Postsecondary Education in Ontario

ToC / TdM Provincial Overview

Postsecondary education in Ontario is delivered through 19 publicly assisted universities and their affiliates; 24 publicly assisted colleges of applied arts and technology; three agricultural colleges affiliated to a university and a school of horticulture; one applied health science institute; 17 privately funded institutions with restricted degree-granting authority; the federally funded Royal Military College; about 570 registered private career colleges; and many more non-degree-granting private institutions offering postsecondary education or training that do not have regulatory oversight in the province (e.g., language programs, programs less than 40 hours in length, programs costing less than $1,000, professional development programs, single-skill training programs). There are also a number of private and out-of-province public institutions that have the consent of the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to offer specified degree programs in Ontario.

Universities offer degree programs in the arts and sciences, graduate and professional programs, as well as continuing-education programs and certificates, including distance and part-time programs.

Most publicly assisted universities offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, although some, such as Brock, Nipissing, and Trent, tend to focus on undergraduate education. Two universities, Laurentian and Ottawa, offer programs in both English and French. As well, York University's Glendon College offers liberal-arts programs in French.

In addition, there are two specialized institutions that operate at the university level — the Collège dominicain de philosophie et de théologie, which is provincially funded, and the Ontario College of Art and Design, which is authorized to grant degrees in design and fine arts, and is treated as part of the university sector for funding purposes.

Privately funded and out-of-province degree-granting institutions are authorized under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000, to advertise and offer a degree program or part of a program leading to a degree.

Ontario's 24 colleges of applied arts and technology offer certificate and diploma programs in business, applied arts, community and social services, technology, and health sciences, as well as offering degrees in applied areas of study. They also offer part-time, distance-education, and continuing-education courses; apprenticeship training; and skills-training programs that provide students with the opportunity to develop skills for careers in a field of their choice. Two of the colleges, Collège Boréal and La Cité collégiale, offer programming in French.

The colleges offer hundreds of full-time and part-time career-oriented programs for secondary-school graduates and mature students. Most college programs fall into two categories — two- and three-year diploma programs or certificate programs requiring one year of study or less. Recently, colleges have begun offering baccalaureate degrees in applied areas of study.

Although college programming across the province has much in common, individual colleges have established areas of specialization. The program in natural resources at Sir Sandford Fleming's Lindsay campus and the internationally recognized animation program at Sheridan College are examples of the diversity and range of programs offered within the system.

The province's three agricultural colleges affiliated with the University of Guelph (Collège d'Alfred, Kemptville College, and the Ridgetown College of Agricultural Technology) and the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture offer various diploma and certificate programs of one, two, and three years' duration.

The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences, funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, offers various three-year diploma programs in health technologies, in cooperation with more than 60 hospitals.

A number of privately funded institutions have been given statutory authority to grant degrees in restricted areas, mostly in religious education.

Private career colleges (PCCs) are independent organizations that offer certificate and diploma programs in a variety of fields. PCCs must be registered and have their programs approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Postsecondary education in Ontario is the responsibility of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The Ontario Council on Graduate Studies, made up of university deans of graduate studies, appraises new graduate programs prior to their review by the ministry. The College Compensation and Appointments Council appoints the external members to college boards of governors and acts as the bargaining agent for college management in collective bargaining. The Student Support Branch oversees private career colleges that require registration in Ontario.

ToC / TdM History

Postsecondary education in Ontario traces its history to the establishment of King's College, the future University of Toronto, in 1827. Other institutions founded in the 19th century include Queen's University, established by the Presbyterian Church in 1841; the University of Ottawa, established as the College of Bytown in 1848; and the University of Western Ontario, formerly the Western University of London, founded in 1878.

Like most of Ontario's early universities, King's College had strong religious affiliations. However, in 1849, it became the first provincially chartered, non-sectarian university in the province. Three denominational institutions — Victoria, St. Michael's, and Trinity — became affiliated with the public university after the province withdrew financial support from church-related universities in 1868.

This model was repeated in the 20th century when most church-related institutions either dropped their religious affiliations or sought federation agreements with public institutions in order to obtain provincial funding. Examples include Queen's University, which severed its ties with the Presbyterian Church in 1912; Assumption University, which became the University of Windsor in 1963; Waterloo Lutheran University, which became Wilfrid Laurier University in 1973; and the University of Ottawa, which dropped its religious affiliation in 1965 and transferred theology and canon-law studies to its affiliate, Saint Paul University.

