Where Ontario’s next university must be built

Sorry Niagara Falls, it’s not you

by Josh Dehaas

Aerial view of GTA by Paul's Best Shots on Flickr

No sooner did Ontario’s government reiterate in their throne speech that they will build three new universities than a couple of small-town politicians stepped up to demand one for their town.

Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor told the Niagara Falls Review yesterday that the city of 82,000 should get a campus. Naturally, the mayor is on board too. The newspaper called it “a no-brainer.”

But sorry Niagara Falls, your case is weak.

The new book Academic Reform, by policy experts Ian D. Clark, David Trick and Richard Van Loon, took a comprehensive look at exactly what Ontario’s post-secondary system needs right now. They examined what works and what doesn’t, from Australia to Europe, from Florida to British Columbia.

They agree that, yes, Ontario badly needs new universities.

But only in the suburban ring around Toronto, known colloquially as The 905.

They projected that the Greater Toronto Area will need 51,000 to 74,000 new undergraduate seats between 2009 and 2025. The rest of Ontario will require, at most, 30,000—possibly none at all.

And the rest of Ontario already has more seats available than the GTA, despite the fact that the GTA will soon have more than half of the 18 to 24-year-olds. There are 20 universities in Ontario, but only three main campuses are in the GTA. That partly explains why nearly half of local secondary school students leave the city to go to school—far more than come into the city to be educated. Thirty per cent don’t get into university at all. Could it be because local schools are full?

It’s also clear from the research that the GTA needs entirely new campuses, not expansions. Toronto’s universities are already among the biggest in the world. York University, at 55,000 students, and the University of Toronto, at 54,000, are the fifth and sixth largest in North America. U of T has determined that it doesn’t want more growth. York and Ryerson can only grow so quickly.

The growth is in Toronto’s suburbs, like Brampton, Marham and Vaughan. Consider that Brampton grew at a rate of 33 per cent between 2001 and 2006 to 434,000, according to the Census. It’s likely closer to 500,000 now. The City of Vaughan passed the 300,000 mark in 2011 and projects it will add 116,000 more by 2031. These new citizens will demand local options to study.

That said, there are a couple fast-growing cities just outside the GTA that could make reasonable cases too. Barrie, which has put aside $14-million for a potential campus, grew 33 per cent in the past decade to 191,000. Milton, which grew by 71 per cent between 2001 and 2006 to 88,000, has land set aside for a possible campus of Wilfrid Laurier—and it’s a short commute to Brampton.

But Niagara Falls, with 82,000 people, grew by just four between 2001 and 2006. Besides, it’s only 17 kilometres from Brock University in St. Catharines—also a short commute.

If they think they’re getting a new university, they’re dreaming. All three should go to the GTA.

Where Ontario’s next university must be built

  1. Why not send a University up North? There are only a few and all are within several hours of a commute. Don’t you think university attendance for those in Northern Ontario would increase if they didn’t have to move more than 4 hours away from home? I do. I’m from Timmins and attended school(like the majority of my classmates)in Southern Ontario. Although it’s nice to leave home and begin life on your own, the drive during Christmas break is long and sometimes dangerous.

    Just a thought. But I’m sure, as per usual, Parliament will forget there are people living up north.

  2. The provincial government refused to give money to the new campus of Lakehead University in Orillia, stating that it was “too far” from home base, among other reasons. The Orillia campus enrollment has steadily increased since the campus opened six years ago. Now, Barrie (30 km from Orillia) is the city of choice. Barrie already has Laurentian University, through the University Partnership Centre at Georgian College. Not sure why the government would support a campus in Barrie (yes, it is a bigger city) and not Orillia. I agree with the above comment – either up North or in the GTA – but Barrie certainly doesn’t need a university!

  3. Heidi you are wrong. Barrie would be a good place to build a university for many reasons. Firstly its proximity to the GTA. It is an hour away from growing cities such as vaughn. That makes it a feasible commute everyday for students. Orillia is closer to 2hrs away, which is a bit ridiculous. Secondly how much would it cost to purchase land in toronto,all the building supplies and employ people to construct a university. The answer is that land would probably be double or triple the price, materials would cost more and chances are, qualified tradesmen to build it are going to charge more in the city. Barrie is a central location in the province and the cost of living here is far less than in the big smoke. Therefore students can afford to move away from home and live in barrie. you can rent an upsacle 5bdrm house for 1350 a month in barrie or get a tiny appartment in toronto. The answer is a no brainer. BUILD IN BARRIE

  4. Brock student here. Like the article said, Niagara already has Brock which is still expanding, though I think there would be many benefits from having a sister university. But other places need it much more.

    I visit Barrie often and think it’s a strong contender. That city could use the innovation a university brings. It’s also a large commute city because it’s in a good location. It has a large population, yet most of the high school grads go out of town for school if they want a university education. I didn’t grow up in Barrie, nor have I lived there, yet I know a lot of students at Brock who came from Barrie.

  5. Brampton is the best choice for a University in Ontario. In fact, Brampton tax payers should insist that their tax dollars stay in their Region until they are no longer under-serviced by the Province.

    It’s borderline criminal that the needs of a city with a population of 500,000+ has been maligned by the Province to the extent that Sheridan College is the only place a high school graduate can attend if they wish to remain in Brampton.

    I understand that satellite campuses in Northern Ontario and Barrie would be beneficial for the education needs of students in those areas but realistically the needs of 1/60th of the total population of Canada living in 266.71 km2 of it comes first. To put it in perspective, that’s about 1,626.5 people/km2 (Barrie is 197.29/km2 and Timmins is 14.5/km2- source Wikipedia).

    The OPP used to have their Police College in downtown Brampton at the corner of McLaughlin and Queen. So there is land available for a campus on the main bus routes near student level accommodation as Sheridan College is also on McLaughlin Rd.

    Once built and staffed, I feel that Brampton University would grow to become one of the most successful Universities in the world.

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