The Bigger Picture: Comparing Laurentian University and Université de l'Ontario français to the National Post-Secondary Landscape
April 2021 | Dr. Kenneth Coates
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel gave new life to this phrase when he uttered it during Obama’s first term. What is routinely left out though, is the second sentence in the quote,” …what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
Is the current financial crisis at Laurentian University, and the simultaneous enrolment crisis at Université de l'Ontario Français, such an opportunity? An opportunity to do something that we “could not do before”? This is the question Northern Policy Institute asked three leading thinkers to answer.
This piece answers the question by looking to the wider post-secondary education context in Canada as, the author states, a Francophone institution does not exist in political isolation from this broader system. In particular, the author finds that alongside COVID-19 impacting finances and enrollment across Canadian institutions, Northern institutions such as Nipissing, Laurentian, Algoma and Lakehead generally face enrollment and financial difficulties, which are offset for now by international student enrollments. Further, there appears to be an over-estimation of how many Francophone students want to attend bilingual or French institutions. On this note, it is arguably difficult for Laurentian University and the Université de l’Ontario français to compete against a competitive French post-secondary institution landscape in Canada by schools such as the University of Ottawa, Sherbrooke, Montreal and so forth. Ultimately, the author concludes, money and student enrollments should not be the sole determinant of institutional and program offerings – universities, at the end of the day, are driven by students’ decision and their career and academic preferences.