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.

Addressing Racism and Religious Discrimination

The pervasiveness, severity, and systemic nature of racism and religious discrimination at post-secondary institutions necessitates a comprehensive, province-wide framework that not only seeks to prevent and respond to instances of racism and religious discrimination but that also targets the racial and religious inequities embedded in post-secondary structures. Everyone deserves to be able to safely pursue their education, yet racialized and religious students have consistently shared experiences and concerns about the ways in which institutional and provincial policies and practices infringe on their ability to do so. This policy paper offers a foundation for a comprehensive, province-wide framework that is student-driven and reflective of the persistent and ongoing advocacy of students across the province who have been calling for racial and religious equity at their institutions so that they can be safe and thrive.

Student Health and Wellness

Health is a fundamental human right that, for post-secondary students, is often at-risk due to demanding academic, employment and extracurricular commitments, insufficient financial resources and support, and gaps in accommodations and access to care. Existing mental health and addictions crises, barriers to physical and sexual wellness, along with food insecurity and insufficient health care coverage and accommodations, have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving post-secondary students in an increasingly precarious position as they struggle to maintain their wellbeing. Without adequate support, students will continue to face mental, physical, and sexual health challenges that will impact their ability to succeed in post-secondary education and beyond. This policy paper offers a number of recommendations that illustrate the importance of support from the provincial government to ensure students are able to live full and healthy lives, and provides the basis for a comprehensive, student-driven response to the mental health and addictions crisis, gaps in accommodations and support, and barriers to physical and sexual wellness that impact the overall wellbeing of students in Ontario.

Environmental Sustainability

Students in Ontario are committed to promoting environmental sustainability on their campuses and in their daily lives. Unfortunately, post-secondary institutions often lack the incentives required to divest from fossil fuels and operate using sustainable energy sources. There is also a lack of biodiversity, organic food products, and effective waste management on campuses, as well as a growing need for eco-friendly transportation methods, sustainable learning materials, collaborative sustainability research, and climate change awareness campaigns.

Housing, Transit, and Community Development

Students are important members of their municipalities, facing many of the same concerns that their neighbours face in terms of housing, transit, and community development. However, students also face unique challenges and barriers to living safely and comfortably in their communities. Access to quality and affordable housing, a lack of education and information about rental housing and tenant rights, and gaps in provincial legislation and dispute resolution pathways raise concerns for students about rental housing. These issues are compounded by barriers to accessible transit and discriminatory by-law enforcement that leaves students unfairly targeted and hinders their ability to feel a sense of belonging and build positive relationships with their communities. Provincial support is needed to ensure municipalities are able to meet the needs of all residents, including students, and to foster strong, positive relationships between universities and their municipalities. 

A Comprehensive Access Strategy

All willing and qualified students should be able to pursue higher education in Ontario, yet some groups remain significantly underrepresented within the province’s post-secondary institutions. To address this issue, the provincial government should create a comprehensive access strategy aimed at ensuring equitable access to post-secondary, flexible pathways to university, improved outreach programs, increased guidance in secondary schools, and more comprehensive data regarding access initiatives and post-secondary attainment.

Responding to COVID-19

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on our province, including students. Students have been impacted in all aspects of life, from academics, to employment, health and safety, financial security, and mental health and wellness. Students are facing new challenges, and pre-existing concerns have been exacerbated by increased health risks and necessary public health measures including the need to isolate and maintain social distancing. To address the current and emerging impacts of COVID-19 and ensure students are supported in recovery efforts, students have come together to identify concerns and offer the following recommendations.

Gender-Based & Sexual Violence Prevention & Response

The need for a comprehensive framework to prevent and respond to gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses is long overdue. Everyone deserves to be able to safely pursue their education. All survivors—regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, income, or heritage—should be supported in ways that allow them to seek justice and heal in meaningful ways. Students and student associations have played a critical role in prevention and response work, providing programming, training, and support in response to the persistence of gender-based violence in the post-secondary context and have come together to propose the following recommendations to guide a provincial framework that addresses student concerns.

International Students and International Education

International students provide unique perspectives that enrich higher education across the province. It is imperative that we give these students the support they need so that they can maintain their mental and physical health, sustain themselves financially, excel academically, and pursue their career goals. Unfortunately, international students continue to face several issues, including unregulated tuition, minimal financial assistance, expensive healthcare costs, unregulated recruitment practices, and a lack of work-integrated learning opportunities. There are also several aspects of exchange programs that need improvement, including financial aid, quality assurance, and student support services.

Rural & Northern Students

Rural and northern students face many of the same barriers to access and persistence in post-secondary education as students from southern or urban centres. However, they also face many challenges that are specific to their geographic regions, and many of the solutions that are proposed for southern and urban students will not be effective for those students living in or coming from a rural and/or northern setting. Recognizing the unique experiences of rural and northern students is an important step in improving the affordability, accessibility, accountability, and quality of post-secondary education in our province. The recommendations made by students in this policy paper are intended to ensure that rural and northern students are not disadvantaged because of their geographic region.

Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ Students

Students pursuing post-secondary education should never face discrimination, harassment, or exclusion on their campuses. Yet on many Ontario university campuses, Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ students face such realities and are marginalized because of who they are. In some cases, these students become the targets of deliberate, hate-motivated actions, and in other instances, the blame lies in ignorance or apathy. It is OUSA’s hope that the recommendations provided in this paper will contribute to improving access to and safety in postsecondary education for Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ students.

Student Association Autonomy

Student associations require autonomy over their operations in order to remain accountable to their members. This policy expresses student concerns over government intrusion onto the autonomy of student associations, most notably through the implementation of the Student Choice Initiative. It recommends that the provincial government recognize this autonomy and respect the right of universities and student associations to determine whether ancillary fees are set as mandatory or non-mandatory.

Ancillary & Incidental Fees

Ancillary fees fund services and supports that promote a safe, fulfilling, well-rounded post-secondary experience. The Student Choice Initiative, introduced in January 2019, gave students the ability to opt out of services that the provincial government deemed “non-essential.” The resulting funding cuts have reduced the effectiveness and threatened the existence of services that students depend on, including student associations, sexual health centres, peer support, food banks, and campus media. Other issues include unregulated housing and administrative fees, high textbook costs, and a general lack of transparency and accountability in the collection of ancillary fees.

Student Accessibility and Disability Inclusion

OUSA believes that all willing and qualified students should have access to affordable, accountable, and high quality education in Ontario. This extends to all students, including those with disabilities or perceived disabilities. However, students with disabilities continue to face barriers to accessing and persisting in post-secondary education across the province, and many of the barriers these students face are not new. This policy paper identifies these barriers and offers recommendations to the provincial government to support a post-secondary landscape that is accessible for all students. The recommendations are intended to address the systemic, structural, social, physical, financial, and legislative barriers that students with disabilities are forced to navigate in their pursuit of post-secondary education. Each section speaks to an area of concern identified by disability scholars, organizers, support providers, and, most importantly, students themselves.

Student Entrepreneurship, Employment, & Employability

The conversation on preparing students for the workforce continues to evolve and ensuring that students have the proper skills to succeed after graduation is a growing priority. Students are interested in taking a broader approach to preparation for the workforce, focusing not only on discipline-specific knowledge, but also providing opportunities for students to develop skills inside and outside the classroom. It is OUSA’s hope that these recommendations will support students as they transition into the workforce.

Student Financial Aid

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.

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. 


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.

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.


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.


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.