Differentiation policies could work if done appropriately

(Graphic by Steph Truong)

Wilfrid Laurier University submitted its Strategic Mandate Agreement on Dec. 20, the first step in taking part in a new post-secondary education initiative referred to as differentiation. This approach looks to have each academic institution capitalize on their strengths by differentiating itself from other institutions in order to avoid duplicating academic offerings.

The approach has universities working with the government to achieve a relationship that is cooperative while allowing universities to focus on their own unique growth. By focusing on their strengths, universities can be more economically sound, offer the best possible programs and promote competitiveness among institutions.

While this top-down strategy has support, but there are concerns over the influence the provincial government’s policy decisions may have on academic institutions which typically enjoy autonomy. Resource efficiency and financial sustainability are of paramount concern for universities, but that needs to be counterbalanced with autonomy and diversity of programs offered. At the last Senate and Board meeting at Laurier on Dec. 18, it was clear there is an active concern from faculty based on how many people attended the meeting.

Having the province involved in negotiating curriculum could be problematic, with the potential for conflicting priorities for the provincial government, the institution and students. Essentially, schools who get to specialize in what and how to assess the demand for academic programs will also prove difficult as trends, demographics and industry demands change. Laurier should take this all into consideration for further decisions and motivations for the future of the institution.

– The Cord Editorial Board 

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