College Quarterly
Fall 2003 - Volume 6 Number 1


College University Collaboration: An Ontario Perspective

by Wendy Stanyon


On May 21, 1965, the Honourable William Davis, Minister of Education, outlined the Ontario government's plan for fulfilling its promise to meet the educational needs of the population not being served by the existing system at that time. This need for a "new level and type of education" resulted in the establishment of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (Vision 2000 p. 6). From the very beginning, the colleges' focus was to be different from that of the universities. Their mandate was to serve the educational needs of adults and youth, whether or not they held a high school diploma, and maintain close ties with business/industry and the community was considered paramount. Davis deliberately did not establish any formal links between the CAATs and the universities, choosing instead to recommend that a committee be set up to determine the procedures and conditions under which qualified college graduates would be admitted to university (CAAT Basic Documents, 1967). This committee never was set up and Ontario's postsecondary system now clearly had two separate and distinct sectors.

Systems of higher education are typically divided into different sectors. The most common sectoral pattern, especially in North America, consists of a distinct university sector and a separate community college sector. The precise role of the individual institutions within each sector and the relationship between these two sectors varies from province to province, reflecting the differences in the provinces' history of higher educational development and their individual social, economic and demographic realities, as well as their past and present government policies.

From the very beginning, college university relations in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec were significantly impacted by government legislation that ensured these two postsecondary sectors would have to work together. Dating back to their establishment in the 1960's, each of these college systems has had university transfer as part of their mandate. Certainly the literature supports the notion that articulation between colleges and universities is most successful in those jurisdictions that have well-established coordination structures (Skolnik and Jones, 1993; Skolnik, 1995).

In British Columbia, there are a variety of postsecondary education options for students. The community colleges provide a broad range of curriculum choices including adult upgrading, technical and vocational programs and university transfer courses. In addition, five former comprehensive community colleges have been designated university colleges and as such have been awarded degree-granting status. Following a government mandate allowing for the development of "applied" degrees, some of these institutions received approval to offer both traditional and "applied" degrees (Dennison, 1997). Another institution known as the Open Learning Agency allows students through distance learning to take advantage of a credit bank, and to access courses from a variety of universities, which could collectively constitute a degree. Along with these government initiatives, the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer has also played a role in improving articulation between the province's educational institutions.

Alberta also has a Council on Admissions and Transfer that is responsible for encouraging mobility between postsecondary institutions in the province. Community colleges offer vocational and technical training as well as university transfer courses, and some are engaged in additional collaborative arrangements with the universities including brokering and joint programming. In 1994, the government opened the door to "applied" degree programs in the province by providing the community colleges with an approval mechanism that involves a rigorous evaluation process. By 1998, eight programs had received approval and interest in this new credential has continued to grow.

Saskatchewan's community colleges are also not degree granting institutions. Primarily providing technical and vocational education, the colleges are able to offer university courses, again through a system of brokering. Comprised of four academic centres in four urban cities, the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) has developed formal credit transfer arrangements with the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. There are also many other informal credit transfer arrangements (Brian Banks, Regional College Liaison).

In Manitoba, the Council on Post-Secondary Education (COPSE) is a provincial agency mandated to plan and coordinate the development of a postsecondary education system that supports the coordination and integration of services and facilities, and to promote excellence, accessibility and fiscal responsibility (Manitoba Education and Training). The community colleges do not have specific university transfer programs; however, there are several specific articulation arrangements. Students having completed a certain field of study may enter the third year of a university program where the two programs are considered parallel.

In Quebec, there is an extensive college network, established by the government in the 1960's as an intermediary level of studies between the existing secondary and postsecondary sectors of education. Tuition-free colleges, commonly referred to as Cegeps (colleges d'enseignement general et professionnel), provide students with a choice between pre-university and technical/professional programs of study. In addition, there are several other publicly funded, college-level institutions and some private colleges also offering diploma programs, as well as a number of proprietary schools with certificate courses.

Ontario Context

More than 30 years after the initial establishment of the CAATs, Ontario's higher education system still consists of a separate college and university sector. With globalization and increased competition in the workplace, the need for a more highly educated, skilled, and flexible workforce is becoming a priority. Calls for closer ties between colleges and universities have gradually intensified as lifelong learning becomes more the norm, and individuals with degrees are given preference in the world of work.

