The inevitable space crunch invented by GTA universities to push for more funding is in the media yet again. Beverly Harris, chair of board at Wilfrid Laurier and the Council of Chairs of Ontario Universities, had wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail urging the government to move forward on space issues to address the 120,000 additional students she expects to pour into the GTA by 2021.
She writes: “Key elements of such a plan would address the following realities: – Universities need to begin hiring new faculty to replace retiring professors, reduce student-faculty ratios and increase the opportunities for student-faculty interaction; – Construction needs to begin on new classrooms, laboratories, libraries and study spaces to accommodate the influx of new students; Additional graduate scholarships are needed to ensure that we train the next generation of faculty and that we continue to generate the research and the highly skilled personnel that will sustain a vibrant economy.”
As I’ve said before, it must be understood that the figure being used to justify all of this funding has been invented by the universities and the lobby groups that represent them. Although I’m not sure what participation rate this estimate is based on, the previous (more conservative) estimate that was being thrown around–that there would be 35,000 to 70,000 additional students within 10 years–was made by the University of Toronto based on participation rates between 30 and 50 per cent. The percentage of university aged people now participating in post-secondary education is 24 per cent in Ontario. So I think that it’s safe to say that doubling that number is not an inevitability.