Carleton recently passed the one year mark of having its first female president, Dr Roseann O’Reilly Runte. My experience with her has been positive so far; she even spoke for CU-WISE last November! She recently wrote an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail (available online via the Carleton newsroom) regarding the talk of a two-tier university system in Canada.
Canada’s five largest universities recently proposed a new system for classifying and funding universities, arguing an elite group should focus on research and graduate education. Their proposal places all the other universities in a second tier, removing their ability to compete or collaborate equally.
But wait - isn't this how things work in the United States (and probably elsewhere as well)?
It’s common for Canadians to look to the United States for models. In many states, universities receive more government support and students pay more tuition in general. Donors are more generous, bolstered by favourable tax laws. But unless our conditions are comparable, imitation is inappropriate. Without increased government support, more fee revenue and amended tax laws, we would seriously disadvantage Canadian universities by attempting to import this model.
A two-tiered model would likely stifle competition and collaboration. It would increase the divide between lesser-known schools and the big five in terms of prestige, and consequently quantity and quality of students wanting to study there and faculty wanting to work there.
Competition is good for the system. Collaboration is also good. We cannot achieve a collaborative environment when there are clearly established “haves” and “have-nots.” Small universities should not be colonies of the large; they should be intellectual partners. This will occur only when policies favour such partnerships.
I sincerely hope this does not happen here in Canada. Even with the changes Dr Runte suggests above, I don't like the idea of a two-tiered university system. (In fact, I wonder if anyone outside the big five would like the idea.) I was always a little uncomfortable with the whole Ivy League concept, or at least what I know of it. Who wants to feel like their chances of success will be less because they obtained a lesser known but still high quality education?