Starting with Vision 2000 back in 1990, there have been a series of reports and documents advocating a more seamless education system in Ontario. Vision 2000 called for the government to expand and improve the opportunities for students to move between the college and university sectors and for an institute "without walls" to offer combined college university degree programs (p. 172). Similarly, the Pitman Report in 1993 made a series of recommendations including the elimination of any barriers to students transferring between the postsecondary sectors, and an adjustment in the funding formula to allow for college university and university college transfer agreements Initiatives such as the development of the College University Consortium Council (CUCC) in 1996 by the Minister of Education and Training, the publishing of the Ontario College University Transfer Guide (OCUTG), and the signing of the Ontario College University Degree-Completion Accord, or the Port Hope Accord as it has come to be known, were also intended to help facilitate collaboration between the sectors.

The College University Consortium Council (CUCC), comprised of three university representatives, three college representatives and the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education and Training for the Postsecondary Division, was established to facilitate, promote and co-ordinate joint education and training ventures. It was the government's intention that the CUCC would: aid the transfer of students from sector to sector, facilitate the creation of joint programs between colleges and universities and further the development of a more seamless continuum of postsecondary education in Ontario. The CUCC has also been charged with the responsibility for annually updating the OCUTG and expanding its development beyond that of a simple catalogue of collaborative programs to include exemplars of policies and procedures, all in an effort to promote province-wide transfer of credit between colleges and universities.

The Port Hope Accord having been developed by the CUCC and endorsed by both the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) and the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario (ACCATO), was officially signed in May of 1999. The Accord outlines a series of principles, and provides a matrix for developing new degree programs and degree-completion arrangements between colleges and universities. The intent was that colleges and universities would voluntarily work together within the framework of the Accord and it was expected to be particularly helpful in those program areas where there is a similar academic focus.

Considering the many initiatives and the amount of time that has been invested in promoting greater collaboration, the actual number of successfully negotiated agreements between colleges and universities in Ontario has been limited. On the other hand, in the past several years, there have been an increasing number of degree-completion agreements negotiated by the CAATs with out of province universities. Skolnik (1999) offers three reasons for this: these universities provide more credit for the coursework done in the CAATs, the time required to negotiate these agreements is shorter, and there is a greater flexibility in program delivery. He also notes that since Ontario does not have an open university, the only alternatives for students wishing to pursue this type of study are the open universities in the provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia.

The College University Collaboration Literature

Although the research on college university collaboration is not extensive, a few studies have been done that examine the perceived problems and barriers associated with collaboration between these two distinct sectors in higher education.

Skolnik (1990) identifies two important obstacles to improving articulation in Ontario: the universities and the CAATs themselves. While acknowledging that some in the university community would welcome greater linkages, he suggests that a greater number of individuals hold more conservative viewpoints and see the need to defend the university's role in scholarship and learning and protect academic standards. He further emphasizes that Ontario universities have a unique ability to resist change because they tend to enjoy a greater degree of autonomy than most other educational institutions in the world. In addition, he points to the ambivalence that exists within the CAAT community. There are those who fear closer links with universities may adversely affect the colleges' ability to meet their traditional mandate and commitment to occupational training and adult education.

At a 1998 symposium in Ottawa, a CUCC presentation summarized the issues arising from college university collaborative projects since April 1996. Logistical issues included the scheduling of courses, the availability and use of space, facilities and equipment, student services and application procedures. In addition, numerous issues related to access, governance, academic policies and institutional mandates were cited. Similarly, in a 1999 submission to the Nursing Education Implementation Committee, members of the Heads of Health Sciences and Heads of Nursing sub-committees of ACAATO laid out the most difficult problems encountered in the attempts to develop and implement nursing collaborative programs. Their brief also highlighted issues related to: governance; maintenance of the College identity and recognition of its contributions; student access to resources such as OSAP, bursaries and scholarships; differences in collective agreements and workload; funding and tuition; faculty credentials; admission and other academic policies; maintenance of student records; different grading systems; and choice of delivery model.