Returning veterans from World War II had a profound impact on universities in Ontario, placing unprecedented levels of demand on the province's limited education system. Carleton University was founded in Ottawa in 1942 primarily to respond to the educational needs of the thousands of young people who had come to the national capital in support of the war effort.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Ontario university system entered another period of rapid, sustained growth. New universities were established to cope with rising demand — Brock, Laurentian, Ryerson University, and Trent being examples.

In 1967, the province opened 19 colleges of applied arts and technology. The new institutions were built on the existing technology institutes and vocational centres. Soon there were 22 colleges, as several campuses of existing institutions became separate colleges. French-language colleges brought the total number to 24.

Over the years, Ontario's public postsecondary system has been complemented by a diverse private career-college sector, which has continually grown over the past several decades to provide market-driven postsecondary programming. The non-degree programs offered by these private career colleges are vocational in nature and are primarily intended for people who seek to obtain specific skills for a specific occupation.

To expand public educational opportunities and study options for residents throughout Ontario, various initiatives have been undertaken to support a province-wide open-learning system. These include distance education through Contact North and the Franco-Ontarian Distance Education Network, credit transfer arrangements, prior learning assessment in colleges, and increased cooperation and collaboration among institutions. Under the SuperBuild initiative, $2.2 billion was invested in major capital projects across Ontario. This investment will create additional student spaces to accommodate expected student demand for postsecondary education in Ontario.

ToC / TdM Programs and Credentials Offered

Programs and credentials offered by degree-granting institutions

Ontario universities offer a full range of undergraduate and graduate programs in a wide variety of educational settings. The University of Toronto, with a total enrolment of more than 50,000 students, 129 academic departments, and 75 doctoral programs, is the largest English-language university in Canada and a major centre for research and graduate studies. The University of Ottawa is North America's oldest and largest bilingual university, offering a wide range of programs in both English and French.

Students can choose to study at large urban universities or smaller undergraduate institutions such as Trent or Brock. The intimacy and personal attention that are typically found at smaller universities are also available at most of the province's larger institutions through their federated and affiliated colleges and universities.

The University of Waterloo is a world leader in the field of cooperative education, combining academic studies with on-the-job training. Ryerson University specializes in particular fields, such as applied professional programs.

General undergraduate degrees at most universities in Ontario require three years of full-time study. Honours degrees, involving a higher level of concentration in the honours discipline and a higher level of academic performance, generally require four years of full-time study. Most universities also offer diploma and certificate programs in various specialized fields. These can vary in length from two to three years, depending on the program and the institution. The Ontario Government has been working to ensure that postsecondary programs are more responsive to the needs of local communities. This includes establishing a new standard for a four-year baccalaureate degree in nursing, to improve quality of health care available in Ontario. University calendars are the best sources of information about specific program requirements.

Most universities offer part-time and distance-education programs, often through community cable television and other telecommunications media. In 1986, the government established Contact North/Contact Nord, a distance-education network that delivers university, college, and secondary-school courses to some 100 communities across northern Ontario. Network sites are equipped with computers, audio and video conferencing equipment, and other telecommunications technologies. In 2007, elearnnetwork.ca was established to provide residents in eastern and southern Ontario with increased and direct access to learning and training opportunities. The Node Web site contains a database of all distance-education opportunities at Ontario universities, and is a valuable resource for those interested in university-level distance learning. Courses listed are offered through traditional distance-education delivery methods such as print correspondence, and also through technology-mediated learning methods, such as the Internet.

In addition to the publicly supported universities, 17 privately funded institutions in Ontario — all with religious affiliations — have restricted degree-granting authority through an act of the Ontario legislature. A number of other private and out-of-province public institutions have been granted authority by the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to offer specified degree programs in Ontario. Information about the degree-granting status of any institution in Ontario is available through the Postsecondary Accountability Branch of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Please visit http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/postsec/degreegauth.html for more information.

In Ontario, public colleges of applied arts and technology have also received authority from the ministry to offer baccalaureate programs in applied areas of study. A complete list of these programs can be found at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/postsec/CAATconsents.html.

