Countless students, alumni, faculty, staff, volunteers and benefactors have helped the University of Toronto become a great public institution. Today, after 178 years, the University of Toronto matters to Canada and Canadians more than ever.
Our strength is our students. Exceedingly bright and diverse, they draw on the breadth of ambitions in this country. Our faculty are outstanding. They produce more publications and are cited more often in academic literature than the faculty of most universities in North America. Our dedicated staff support a superb environment for faculty and students.
Now, after years in which Ontario lagged in funding post-secondary education, the provincial government has made a remarkable $6.2-billion, five-year commitment to universities and colleges. In fact, all three levels of government are promoting innovation as a vital part of our culture. This innovation agenda holds huge promise for future generations, provided that we support fundamental research more generously and preserve the essential role of the humanities and social sciences.
Without a balance of disciplines, we cannot address the many challenges facing humankind – from the global crises of HIV/AIDS and environmental degradation to widespread sectarian strife. Our students need the broadest education we can give them for the simple reason that today’s challenges are also their inheritance from us.
U of T remains fully committed to admitting the best and brightest students, regardless of their personal or financial circumstances. Fifty per cent of our undergraduates report a total family income of less than $50,000. We spend $150 million in university-derived funds each year on student support. And we are working hard to open U of T to all students who deserve to be with us, but who have felt excluded or unwelcome, or who need a second chance at university. Counted in the latter group must be new Canadians who bring their dreams and skills to Toronto, Scarborough and Mississauga more often than anywhere else in Canada.
Once here, every student – undergraduate and graduate – deserves an experience worthy of a great institution. Unfortunately, chronic underfunding has taken a toll. Today, our student-to-faculty ratio is 34 to one – about 50 per cent higher than the average for our peer institutions in the United States. The McGuinty government’s investment in post-secondary education should help us begin to correct this imbalance.
We can do more. Enhancing the student experience is the University of Toronto’s number one priority, and all divisions are working hard on four fronts. First, our university is big and sometimes overwhelming for new students. We will create more intimate neighbourhoods, in partnership with our excellent colleges and federated universities. We will find more ways to encourage small-group learning. And we will enhance student activity spaces for our large population of commuting students.
Second, we are reducing our reliance on traditional classroom instruction. Through partnerships with businesses and community agencies, and the generosity of countless alumni who serve as student mentors, we are creating more opportunities for students to learn through hands-on experiences.
Third, we will provide more recognition and support for great teaching. This includes the establishment of the first U of T-wide teaching awards and supportive coaching to enhance teaching performance.
Finally, we will offer more opportunities for our undergraduate students to do research and share in the excitement of creating new knowledge. This is a huge comparative advantage for our university, given the research productivity of our faculty.
The University of Toronto has a storied past and a present made vibrant by 70,000 students, 11,000 faculty and staff, and more than 400,000 former students living all over the world. U of T truly embodies the enduring alchemy of higher education and its transformative potential for students and society. With your help, we can continue to nurture the great minds of tomorrow, and, together with our extraordinary students, imagine a great future.