Statement: Huron to begin consultations to amend current affiliation agreement, grant Huron degrees
On Friday, February 12, Huron announced, subject to a period of consultation with the Huron community and subsequent approval by the Board of Governors, it is the university’s intention to apply to the Province of Ontario for the authority to grant our own degrees.
Huron values its relationship with Western University and our partnership with Brescia and Kings. As we move forward, we want to preserve all that is good in those affiliations. However, Western and Huron have very distinct missions and it has become clear that Huron can best fulfill our mission if we have more autonomy as it pertains to our curriculum and academic life.
For the past four years, Huron has grown faster than any other university in Ontario. By September 2021, we will have doubled our enrolment from September 2017. Our residences are overflowing and even with the opening of our new $20 million academic building, our facilities are at capacity.
Legally, Huron is an autonomous corporation. We recruit our own students, raise our own funds, govern ourselves independently and so on. Paradoxically, the only area where we do not possess autonomy is over, what should be, our core area of focus: academic programming.
What we are proposing will not affect any current Huron students, or even any incoming students this Fall. The earliest this proposal could come into effect, if approved, would be for students entering in September 2023 and graduating in 2026 or 2027.
For three decades, enrolment in humanities – arts and social sciences – describe it as you will, has eroded in North America. This erosion has actually accelerated in recent years. It is also very clear governments across the country do not highly value the kind of education we offer here at Huron. As a result, universities, across the country, who are servants of either government or industry, or both, have invested in areas that offer a more direct financial return for their investment.
At the same time, society faces a host of problems that cannot be solved with new technology. The problems are structural and social in nature and require citizens who have been educated, not merely trained. Huron believes what we do here is invaluable for the maintenance of a democratic society
It’s our belief we can be a stronger institution by taking this direction. Our wish is to continue our affiliation with Western. In fact, there are areas where this affiliation can even be strengthened. However, if Huron is to position itself to weather the storms that are heading towards Canadian post-secondary institutions, we need to be able to control our own academic mission.
Everything we do now would remain – departments, programs, courses, faculty and collective agreements. But, after the establishment of this new agreement, students would graduate with a degree from Huron. When we do make changes to admissions or add programs, we would do it through our own autonomous Senate to meet the mission and needs of Huron. In this, we would resemble any other Liberal Arts-focused undergraduate institution in Canada – Mount Allison, Acadia, St. FX., etc., but with the big advantage of being located next to, and affiliated, with a major research university in an urban environment.
In the next several weeks, internal consultations will begin, led by the Provost and the Dean of Theology. This will include direct consultations with every department and every faculty member, as well as similar discussions with our students and non-academic staff as well as with both of our unions. Then, faculty would be asked to discuss the proposal at a special meeting in March.
Finally, our Board would be asked to authorize an application – the process takes 4-6 months typically – to the Province for the right to grant degrees. Meanwhile, we will commence conversations with Western, as well as with Brescia and King’s, regarding the future form of affiliation. Again, it is strongly in Huron’s interest to leave the largest part of our current relationship with our partners intact. This is of utmost importance.
A great deal of thought has gone into this proposed amended affiliation and model. This is not a reaction to the circumstances we have experienced because of COVID-19, or any other short-term event. Rather, this plan has been formulated in light of long-term trends in Canadian post-secondary education and the most likely prospects for the future success of Huron.
We strongly believe this is the the best path to ensure our future and also feasible, and that faculty, staff, available resources and infrastructure will allow Huron to be a flourishing autonomous university.
We have not just reached a certain plateau in our current growth, but we have reached a stage where we can do much more than we have been able to do in the past. We can position ourselves to respond effectively to the very serious challenges that are heading our way. We can think big and consider how we can offer something of unique value to Canada and beyond. All of the pieces are here. We just have to have the courage to move forward.
Our new path towards a more autonomous, yet highly collaborative, institution is bright, and we look forward to further building upon the impressive legacy Huron has thus far built.