Ontario will have a new postsecondary campus within years, the Liberal government announced Wednesday as it revealed that it had picked only one proposal from 19 submissions for new campuses made by universities and colleges across the province.
A partnership between York University and Seneca College, supported by York Region and the City of Markham will be the first university campus in the area.
"Universities have been around for centuries, [but] one of the characteristics of successful universities in the future will be the extent to which they will be engaged with their region. This campus will be a model for the 21st-century university campus," said Mamdouh Shoukri, York University's president.
The Liberal government is attempting a delicate educational and political balancing act as it tries to meet the need for expansion in some areas and cope with declining enrolment in others. Overall, demand for university spots this year is the same as last year. But some universities have seen drops of more than 10 per cent in applications, while others, like Queen's, are seeing more students competing to get in.
"The most significant criteria for choosing a campus was strategic management of long-term growth … while making the most of our limited public resources," said Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
No figure was attached to the announcement as the amount of provincial assistance for the project will now be negotiated between all the parties. The province also announced that it will conduct a second call for campus expansion projects in Peel and Halton next spring.
Dr. Moridi was joined at the announcement by Michael Chan, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade and the MPP for Markham-Unionville, and former finance minster Greg Sorbara, now York University chancellor.
The York-Seneca proposal stressed its location within Metrolinx's "Big Move" regional transportation plan. Six municipalities in York Region bid for the campus location before the two schools announced that they would move forward with the proposal at Markham Centre. The new campus will offer joint university-college degrees to as many as 4,000 new students within only a few years and promises to partner with local employers to offer internships to students.
The province released its framework for capital expansion in December 2013, calling for proposals that envisioned building campuses for at least 1,000 more students within several years and up to 10,000 more over the next two decades.
"While we are entering a slowdown period, demographic projections are that there will be a strong demand for postsecondary education after 2020," Dr. Moridi said.
In addition, the province has said it believes it can raise the postsecondary graduation rate another 5 per cent from current levels, to 70 per cent, further increasing enrolment.
Still, some universities have closed programs in recent years, including ending a bachelor of education program offered jointly by Nipissing and Wilfrid Laurier universities at the latter's Brantford campus, and the elimination of Guelph's agricultural programs in Kemptville and Alfred.
Initial proposals ranged from new student campus spaces (Western University) to entirely new campuses that were partnerships between universities, colleges and municipalities, such as a proposal from Trent, Durham, UOIT and Durham region to create a health care and community studies program and campus that would offer services to residents nearby.