Planning for U of T’s third century
The University of Toronto intends to harness its strengths in advanced research and graduate education over the next 20 years to enhance the student experience and contribute meaningfully to Canada’s prosperity, a new report on U of T’s future asserts.
The 80-page document, Towards 2030: A Third Century of Excellence at the University of Toronto, written by President David Naylor, draws on 15 months of consultations with the university community on U of T’s long-term direction. It sets out strategic priorities in enrolment, the student experience, the three campuses, funding and how the university is governed.
Recognizing U of T’s advantage in research and graduate education, Towards 2030 recommends boosting enrolment in graduate and professional programs and modestly reducing the undergraduate population at the St. George campus. In one proposed scenario, enrolment in graduate and professional programs at the downtown campus would increase by 3,300 to 15,000 (or about 35 per cent of all students) while undergraduate enrolment would decrease by 5,000 to 28,500. The reduction in undergraduate students at the St. George campus would be more than offset by increases at the Scarborough and Mississauga campuses – from about 17,000 undergrads currently to 24,000 by 2030. Graduate enrolment on the two newer campuses would also rise.
The report argues that expanding graduate education follows logically from the university’s existing strengths in research, regional demographic forecasts that point to a growing demand for advanced degrees, and global economic trends that favour high-knowledge industries. Naylor suggests that such a plan would boost not only the university’s research enterprise, but also its first-entry programs – by giving undergraduates more opportunities to participate in research projects and to be mentored by grad students. At the same time, Naylor says the university will aim to expand the number of first-year “learning communities” – which give new students a chance to take seminar-style courses, meet with tutors and join study groups. As undergrad enrolment at the St. George campus declines, the student-faculty ratio should decrease, creating a better learning environment. To boost its national and global presence, U of T will recruit more international students and more Canadian students from outside the Toronto area.
Although total enrolment across the university is expected to grow modestly over the next two decades, Towards 2030 advises against establishing a fourth U of T campus. The report advocates preserving the university’s tri-campus set-up as a “regional U of T system” and developing the strengths and unique qualities of each site so the “totality of academic activities and opportunities on the three campuses is greater than the sum of their parts.”
U of T has faced considerable funding challenges over the past 20 years, and Towards 2030 anticipates these will persist. Noting that the inflation-adjusted value of perstudent grants in Ontario fell sharply in the early 1990s and has not climbed back to what it was in 1991–92, the report proposes that U of T enlist the help of its extended community, including alumni, to continue lobbying the province for across-the-board funding increases. Ontario’s per-student support for higher education currently ranks last among the provinces, sitting at 25 per cent below the average of the nine others. U of T should also be able to set tuition fees – its second-largest source of revenue – to “more accurately reflect actual operating costs, quality of the [educational] experience and demand,” according to the report. (Tuition fees and government grants make up more than three-quarters of U of T’s operating revenue.) The university would remain accountable to the province for ensuring accessibility and maintaining student financial support.
President Naylor kicked off the long-term planning process in June 2007 by releasing an initial discussion paper. In October 2007, he commissioned four task forces – each chaired by a university governor and including faculty, staff, students and alumni – to consider issues arising from the community’s responses to the discussion paper. The task forces consulted widely and received scores of submissions. Their fi nal reports – on long-term enrolment strategy, institutional organization, university resources and university relations and context – informed the president’s report, which was released in October. Governing Council commissioned a fi fth task force, on university governance, and this task force recently completed the first phase of its report.
Governing Council approved Towards 2030: A Long-Term Planning Framework for the University of Toronto in principle at a meeting in late October. This eight-page document outlines the broad strategic directions arising from the planning process. Naylor says the framework does not set out or change university policy, but serves as a long-term planning guide. “It must be viewed as a living document,” Naylor notes. “As the
context and conditions change, the framework will need to be reviewed and modified.”
Read the task force reports and President David Naylor’s synthesis report at www.towards2030.utoronto.ca.