Brian McHattie’s Letter to the Editor re impact of post-secondary education enrolment

On September 14, the Globe and Mail published an article by James Bradshaw which covered a report released by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).  Mr. Bradshaw states that “the quality of undergraduate education at Canada’s universities is eroding even as the price of earning a degree rises steadily, leaving students more anxious about their prospects after graduating”.  He adds, “Schools have boosted enrolment faster than they hired new faculty, and the ratio of students to professors has swelled to 23-1 from 17-1.”

The report is the result of a workshop held by the AUCC in March 2011, attended by presidents, vice-presidents, other university leaders and student leaders, to discuss the current state of undergraduate education and what must be done to ensure it meets the needs of students and Canada now and in the future.  The AUCC report states “The large increases in enrolment seen in the past 15 years have produced new challenges for institutions in terms of teaching and learning….”

Brian would argue that increased enrolment has also created challenges for near campus neighbourhoods.  He submitted the following letter to the Globe and Mail editor (unpublished to-date) outlining his concerws-and-commentary/canadas-universities-committed-to-enhancing-quality-in-undergraduate-education.

The AUCC report is at

 You rightly note the erosion in undergraduate education due to rising enrolment numbers in Canadian universities (Universities Acknowledge Erosion of the Undergraduate Experience – Sept. 14). A corollary effect of this growth is the decline of near campus neighbourhoods, where former family homes are converted to student houses, often by absentee landlords.

This is the case in Hamilton ON where undergraduate enrolment at McMaster University has grown by 3,500 students in the past five years. During that time near campus neighbourhoods have experienced an overall 50 % increase in student houses (two specific neighbourhoods with 130% increases) resulting in declining property standards, noisy late night parties, and the loss of neighbourhood continuity as families move out. The last of three elementary schools is now slated for closure by the local school board due to declining pupil enrolment.

The Province of Ontario needs to consider the impacts derived from expanded undergraduate enrolment – for example, currently no funding is provided for student residences on campus. Universities need to consider the broader impact of increased enrollments on near-campus communities as well as on the student experience.


The Globe and Mail article is at

The AUCC media release is at

The AUCC report is at

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