Ontario school to bridge college and university

Administrators at a new Ontario school say it will eliminate the need to choose between the practicality of a college education over the depth of a university education.

Government officials and representatives from Durham College announced Oct. 4 the launch of The Ontario Institute of Technology (OIT), calling it “a new concept for a university that links curriculum to the needs of the marketplace.”

Funded with a $60 million grant from the provincial government’s SuperBuild Corp., The Ontario Institute of Technology will be the first post-secondary school built in Ontario in almost 40 years, since Brock University in St. Catharines opened its doors.

Peter Constantinou, director of special projects for Durham College, said that while administration was still in the early stages of designing the programs, it expected to offer eight schools, including applied health science, advanced manufacturing, policing and community safety, applied arts, nuclear technology and safety, by fall of 2003. These courses, he continued, are there because of a demand in the marketplace.

“The province realized that there was a system for those that want to go to university and 25 colleges for those who want that,” he said. “But more and more of our students go to university and then go to college when they want to get a job, so more of the traffic is a mixed bag. One of the largest complaints that the students have is that none of what they learned at university is transferable to the college and none of what they learned at college can go to the universities.”

The proposed university will integrate its campus, administration and services with Durham College. The government investment to the project will support facilities for up to 6,500 students, furniture, equipment, information technology and a library for degree-level studies.

Julie Kaufman, research manager skills research at IDC Canada, said the demand for this kind of school is real enough, but administration will have to manage it carefully.

“Universities offer a certain value for students, as do colleges,” she said. “Colleges offer the technical aspects that many businesses require, but universities have the higher-level conceptual training that is required as well. What they are trying to do is bring the two together.”

However, she continued, it may be difficult to marry colleges and universities, because it brings a third level of education onto the market.

“I am sure what we will see is the model changing a bit as they keep testing it,” she said. “It will certainly provide a unique skill base. It could deplete the perceived value of both universities and colleges.”

Constantinou said this will be successful primarily because it is a market-driven initiative.

“Employers are saying that we are not producing the right kinds of people,” he said. “What they are saying is that they want people who are doers, leaders and thinkers. If we can combine it, so they can come here and get both a college diploma and a university degree, then we are starting to produce those kinds of people.”

Durham College in Durham is at http://www.durhamcollege.ca

IDC Canada in Toronto is at www.idc.ca