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13 July 2016

Higher education needs new institutions

Quebec can be very proud of its higher education network.

Some of our educational institutions are more than 100 years old, and the model which was implemented almost 50 years ago, by creating colleges in 1967 and by expanding the university system in 1968 by creating the Université du Québec network, contributes to the development of our society, and today, people in each and every region of Quebec can have access to higher education.

However, the world has changed considerably since the 1960s, and major societal transformations have had an impact on our personal lives and on our institutions of higher learning. The 48 CEGEPs, 51 private colleges and 18 universities represent essential drivers of progress for Quebec, but it is important to maintain them and to develop them.

Since my appointment as Minister responsible for Higher Education, on February 22, 2016, I have had many meetings with representatives of institutions of higher learning.   These meetings confirmed what I have observed for 30 years. Higher education in Quebec is a major success, a fact which should be widely known and recognized, but, in order to continue to pursue and maintain excellence, new decision-making bodies must be developed to begin the process of reflecting, collaborating, evaluating the quality of programs and ensuring greater compatibility between institutions.

I have therefore decided to appoint Mr. Claude Corbo (knowing the work he has already done as author of the 2013 Rapport du chantier sur un Conseil national des universités) to continue analyzing the notion of creating a Council of Universities in Quebec, by consulting the main partners of our higher education network.

It is equally important that colleges be key stakeholders in this process. In this vein, Mr. Guy Demers, who was the author of the 2013 Rapport du chantier sur l’offre de formation collégiale, and who has already presented to the Government of Quebec several ideas for developing the college network, will be mandated to continue his analysis with a view to streamlining the college education network. Nevertheless, colleges will continue to offer general education, and they will continue to require students to take and pass a standardized French test. Mr. Demers will also have the mandate to consult key stakeholders with regard to the notion of creating a Conseil des collèges du Québec. He will be supported in his efforts by Ms. Rachel Aubé, former Director of the Beauce-Appalaches CEGEP, and by Mr. Louis Lefebvre, former Director General of the Saint-Félicien CEGEP.

Quebec deserves to have the best decision-making bodies to contribute to the vitality and to the quality of these necessary societal debates by subjecting the issues they raise for universities and colleges to methodical analysis. This model exists in other provinces and elsewhere in the world. This type of decision-making body would allow for an independent, autonomous evaluation of program quality and conformity to best practices, for the benefit of professors, researchers, students and society as a whole.

Harmonious, coherent and relevant development

Partnerships between colleges and universities have increased considerably over the last few years. There are still many opportunities to innovate and to adapt to the changing needs of our society. We must do more to encourage fluidity in academic paths, and adapt to take into account the growing number of academic disciplines where there is collaboration among colleges and universities, as well as to ensure a smooth transition from college to university. In order to more thoroughly examine these issues, the Government of Quebec will hold public hearings with a view to establish the parameters of a new Commission mixte de l’enseignement collegial et universitaire.  The two Conseils we are creating would oversee the new Commission.

Why now?

Much important work has already been done with regard to the development of higher education; we are therefore at the last stage of consultations, following which we will take concrete steps in keeping with what we have learned. The experts I have appointed will therefore be presenting, this fall, their proposals as to the way in which a Conseil des universités du Québec and a Conseil des collèges du Québec should be created and the environment that will be necessary to create such organizations. I want to quickly take action on the basis of the recommendations that will be presented to me.  Quebec must continue to do everything possible to ensure that its colleges and its universities remain leaders on the world stage.

As a result of the mandates conferred today on Mr. Corbo and Mr. Demers, our government is resolutely committing itself to a process that is designed to provide Quebec with the appropriate venues to engage in societal debates about the future of our colleges and universities. The Conseils will open the door to citizen participation in this process and to input from the college and university communities, who will be represented on the Boards of Directors of these new decision-making bodies. Let us recognize with pride our skills in higher education, and let us act for the benefit of students, educational institutions and the staff of those institutions.

Hélène David 
Member for Outremont and Minister responsible for Higher Education