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Five ideas for improving the future of postsecondary education

Atara Messinger, 21, is in her final undergraduate year at McMaster University, and feels core-curriculum programs like hers are “guiding you to where the world is going,” and yet are ‘so, so hard to get these days.’

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

1. Create a national strategy

Labour shortages, especially in the sciences and skilled trades, co-exist with postsecondary graduates who cannot find work in their field. National co-ordination should encourage more collaboration among provinces, universities and colleges to create a labour force in tune with the economy.

2. Make teaching central

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The best researchers on campus often make the best teachers, but not always. If universities value student learning, they must invest in undergraduate training and recognize and reward faculty who prioritize disseminating knowledge.

3. Expand internationally

University rankings are controversial, but Canada's reputation in the world is not as secure as was once the case. American institutions are years ahead in establishing campuses abroad. They are competing with our postsecondary sector for international students, who are more likely to gravitate to schools building global brands.

4. Establish accountability benchmarks

Many individual institutions track the success of their undergraduates in their programs and beyond. Do graduates know more at the end of a four-year degree than they did when they entered university? Did they find a job in their field? For applicants to postsecondary institutions, however, these statistics are not easily and centrally accessible, making the task of comparing how different campuses serve students difficult.

5. Support Canadian online platforms

Canada was a leader in building the first online learning platforms, a role we've ceded to American universities. The online teaching innovations of tomorrow, however, will be based on the lessons from the current crop of massive online courses. Canadian researchers need to be doing more than providing material for courses, we need to once again build the tools.

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