An SMA is a strategic mandate agreement made between Ontario's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), and an Ontario university or college. In the summer of 2014, SMA agreements were established with 45 publicly assisted colleges and universities across Ontario. This first SMA agreement cycle covers years 2014 to 2017. The next agreement cycle will begin in 2018.
The purpose of the system-wide SMA's is to improve Ontario's postsecondary education system by helping institutions build on their individual strengths, limiting expansion in academic areas where programs already exist. By reducing redundancies in academic programming, this will ensure students will have access to innovative and affordable colleges and universities. As stated by the MTCU minister, Reza Moridi (2014):
"By working with institutions to build on the strengths they
define for themselves, we can continue to move towards a system where
institutions work together as complementary parts of the province's
postsecondary education system and avoid unnecessary duplication."
1.1 Why are SMA's so Important?
At a recent President's Town Hall Meeting for Brock University, President Lightstone (November 2015) explained that going forward, anything an institution asks for from the Ontario government, will only be considered if it's in line with the goals stated in the institution's SMA agreement with the MTCU. For example, if Brock university wants to open up more graduate spaces to students, the ministry will look at Brock's SMA agreement first. Since part of Brock's SMA goals involve promoting transdisciplinary research and partnerships with the local community, the more evidence Brock can provide to show these new graduate spaces are connected to the stated SMA goals, the better the chance of getting their request approved.
More examples of where SMA's will be used:
The system-wide objective of the SMA agreements are to ensure institutions provide academic programming connected to the economy through experiential learning and applied research. This will put students in the best position to find skilled work or grow businesses that will benefit Ontario's economy.
SMA's between MTCU and Ontario colleges and universities were developed as a result of the Ontario government's Differentiation Framework which was established in November 2013. The Differentiation Framework was created in anticipation of the following challenges currently facing Ontario (Lightstone, 2015):
To address some of these issues, the framework highlights the following government priorities:
In order to implement the ministry's Differentiation Framework, two things need to happen:
Before answering this, a basic understanding of the current funding model needs to be established.
3.1 The Current Funding Model
In order to tie SMA's to the PSE funding model, a general understanding of the funding formula needs to be established. Factors that make up the current funding formula include the following:
The current funding formula does not really factor in the performance outcomes of institutions (there is a tiny element tied to alumni employment rates). The formula is mostly enrolment driven. So the model must be revised to factor in performance outcomes based on goals set in the SMA agreements negotiated with each institution.
3.2. The Revised Funding Model
MTCU has recognised the need to revise the funding model into one that is more outcome driven. Consultation with various stakeholders occurred over the summer and ended in September 2015. The ministry is now in the process of reviewing the recommendations to determine a new and improved funding formula. Factors that will make up the new funding formula will include:
4.1 Brock University
Brock University's areas of strength include: undergraduate teaching excellence with
foci on work-integrated, service, and small-group learning; regional partnerships; and
continued excellence in research and associated graduate programs, with a special focus
on transdisciplinary research hubs highlighting areas of strength that contribute to the
social, economic, and cultural development of the Niagara Region.
4.2. McMaster University
McMaster is a research-focused student-centred university with a unique pedagogical
approach embedded in a research-intensive setting. McMaster’s research strengths are
diverse and include: health sciences, the broad determinants of health, engineering, life
sciences, digital information and media, business and economics, history, society and
culture, policy, ethics, and sustainability. McMaster’s signature pedagogies include
problem-based learning and inquiry, and its distinctively collaborative culture has
fostered strong interdisciplinary programs and partnerships.
4.3 University of Guelph
The University of Guelph is a research-focused, learner-centred university with strategic
areas of focus in food, health, environment, and community. Guelph is committed to
the highest standards of teaching and learning in the education and well-being of the
whole person. Agriculture and veterinary medicine are recognized as areas of special
responsibility at Guelph.
4.4 Wilfred Laurier University
Laurier is a comprehensive university that excels in liberal arts and science education,
with an emphasis on teaching quality, student outcomes, and community partnerships.
Laurier-specific areas of research strength include: environment; governance and policy;
health and well-being; culture and society; economics, markets, and management.
4.5 University of Waterloo
is a research-intensive university centred on cultivating innovation through experiential learning, entrepreneurial education, and high-impact research across all disciplines, with a focus on mathematics, computer science, quantum science/nanotechnology, “X” and Business, environment/biological systems, engineering and architecture, health and well-being, psychology, governance, and accounting and finance.
4.6 Ryerson University
Ryerson meets societal need and labour market demand through an emphasis on professional accreditation, experiential learning, and connections to industry and community. Examples include:
|SMA Goal||Required Metric|
|1. JOBS, INNOVATION, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT|
|2. TEACHING AND LEARNING|
|3. STUDENT POPULATION|
|4. RESEARCH AND GRADUATE EDUCATION|
|5. PROGRAM OFFERINGS|
NOTE: These are just a sample of metrics currently being used at Brock to help inform SMA report-backs to the ministry. It is anticipated that new institution-specific metrics will be negotiated for the SMA report-back, which will be tied directly to the new funding allocation model which may be announced in the next year.