U of S is thrilled to have the chance to ‘reinvigorate’ the school

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“I have the impression that we are at the dawn of a major change within the university network, particularly for the French language”, declares Serge Miville, rector of the University of Sudbury

On the walls of Serge Miville’s office at the University of Sudbury hangs the story of Northern Ontario’s first, and for many years, only institution of higher learning.

Founded as College of the Sacred Heart in 1913, it changed its name to the University of Sudbury in 1957 and began to exercise full teaching and degree-granting powers. She joined the Laurentian Federation as a founding member in 1960.

But the federation collapsed in February 2021, after Laurentian University filed for bankruptcy and entered into the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

With Laurentian University’s decision to cut ties with federated universities operating on campus, the University of Sudbury announced that it was becoming an autonomous French-language university under the principle of governance “by, for and with”. . ) the French-speaking community.

Then, last September, the Board of Governors of the University of Sudbury unanimously adopted a resolution to transform the institution into a university governed by and for Francophones.

Classrooms at the University of Sudbury — not to mention the other two federated universities on the UL campus, Thorneloe University and Huntington University — remain empty for now due to Laurentian’s actions.

But that means it’s time to rebuild and build back better.

“I think it’s really exciting because I feel like we’re on the cusp of a big change within the university network, especially for the French language,” said Serge Miville, Rector of University of Sudbury at Sudbury.com. “We will be able to position ourselves in a very interesting way. We can sort of take stock of what is needed to do things right.

Miville said that might mean a change in timelines for reopening the university, and certainly a lot of “homework,” he said, “but after that it’s going to put us in a much better position, because then we can make decisions based on facts. And that’s still better than shooting in the dark.

These facts are revealed as part of the PEQAB assessment that the University undergoes.

The Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB) is an advisory body to the Government of Ontario. It makes recommendations to the Minister of Colleges and Universities (currently Jill Dunlop, MP for North Simcoe) on applications from schools wishing to offer all or part of a degree program or designate themselves as a university.

“We don’t want students to be in a facility that can’t deliver the quality of education expected in Ontario,” Miville said, adding that the exercise will only help rebuild the facility. “There are so many things, academic policies, for example, that have been integrated into Laurentian because of the Federation. so through that process of disentangling we had to build our own, that’s pretty normal. Each institution has its own academic policies, which in a way allows us to highlight the best in the sector. So we are able to look at what is happening elsewhere and try to apply best practices there.

Miville said it was also a chance to introduce a new “active listening” policy into all of their consultation processes. He said there will be community consultation committees dedicated to stakeholder opinions and allow the university to make decisions on both data and feedback. These consultations will be held systematically, said Miville.

“We are trying to find ways to innovate the quality assurance process in the university sector, because we know that quality is going to be something extremely important for students, and it is something to be proud of” , did he declare.

Miville said the PEQAB process will ensure that this consultation takes place. And with the $1.9 million recently pledged by the provincial government to facilitate the process.

They (the government) were convinced enough of the merits of our request,” Miville said. He said that was the funding needed to prepare the PEQAB and to do those first steps, with government follow-up afterwards.

“The province was quite clear, doing the PEQAB, doing market studies to see what the needs of Francophone students and their university education are, and building the business plan accordingly.

That’s what they’re trying to do now. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will soon be issued for a suitable company to create the business plan.

And while hope for the future is bright, Miville is clear about the issues still in place, particularly in the wake of program closures and staff layoffs at Laurentian University.

“There are obviously issues: there’s been an exodus of students, and the economy has taken a hit – I don’t think we’ve fully taken stock of the hit to the local economy – but, certainly with the number of jobs that have been lost and the number of students lost, we’re going to feel it for a while,” he said. But Miville isn’t a bit concerned, but not too much.” We are working to try to solve this problem, we are trying to reverse the situation and to understand how we can build something that is sustainable, high quality, exciting; something that will attract people, that will contribute positively to social, economic and cultural.

And while it’s unclear when the university will reopen, Miville is excited for the opportunity to reinvigorate the school, even if it’s not quite what he needed. “I think at the end of the day it’s all going to be a very positive thing once the U of S is back on its feet.”

Jenny Lamothe is a journalist at Sudbury.com. She covers Sudbury’s diverse communities, particularly vulnerable or marginalized people, including Black, Indigenous, Newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and downtown issues.

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