University of Victoria President David Turpin is leading a national initiative that represents a first step toward universities and colleges working with governments and the private and non-profit sectors to develop a comprehensive, long-term national strategy to increase post-secondary educational opportunities for all Canadians, particularly those from low-income and Aboriginal backgrounds.
Turpin, together with representatives from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, convened a meeting in Toronto in mid-November of presidents and senior officials from 20 universities and colleges drawn from all regions of the country.
The gathering produced a signed document—presidents’ partnership on access and success in post-secondary education—that commits their institutions to immediate action to develop programs to prepare students from under-represented groups for post-secondary studies and better support them once they are enrolled, to measure the progress toward providing greater access, and to share lessons learned and success stories that can be applied to benefit Canadians across the country.
The meeting also initiated an unprecedented level of cooperation between educational institutions and non-profit organizations to close the participation gaps in post-secondary education. A simultaneous meeting of major non-profit organizations led by Frances Lankin, CEO of United Way Toronto, has pledged in the coming months to identify opportunities for future partnerships and synergies with universities and colleges to remove social, cultural and economic barriers and get more Canadians into university or college.
Next steps in the process will include widening the circle of universities and colleges who have signed on to the presidents’ partnership, and convening a joint national meeting of educational and non-profit leaders.
Post-secondary participation rates across the country have been falling for the past decade, with those from low-income and Aboriginal populations particularly underrepresented at universities and colleges.
Universities committed to the presidents’ partnership as of the Nov. 12 gathering in Toronto were: Carleton, McGill, McMaster, Mt Allison, Queen’s, Ryerson, UBC, Manitoba, Ottawa, Regina, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Waterloo, Western Ontario, Winnipeg, Wilfrid Laurier, and York. Confederation, Humber and Seneca joined from the college sector.