In June 2012, the Commissioner published a special investigative report entitled The State of French-Language Postsecondary Education in Central-Southwestern Ontario: No access, no future,3 in which he concluded that the limited French-language postsecondary options, long distances and fragile autonomy of some institutions undermine student recruitment and retention, resulting in a loss for the Franco-Ontarian community.
Although the Commissioner is still waiting for a response to the four recommendations in the report, it is evident that the government has been striving to improve access to French-language postsecondary education in this underserved area.
Throughout the past year there have been many improvements in access to French-language postsecondary education, including much-needed additional funding for increased programming.
Other noteworthy successes include the following:
• The University of Hearst became the first Ontarian university to be designated under the French Language Services Act.
• La Cité collégiale became the third Ontarian postsecondary institution to be designated under the French Language Services Act.
• York University’s Glendon Campus expanded with a Centre of Excellence for French-language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.
Additionally, to address and improve access to French-language programming at the postsecondary level in Central-Southwestern Ontario, the government introduced an Advisory Committee consisting of area experts within the Francophone community. This was a progressive step taken in response to one of the Commissioner’s recommendations.4 This new Advisory Committee is a step towards ensuring that the right decision makers within government will be advised with a comprehensive overview of improving French-language education at the postsecondary level in Central-Southwestern Ontario. The government did a great job of recruiting a well-rounded group of individuals for this important task. The Commissioner anticipates positive improvements to the postsecondary landscape, promoted by this group, in collaboration with the government.
Another success, albeit on a much smaller scale, was the broadening of the eligibility criteria for the Travel and Commuting Grants. This was done in an attempt to rectify the cancelling of the Fellowships for Studying in French program, which caught the Francophone community by surprise in 2012. While this band-aid solution provides a small financial incentive towards encouraging Francophones and Francophiles to pursue their postsecondary education in French, it is far from an equitable replacement for the Fellowships for Studying in French program, which was introduced in 1975 to specifically encourage and promote postsecondary education in French. The Commissioner is nonetheless pleased with this outcome, which came as a result of the Commissioner’s investigative report Cancellation of the Fellowships for Studying in French: It pays to do your homework.5
Outside the halls of government, the Francophone community came together to ensure that their voices are heard at all levels with the establishment of the États généraux sur le postsecondaire in Francophone Ontario.
With all of this progress to report, the Commissioner is hoping to see continued momentum in 2014–2015 and is looking to the Ontario government to support the following priorities that will lead towards a more equitable postsecondary education landscape in French language:
1. Work with Ottawa and Laurentian Universities, and possibly Glendon College, to help them through the designation process.
2. Ensure not only that the new Advisory Committee is given the opportunity to present its findings and recommendations to the Deputy Minister’s office but also that the government includes them in its Action Plan.
3. Provide the États généraux with the support and resources needed to carry out its mandate.
Despite the positive outlook in postsecondary education, the Commissioner would nonetheless like to put the spotlight on an important recommendation made in the investigative report The State of French-Language Postsecondary Education in Central-Southwestern Ontario: No access, no future,6 which is still waiting for government response:
4. Expand the current method of data collection, which is based on an incomplete understanding of French-language education in Ontario that includes only rights-holders.
3. Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, The State of French-Language Postsecondary Education in Central-Southwestern Ontario: No access, no future, Investigation Report, Toronto, 2012.
5.Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, Cancellation of the Fellowships for Studying in French: It pays to do your homework, Investigation Report, Toronto, 2013.
6.Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, The State of French-Language Postsecondary Education in Central-Southwestern Ontario: No access, no future, Investigation Report, Toronto, 2012.
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