Policies

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.

Teaching & Assessment

As technology advances and as the skills graduates needs to succeed in the workplace changes, post-secondary education needs to continue adapt. Students are interested in addressing the gaps in university teaching and learning, exploring more high impact learning opportunities, and highlighting the need for better inclusive learning experiences on campus. OUSA’s hope is that students, staff, and faculty-alike will benefit from these recommendations to improve teaching and assessment in Ontario’s universities.

Technology Enabled Learning

Advancements in technology have greatly impacted various sectors in our province, including the post-secondary sector. Ontario’s institutions have had to adapt to change, but they have also been the very forces that push technological change and innovation. From online learning and classroom technology, to open educational resources and badging, the post-secondary experience continues to evolve. Despite this, students worry about the lack of consistent provincial support and strategy for technology in post-secondary education and hope that the provincial government acts to develop a system wide approach for post-secondary education. 

Tuition

Since the 1970s, Ontario’s tuition framework has fluctuated significantly. Within a span of almost 40 years, government contributions to university operating budgets have declined, while student tuition and fees now make up over 50 percent of operating budget contributions. Without sustainable government funding, and as tuition continues to increase for all students, the affordability, accessibility, quality, and accountability of a university education is put at risk. As the tuition framework is set for renewal in 2019, students hope that the provincial government can address their concerns and take actions to restore Ontario’s publicly funded post-secondary system.

Stance on Freedom of Speech and Expression

Students believe that free speech is already protected by Canadian law on their campuses, and that they are able to engage in fruitful discussions and debate. However, students are concerned about the provincial government’s directive on free speech and OUSA asks that the provincial government rescind the directive. If the government does not rescind, it should address problematic elements within the policy.

Student Mobility and Credit Transfer

Ontario’s post-secondary institutions continue to provide students with exciting and diverse learning opportunities across various fields of study. Today, many students are choosing to pursue non-traditional pathways, relying on the possibility of mobility and credit transfer to achieve their academic goals. With over 55,000 students transferring between Ontario’s post-secondary institutions each year, it is important that students are supported by a comprehensive transfer system that will ensure their academic success.  

Mature Students

Since 2010 mature students as an academic demographic have been recognized as a growing cohort of students within the province. Despite this recognition, mature students continue to face ongoing challenges. From financial barriers, to a lack of adequate support services, mature students feel underrepresented and often overlooked. Additionally, large portions of marginalized groups, such as Indigenous Students, attending post-secondary studies are often mature students. As a post-secondary sector that strives to provide high quality education to all of our students, we must ensure that mature students and adult learners are effectively supported throughout their academic studies.

 

Student Health and Wellness

Despite recent investments, Ontario’s students are concerned about the state of mental health, physical health, sexual health, substance abuse and addictions, as well as medical accommodations within the province. In areas such as mental health, but also for many physical ailments, universities have been forced to shoulder the majority of responsibility in treating and caring for students as patients, despite being underequipped and not-designed to provide these services. Furthermore, substance abuse rates continue to rise in university aged youth, and many students feel that they are lacking the sexual health resources they need while attending post secondary studies.

System Vision

OUSA’s System Vision policy is a broad based look at the structure and function of Ontario’s post-secondary system, both in regards to its short-term and long-term development. Throughout the past decade, Ontario has seen unprecedented growth in undergraduate enrolment across universities and colleges, successfully achieving the highest provincial post-secondary attainment in Canada. However, some of this growth has created issues surrounding the accessibility, affordability and quality of education. Students recommend that the province develops an effective and balanced funding model, commits to a moderate differentiation policy, promotes sustainable capacity expansion, and returns the university sector to one that is publicly funded, as opposed to publicly assisted.

Accountability

As publicly assisted institutions, universities have a variety of accountability mechanisms to ensure that they are adhering to public goals and priorities. Over the years, there has been no question as to whether or not institutions should be held accountable, due to their use of public dollars. Taxpayers and politicians alike still feel the need for universities to be accountable to government, despite the decline in government funding. In an effort to attempt to address this, the government developed Multi-Year Accountability Agreements with each institution. These agreements were designed with the intention of holding universities accountable to their own strategic initiatives, however, the framework failed to see much success. As a result, the government revised their accountability plan and created the Strategic Mandate Agreements, which are currently entering their second iteration. 

Indigenous Students

Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations is not easily achieved. Nevertheless, it is essential.Within the scope of Ontario’s university sector, this means ensuring that Indigenous peoples are encouraged and enabled to equitably access, engage, and succeed throughout their post-secondary careers and beyond. The best way to ensure that universities can provide engaging and meaningful experiences for Indigenous students is to pursue a path towards reconciliation via ‘decolonization’ and ‘Indigenization’. 

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.

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.

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.