AUCC Meeting Report Missed Some Issues: Driver

October 06, 2011

Canadian universities are not devoting enough attention to offering a quality teaching and learning environment for their undergraduate students, says a new report by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

The report, based on a workshop SFU’s VP Academic Jon Driver attended in Halifax last spring, notes many participants identified an overemphasis on research as a key reason universities had “lost their way.” Others pointed to faculty workload, the use of contract instructors, enrolment pressures, the rewards structure, and funding and revenue shortfalls. But Driver says although there is much to commend in the report, including an appendix devoted to SFU’s Semester in Dialogue, both it and the meeting failed to address some important issues.

He says the absence from the meeting of most of Canada’s large research-intensive universities and many large comprehensive universities meant some of the matters larger institutions must deal with were not on the workshop agenda or in the report.

“Perhaps the most obvious is the lack of discussion about the diversity of the student population, and in particular the need to integrate recent immigrants and EAL students into the undergraduate experience,” says Driver.

“There’s also a disturbing absence of any mention of research, except as a barrier to more involvement by faculty members. Most SFU faculty members would argue that their research programs inform and enliven their teaching and engage undergraduates through real examples of critical thinking.

“There was also no discussion about the need to encourage participation and retention by underrepresented groups, including aboriginal students.”

And there was no critique of Canada’s lack of leadership for high-quality education, at the meeting or in the report, says Driver. “Our federalprovincial system devolves responsibility for post-secondary education to the provinces, so there is no real national attention to the critical question of educating the next generation.“

The AUCC has made a good start to a muchneeded discussion on undergraduate learning, adds Driver. “But more attention is needed from more institutions if significant change is to occur.”

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