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Pierre Ouellette is Dean of the University of French Ontario (UOF).
The Ontario Universities Application Center (OUAC) has released data on admissions confirmations to universities in the province.
THE CHALLENGE :
There are currently fewer Franco-Ontario students confirmed for admission to Toronto facilities compared to the June 2021 data, down from five to four. This downward trend is causing some concern and contrasts with the data for out-of-province students that has exploded.
Why aren’t the numbers soaring for students in Franco-Ontarian schools?
I think this is partly explained by the fact that there is no French-speaking university tradition in central and southwestern Ontario. Another factor is the fact that all the programs targeted by the UOF do not yet exist. We started with four programs, essentially in the social sciences, focusing on the culture of the 21and century. By the time you finish high school, you know more about classic programs like psychology, but you don’t know you can do urban design or digital culture, so you’ll have to demystify them and reassure students and parents. It will take years to see them really take off.
Will you adjust your recruitment strategy?
Yes, so first of all we will have to start recruiting earlier in the secondary school cycle. In the 1st year, we went to visit 12-year-old studentsand year they were about to make their choice and many times they already have, so it takes a little more shock to encourage them to come and change their minds to apply to a university like ours. So what it takes now is to go see them at 9and year 10and Year 11and year they still have orientation sessions. I even think we should talk to them about it first so they know it’s a possibility, let the idea flow.
On the other hand, international students are more than ever attracted to the UOF. How do you explain this?
In five years I would like to say that it is because we are doing exceptional work, but at the moment we cannot say that, we started classes last November. I think, on the one hand, we took advantage of Canada’s notoriety as a university destination. And a lot of times when I was dean of the Université de Hearst and we went abroad for recruitment, people didn’t know where Ontario was, but they often talked about the Rocky Mountains or the CN Tower or Niagara Falls. So since we are close to two of these symbols of Canada, it worked in our favor. And, on the other hand, it is precisely the recruitment cycle that is very different. International students have already decided their choice to leave now. What they do is choose a province, city or university.
Do you feel like you haven’t been able to compete on an equal footing in promotion with other universities?
I would say that from what I can see we have or will have significant and interested access to French language school boards in central and southwestern Ontario. So I would say no, but at the same time we must recognize one thing: we have universities like Ottawa that have been recruiting for decades and enjoy a very high reputation. We still have to make ourselves known about our programs and, in addition, we continue to seek to recruit staff, so it is normal to still have difficulties.
Will you open other programs soon?
We are working to open an education program to train future teachers, as we know there is a shortage. We hope to officially open it in 2023. One step to go. We got ministerial consent, so we just need approval from the Ontario College of Teachers. After that, we’re going to create vocational programs like business administration, psychology, and we’re exploring other avenues as well, but these are really the first ones we’re going to embark on.
Are you considering establishing a system of partnerships or exchanges with establishments?
It is certainly in our DNA and at the moment the easiest thing for us is to work with other francophone governance universities “by and for”. We have always been close to the Université de Hearst. We are closely following what is happening with Laurentian and the University of Sudbury. And we are working on a long-term project, on which we will count a lot in the future, which is to offer a Francophone linguistic and cultural component to allow students from Anglophone universities to obtain, for example, a certification in Franco-Ontarian culture by the UOF. We are also considering, after our initial funding which ends in five years, a solution based on collaboration between universities rather than competition. I humbly think that a small university like ours could enrich the system with ideas like these. »
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