Students are pleased with many of the recommendations within the university funding formula report Focus on Outcomes, Centre on Students: Perspectives on Evolving Ontario’s University Funding Model, published today. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) was included in consultations and published Formulating Change in August, a submission to the government recommending key developments students want to see in a new funding formula.
“This report emphasizes a shift towards quality metrics over quantity metrics to fund universities, which is a big step towards improving student success across institutions,” says Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, President of OUSA and the Vice President Education for the McMaster Students Union. “Enrolment-based funding incentivizes universities to prioritize growth over the student experience, and we are hopeful this report signals a change is coming.”
The report also calls for the new formula to apply an “outcomes lens” to funding mechanisms; these include the more typically measured outcomes of employment outcomes, graduation rates, and retention, but also accommodate more progressive metrics like student satisfaction, learning outcomes, and participation.
“We are happy to see that many of OUSA’s suggestions– better data collection and tracking, measuring student satisfaction, using universities’ Strategic Mandate Agreements to support benchmarks of success, to name a few– are included in the report,” says Nestico-Semianiw. “Tying funding to results like experiential learning and soft skills development is great for students, but requires a greatly increased effort on the part of the Ministry and institutions to measure data and impacts.”
While students are gratified with outcomes that reward quality experience, there is potential that overemphasizing eventual results could allow inattention to current processes.
“We support outcomes-based funding, but we’re not sure that we can achieve quality outcomes without also looking at the features or inputs of a quality experience, such as smaller class sizes and smaller faculty-student ratios,” says Chris Fernlund, Vice President Finance at OUSA and Vice President University Affairs of the Trent Durham Student Association. “So ultimately, it’s important to look at both.”
According to students, the high-level changes signaled by the report mean positive impacts for students.
“We are appreciative that students are recognized as being at the centre of this process,” says Nestico-Semianiw. “We are ready and willing to continue to speak to how an updated funding formula should roadmap a better university experience in Ontario.”
To read the government’s consultation report, click here.
To read OUSA’s submission, click here.