One of OUSA’s major strengths is its ability to provide educated solutions to government in the form of thoughtful and carefully crafted policy. Not only do they form the backbone of our advocacy initiative but they are also at the core of the mission and goals of the organization and contribute to its image as a thought leader in post-secondary education. Throughout its history OUSA has covered topics ranging from high-level vision and system design, all the way down to details of student financial assistance and funding.

Twice a year, members of OUSA from all of its schools come together to debate and approve the policies that will guide the organization for the coming years. The policies are created by students for students and form the basis for all the work we do here.

Housing, Transit, & Community Development

This policy paper aims to illustrate what students believe to be underappreciated issues and concerns in their municipalities. Though tensions tend to run high between temporary and permanent residents in cities with post-secondary institutions, universities contribute largely to the growth of local economies. Given the significant impact that universities have on their communities, attention should be paid to maintaining and strengthening relationships between university students and their municipalities.

International Students and Education

International education comprises several elements: increased international student access and retention within domestic institutions, growth in numbers of domestic students pursuing opportunities to study abroad, and diversifying institutional administration, staff, faculty, and services to promote internationalization. It is imperative that the Government of Ontario takes steps to enhance each of these areas in order to internationalize its university sector and remain competitive with other jurisdictions around the world.

A Comprehensive Access Strategy

All willing and qualified students in Ontario should be able to access and excel within Ontario’s post-secondary education system. Access, as a policy term, should have a singular meaning across Ontario that is separate from retention and persistence. The provincial government should reduce barriers to university access by developing and implementing a comprehensive access strategy. This strategy should holistically address all barriers to post-secondary education, ensuring equitable access to university for all Ontarians. 

Ancillary Fees

Ontario’s undergraduate students have been asked to shoulder the burden of rapidly rising tuition and associated costs of attending university. One of the most common means of providing new funds for building maintenance, capital projects, and student services has been through ancillary fees. Ancillary fees in Ontario have been rapidly increasing–by over 20% since 2010–and they comprise, on average, about 16% of the total fees paid by students in all university Arts and Science programs. As universities scramble to subsidize their operations, students are unfairly being tasked with paying ever increasing ancillary fees. This places increased financial burdens on Ontario’s students, and raising serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and fair cost sharing principles that students feel should permeate throughout the sector. 

Sexual Violence Prevention & Response

Everyone must play a role in creating a world free of sexual violence. If we do not, we are accepting its existence as an inevitable part of our society. All survivors—regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ability, or heritage—should be supported in ways that allow them to seek justice in meaningful ways and safely pursue their education. Student unions have played a critical role on campus, providing programming, training, and support and offer these recommendations as a blueprint for success.

Rural & Northern Students

All willing and qualified students from rural and northern communities should be able to access and excel within Ontario’s post-secondary education system. Ontario’s universities are in highly urbanized centers predominantly located in the south of the province. The remoteness of rural and northern students from these universities, combined with the diversity of their populations, means that barriers to university participation for youth in these areas have to be understood as complex, multifaceted, and interrelated. These factors are also compounded by the fact that post-secondary dropout rates are much higher in rural communities (14.8%) compared to the rest of Ontario (8.6%), which means these communities have lower proportions of university graduates, as well as fewer employment opportunities for degree holders.

Student Employment

Students’ understanding and participation in “work” affects their university experience in many ways. Employment can serve as both a motivator and hindrance to academic success. It can teach valuable lessons while also detracting from academic work. It is the number one reason why students attend post-secondary school. Unfortunately, numerous barriers stand in the way of increasing the employment rates of highly educated youth. These barriers must be treated as distinct yet interconnected, and necessitate multifaceted approaches. This OUSA policy paper outlines how government, employers, educators, and students can work together to overcome barriers and move towards a more prosperous, productive future.

Students with Disabilities

The concept of “disability” should be interpreted in broad terms including both present and past conditions as well as subjective components based on perceptions of disability. These subjective components determine disability in relation to individuals’ interactions with their environment: in the ways buildings are constructed, in the performance standards used to assess individuals, and in the ways individuals are expected to engage in daily activities. This interpretation of disability is referred to as a “social model” and places responsibility for overcoming accessibility barriers onto entire communities. This OUSA policy uses a social model of disability to offer recommendations that ensure all willing and qualified students in Ontario are able to access and excel within the post-secondary education system.

Online Learning

Online learning can be a useful option for students seeking more flexibility in completing their degree. Fully-online courses in particular are becoming more popular and provide an excellent alternative means of education to the traditional classroom environment. Having said that, students believe that online learning should not altogether replace traditional classroom learning and the benefits of an on-campus student experience. For this reason, this policy emphasizes online courses, not online degree programs. To all forms of online learning however, the same standards of quality found in traditional classroom environments should apply as well—a key tenant of this policy.

Teaching & Assessment

At the heart of the university experience is the profound learning that takes place in the classroom. This learning occurs through the acquisition and demonstration of discipline specific knowledge. As such, the undergraduate learning experience is heavily influenced by the quality and variety of teaching and assessment styles. This policy outlines students’ vision for the university sector and cultures of scholarship that strive to achieve excellence in undergraduate teaching and assessment.

Reforming Ontario’s Financial Assistance System

All willing and qualified students in Ontario should be able to access and excel within Ontario’s post-secondary education system. This often means that students must seek help to pay the high prices of a university education. The financial assistance system must provide sufficient funding for qualified individuals to attend post-secondary education. What’s more, any financial assistance students receive should enable them to devote their attention to their studies.


Within the span of 20 years, tuition as a source of operating revenue grew from 18 percent in 1988 to 37 percent in 2008. The most recent financial reports show tuition alone made up 45 percent of universities’ operating budgets in 2014—51 percent when fees are included— compared to the provincial government’s 43 percent contribution. As tuition continues to increase the affordability, accessibility, and accountability of a university education is put at risk. Our Tuition policy sets out students’ priorities for addressing their short and long term concerns with regards to the tuition framework and tuition payment processes.

Mature Students

As a minority group on university campuses, the unique needs of mature students can be easily overlooked. It is important that the term “mature students” does not disguise the heterogeneity of this group: “…it is erroneous to speak of ‘the adult learner’ as if there is a generic adult that can represent all adults.” However, amongst this varied group of students, there are common concerns that they share. 

LGBTQ+ Students

On university campuses across Ontario, students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, trans, two-spirit, non-binary, questioning, or who otherwise identify as Queer (LGBTQ+) face varying levels of discrimination, harassment, and exclusion. Without pathologizing being LGBTQ+, it is important to recognize the increased mental and physical health concerns associated with the marginalization these students routinely face.

Student Health and Wellness

Based on principles that look to improve overall wellbeing amongst student populations, this policy on student health and wellness takes a broad look at a range of health concerns felt by Ontario’s post-secondary students, as identified by the student membership of OUSA.


The question of how to hold Ontario’s universities accountable to the needs of students is a relatively complex one. One must be careful to balance the need for academic freedom with the public’s (and especially students’) right to be assured that its considerable investments into postsecondary institutions are being used effectively and appropriately.

System Vision

This paper provides a broad discussion of the future structure and function of Ontario’s post-secondary system. It addresses six topics in particular that influence the shape and direction of the sector: differentiation, satellite campuses, instructional quality and capacity, campus infrastructure, cost inflation, and funding.

Aboriginal Students

Aboriginal peoples in Canada face multiple and systemic barriers to attaining and succeeding in post-secondary education. A long history of discrimination, including the legacy of residential schools, and chronic government underfunding of Aboriginal education has contributed to low high school completion rates, a widening gap in postsecondary attainment, and the lowest labour market outcomes of any group in Canada.

Students, Universities and the Private Sector

This paper discusses decision-making dynamics and roles that emerge when post-secondary institutions partner with the private sector to pursue common goals and projects. In particular, it refers to three types of public- private partnership (PPP) that occur commonly in the PSE sector: research projects with the private sector, academic programs linked to private sector groups, and the use of private entities to provide teaching, research, or administrative services normally handled by institutions.