Programs and credentials offered by non-degree-granting institutions

Together, Ontario's 24 public colleges of applied arts and technology, with more than 100 campuses across the province, offer some 700 programs in business, social services, health sciences, applied technology, applied arts, communications, and a host of other fields. Most college programs are career-oriented and are intended to prepare students for employment in their desired fields. Many programs have been created to meet the needs expressed by employers for people trained in specific employment skills, and have been developed with the active involvement of local experts.

Most college programs fall into two categories: diploma programs that vary from two to three years in duration and certificate programs that generally require one year of full-time study or less. College programs include not only traditional postsecondary programs but also post-basic programs, college preparatory programs, and adult-training programs funded by the provincial government.

In addition to this broad range of programs, colleges offer extensive and varied career development, personal development, and special-interest courses during the day and in the evening. Custom-tailored courses and programs, designed to meet the training needs of particular businesses and industries, are available in many fields on a contract basis. Colleges also provide the classroom training portion of apprenticeship training.

Recent initiatives in distance education and alternative delivery strategies are also widening the choices available to students in accessing postsecondary educational services. Colleges are actively involved with Contact North and elearnnetwork.ca in the delivery of college programming to over 110 northern communities. The French-language colleges rely heavily on distance-education modes of delivery in their operations and, in cooperation with bilingual universities, have formed the Franco-Ontarian Distance Education Network. Other innovations in delivery modes include videoconferencing and computer-mediated instruction.

A system of prior learning assessment (PLA) has been implemented in all Ontario colleges. PLA allows for the evaluation of past learning against established academic standards so that college credits can be awarded.

The province's three agricultural colleges and one school of horticulture offer two- and three-year diploma and certificate programs leading to careers in areas such as field-crop and livestock production, agribusiness management, food and nutrition management, and horticulture.

Hospital-based programs include diploma programs in areas such as medical-laboratory technology and radiotherapy. Most of these programs require 24 to 32 months of study. The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences offers three-year diploma programs in areas such as nuclear-medicine technology and respiratory therapy.

For over 100 years, private career colleges (PCCs) have had an important role in preparing Ontario students for entry into occupations. About 570 PCCs across Ontario offer approximately 3,000 registered programs to approximately 36,000 students in 70 communities. PCCs must be registered and have their programs approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005. This act ensures that private career colleges meet certain standards for the programs they offer and for their advertising, refund policies, and instructor qualifications.

PCCs are independent organizations that offer certificate and diploma programs in fields such as business, health services, human services, applied arts, information technology, electronics, services, and trades. Some PCCs operate as for-profit businesses; others operate as not-for-profit institutions. Registered PCCs range in size from small ones offering one program to large multi-campus organizations with on-site student-support services.

Registered PCCs and approved programs can be found using the on-line search tool http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/searchpcc.html. It is important to note that students enrolled in an unregistered college or an unapproved program are not covered by the protections provided by the government under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.

ToC / TdM Admission requirements

Under the existing requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Curriculum for students in grades 11 and 12, students wishing to enter college or university must have an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), which consists of 30 credits (18 compulsory and 12 optional). Universities require 6 of these credits to be grade-12 university-preparation or university/college-preparation courses. Colleges require an OSSD with a mixture of grade-12 university/college- and college-preparation courses. In addition, all secondary students must complete 40 hours of community service to complete the OSSD requirements.

All grade-11 and -12 courses within the Ontario curriculum are coded to indicate the subject, grade level, and destination. The destination for university-preparation courses is designated with a U, for college with a C, and university/college with an M. For example, the Grade-12 English university-preparation course is coded ENG4U while the Grade-12 college-preparation course is coded ENG4C, and the Grade-12 Challenge and Change in Society university/college-preparation course is coded HSB4M.

The Ontario curriculum also has two other designations for courses in grades 11 and 12: workplace preparation courses, coded E, are designed to prepare students for direct entry into the workplace; and open courses, coded O, which are not linked to any specific postsecondary destination and are appropriate for all students.

Students seeking admission to undergraduate programs in Ontario universities and to the Ontario College of Art and Design must direct their applications to the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC). Canadian residents pay an application fee of $105 for the service and $35 for any additional program choice or university; for international students, the fee is $120 in Canadian currency, payable by international money order. Students applying for admission to graduate programs in universities direct their applications to the university of their choice.

