with the rest of the education system.
The transition from high school to university remains the most difficult and unpredictable leap in a student’s educational experience. There’s a significant disconnect between what’s expected of students in high school and in university that isn’t being addressed.
Students graduate from public high school accustomed to the stability and fairness that governmental oversight provides. They’re then promptly thrust into a world of incongruous expectations.
It’s next to impossible to be prepared for first year when there’s little consistency in how courses are executed within each university—let alone between institutions.
While government interference isn’t the solution, self-assessment and transparency would go a long way toward providing much-needed academic accountability at universities.
The rest of a student’s life can be influenced by their university performance. It’s the responsibility of the post-secondary institutional community to provide each student with an equal and fair opportunity to succeed.
Shelby is The Journal’s Editorials Editor. She’s a second-year English student.

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