In 2000, an extensive research study on the barriers to articulation agreements between colleges and universities in Ontario was conducted by Danielle Renaud. The presidents and vice presidents academic of all colleges and universities in Ontario, as well as some deans were interviewed over the telephone. The research focused mainly on these individuals' perceptions of the current barriers to articulation agreements, what they believed were the reasons for these barriers and what they thought needed to occur to prompt change. Attitudes was the most common response in terms of the barriers, while the monopoly status of Ontario universities was considered the most common reason for these barriers, and government policy and funding incentive was the response given most often for what needed to occur to prompt change.

In the spring of 2002, the CUCC hosted a second forum on college university partnerships in Ontario. The purpose of this conference was to review the continuing development of college university collaboration in light of the changing times in postsecondary education, and to reflect on the current and future role of the CUCC in terms of its mandate to provide students in Ontario with a more seamless system of postsecondary educational opportunities. Representatives from both colleges and universities in the province discussed their existing educational partnerships, highlighting some of their successes and the issues and challenges they still faced. Also present at the conference, the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities reaffirmed the Ministry's intent to continue CUCC as an arms-length body which seeks to promote cooperation between the sectors and he suggested the CUCC explore the possibility of developing of a course credit equivalencies guide, which would provide students with clear information on additional credit requirements.


Even though the calls for greater collaboration between colleges and universities in Ontario have intensified over the past several years, progress has been slow. In an effort to provide increased educational opportunities for students, the Ontario CAATs have resorted to actively pursuing agreements with universities outside of the province, and they have also been responsive to the collaborative programming offers of some foreign universities eager to expand their educational markets.

Much of the current research focuses on the theories and models of collaboration and some specific examples of collaborations from the corporate world. The literature on collaboration between educational institutions tends to focus on school university partnerships in teacher education or the development of educational consortia, and the little research that has been done on college university collaboration in Ontario centers around the problems and barriers associated with the process.

There is an obvious need to better understand the contextual, institutional, and leadership factors that influence college university collaboration and what might be done to facilitate the development of collaborative programs between the colleges and universities in Ontario. Recognizing factors and strategies that enhance the collaborative process will put government officials and postsecondary leaders alike, including administrators and educators, in a stronger position to positively impact future college university collaborative efforts in this province.


CUCC. (February, 1998). Issues arising from the CUCC collaborative projects and other CUCC activities since April, 1996

CUCC. (1999). The Ontario College University Degree-Completion Accord CUCC. (March, 2002). College/university partnerships in Ontario. Summary Proceedings of the CUCC Forum.

Dennison, J. D. (1997, August). The university college in British Columbia. Paper prepared for the 19th Annual Forum of the European Higher Education Society, University of Warwick, United Kingdom.

Ontario Council of Regents for Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. (1990). Vision 2000: Quality and opportunity: A summary. Toronto: Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

Ontario Department of Education. (1967). Colleges of applied arts and technology: Basic documents. Toronto: Ontario Department of Education.

Renaud, D. (2000) Exploring the barriers to articulation agreements between Ontario colleges and universities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, OISE, University of Toronto.

Skolnik, M. L. (1990) Articulation between CAATs and universities in Ontario: Issues problems and prospects. In G. Jones (Ed.). Higher Education Group Annual. (1), 32-48.

Skolnik, M. L. (1995) Evolution of relations between community colleges and Universities in Ontario. Community College Journal of Research and Practice. 19 (5), 437-450.

Skolnik, M. L. (1999) CAATs, universities and degrees: Towards some options for enhancing the connection between CAA Ts and degrees. A discussion paper prepared for the College University Consortium Council.

Skolnik, M. L. & Jones, G. (1993) Arrangements for coordination between university and college sectors in Canadian provinces. Canadian Journal off Higher Education. 23 (2), 56-73.

Task Force on Advanced Training. (1993, April). No dead ends. Report of the taskforce on advanced training. Toronto: Ministry of Education and Training (Pitman Report).

Wendy Stanyon is a Faculty Member in the Durham/UOIT Collaborative Nursing Program.


• The views expressed by the authors are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The College Quarterly or of Seneca College.
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2003 - The College Quarterly, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology