This September, the number of students who entered Ontario universities increased by a dramatic 15 per cent. By 2010, the number of students attending universities in the province will have climbed from 240,000 to more than 320,000. To help meet this demand, the University of Toronto has committed to expanding its undergraduate enrolment by 9,000 students, contingent on sufficient capital funding from the province.
The double cohort – which will occur when grades 12 and 13 graduate together at the end of this school year – and the baby boom echo are only partly responsible for this influx. Beyond 2005-6, even greater participation rates are predicted, which means that more students in Ontario, and especially in the Greater Toronto Area, will be opting for a university education. The fact that an increasing number of high-school students want to attend university is a clear indication that the public universities of Ontario are doing an outstanding job.
While the media have been foretelling crisis, overcrowded classrooms and qualified students being turned away, we view this surge in enrolment as a unique opportunity for U of T to expand its faculty of world-class educators and researchers, invest in academic facilities, develop new programs and enhance existing ones – particularly at the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) and University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC).
In the long run, UTM and UTSC will absorb most of the increased enrolment, becoming equivalent to mid-sized Ontario universities. UTM, currently part of the Faculty of Arts and Science, will become a separate undergraduate faculty complete with its own departments and academic chairs, and is expected to grow by about 40 per cent to around 9,000 students. UTSC, already a separate faculty since 1972, will grow by a third, to 8,000 students. There will also be enhancements in the on-campus graduate programs. All faculty will be members of graduate departments that span the three campuses.
Expansion at the two campuses will enhance the curricular strengths of each. Much of the growth at Scarborough will involve enrichment of its already strong co-op programs. This year, for example, the campus began offering joint programs with Centennial College in journalism, new media and paramedicine. Last year, UTM forged its third academic partnership with Sheridan College, offering a bachelor of arts in communication, culture and information technology. The rest of the expansion at UTM will be in unique areas such as biotechnology, where the university has already distinguished itself.
On all three campuses, physical expansion is underway with new student residences slated for New College, Woodsworth College, University College, UTSC and UTM. These projects will add 2,600 spaces to the current stock of 5,000.
Of course, this enrolment increase will place more demand on student aid. However, the University of Toronto will not waver from its 1998 financial-aid guarantee: no student will be prevented from coming to the university, or from finishing a degree, for want of financial assistance. In addition, the government recently announced a second phase of the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund (OSOTF). The OSOTF program will provide need-based financial aid for 400,000 students in Ontario over the next decade.
The province has not yet made a formal commitment to providing the necessary funds for classrooms, offices and laboratories, although we are optimistic that it will do so shortly. This support is imperative in order for the university to meet its expansion goals. Any changes that occur at UTM and UTSC must reflect the University of Toronto’s status as a leading research university, and that means building world-class facilities to attract outstanding academics and researchers to teach our next generation of students. I feel that this is an extraordinary opportunity that, with the province’s backing, is well within our reach.