A student applying to a college of applied arts and technology must have an OSSD or equivalent, or be 19 years of age. A College of Applied Arts and Technology Admissions Policy Review Committee was established to revise the college-admissions policy to align it with the changes in secondary-school curriculum. The admissions policy, released by the ministry on June 30, 2000, does not direct colleges to use C or U/C courses for admission requirements; however, a principle of the policy states that C and U/C preparation courses are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the entrance requirements for colleges. In keeping with the access mandate for the colleges, the admissions policy prohibits the use of U or OAC courses as an admission requirement, unless that admission requirement is part of a college/university collaborative=program agreement.

Students seeking admission to the colleges of applied arts and technology and to the agricultural colleges in Alfred, Kemptville, and Ridgetown direct their applications to the Ontario College Application Service. There is a $95 fee for the service.

As a further assistance to Ontario students, the government requires all public institutions to make available Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These indicators include graduation, employment, and loan-default rates for recent graduates of the institutions, and are meant to aid students in their decisions about which institution and program of study they choose. Registered private careers colleges approved for Ontario student loans are also required to submit loan-default rates.

A student applying for admission to a private career college must meet the following requirements:

· have an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or equivalent; or

· be 18 years or older and pass a qualifying test that has been approved by the Superintendent; or

· meet other academic qualifications or minimum age requirements established as a condition of the ministry's approval program; and

· have met all additional admission requirements established by the PCC for the program.

PCCs can admit students who do not meet the admission requirements of a program on a provisional basis (e.g., sign a contract for the delivery of a program). However, students are entitled to a full refund of fees paid for a program, minus 20% of the total fees paid for a program, or $500, whichever is less, if they do not meet the program's admission requirements when the program begins.

There is no central organization that facilitates applications for PCCs. Students who are interested in a program offered by a registered PCC need to apply to the PCC directly. Enrolment in a registered PCC must be done by the student and the PCC, signing a written enrolment contract that meets the requirements of the Private Career Colleges Act. The college is responsible for providing those educational services that are outlined in the contract. This contract must be signed by both the student and the college's owner or representative. Both parties should retain a copy. Students have a two-day "cooling off" period after signing the contract to decide if they really want to take the program. Students who change their minds and inform the college in writing before the end of the two days are entitled to a full refund of all fees paid, including the application fee.

ToC / TdM Tuition and financial assistance

In 2005, the Liberal government announced its new "Reaching Higher" initiative, which would provide a cummulative investment of $6.2 billion for colleges, universities, and training by 2009–10, the largest multi-year investment in postsecondary education in 40 years.

In the 2007–08 academic year, undergraduate tuition fees for arts and science programs at Ontario universities averaged $4,547, and the average for colleges was $2,008.

Ontario deregulated international-student tuition fees for both universities and colleges beginning in 1996–97, allowing individual institutions to set their own fees.

Registered PCCs in Ontario are responsible for establishing tuition fees for their program offerings. Although institutions are required to report their tuition fees for approved programs and may not charge more than the reported amount, the ministry does not play a role in regulating PCCs' tuition fees.

The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) provides financial assistance to eligible provincial residents studying at colleges, universities, and eligible PCCs. OSAP includes Canada Student Loans, Ontario Student Loans, work-study plans, and various bursary programs, including bursaries for students with disabilities.

Ontario colleges and universities also offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships and bursaries to their students. The Queen Elizabeth II Aiming for the Top scholarships — available since fall of 2000 — recognize high-school graduates receiving top marks. More than 4,000 of these scholarships were awarded in the fall of 2003. In 2005–06, $192 million was invested in student financial assistance, and up to $1.5 billion was invested over the next five years.

Related Resources

The following link provides more information on postsecondary education in Ontario: http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/

Additional links to Ontario resources are provided at: http://www.cicic.ca/475/ontario.canada

2009 01 25

The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC),
a unit of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).

© 1990-2014 CICIC (All rights reserved)
Links to this site may be established without permission. Its contents may not be reproduced without prior authorization. Reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Follow us on social media:    

Subscribe to the InfoCICIC newsletter

Ask us a question