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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2001

Growing Private Universities

The Ontario government wants to open "private" universities. Since, unlike businesses which can grow slowly, universities have very high start-up costs, the organizations best poised to start and run private universities are
the public ones. Here are my suggestions on steps that can be taken to convert public universities into private ones:

  1. Encourage universities to seek funding from private sources. This can be accomplished by slowly cutting public funds, and providing "matching" funding where the level of public support is tied to the private support received.

  2. Replace the academic operating model and culture by corporate ones.

  3. nitiate a few pilot for-profit programs to test the private program concept and get academics used to the idea. Start with MBA programs because business faculties will be naturally more responsive than other faculties. Then continue with other graduate programs (they are small and thus better testing grounds). They are also considered elitist by the general population so it will be much harder to defend the concepts of accessibility and affordability for these programs.

  4. Measure the performance and profitability of existing programs.

  5. Slowly shut down the non-profitable programs and replace them by profitable ones.

Does this sound like your university? If so, you have nothing to fear from private universities because you will be working for one very soon.

Sophie Quigley
Mathematics, Physics & Computer Science, Ryerson Polytechnic University