Collective Autonomy: A History of the Council of Ontario Universities 1962-2000

Collective Autonomy: A History of the Council of Ontario Universities 1962-2000

Collective Autonomy: A History of the Council of Ontario Universities 1962-2000

Collective Autonomy: A History of the Council of Ontario Universities 1962-2000


Chronicles the rise and decline of Ontario universities from the halcyon 1960s to the Common Sense Revolution through the history of its planning association, the Council of Ontario Universities.

Collective Autonomy: A History of the Council of Ontario Universities, 1962-2000 is the first full-length account of an organization that has played a major role in the development of the university system in Ontario. Edward J. Monahan served as the council's chief executive officer for over fifteen years. This is his insider's account, enhanced by archival material, of the key role the universities played in planning the high academic quality of the Ontario provincial university system.

Collective Autonomy traces the evolution of Ontario universities over a period of forty years, from the halcyon days of the 1960s, during which massive injections of public funds transformed these institutions from ivory towers to public utilities, through the 1970s and '80s when universities were downgraded as a government spending priority and problems began to develop. It concludes by looking at the problems created by the "Common Sense Revolution" and the resulting severe cutbacks in government grants to universities. It chronicles the efforts of the universities to preserve their autonomy while expanding their service to the common good, and their efforts to maintain the delicate balance between university autonomy and public accountability.


After a forty-year professional career in the university world, first as an academic professing the discipline of philosophy and then as a university administrator, the leisure afforded by retirement has provided me with an opportunity to write the history of an association with which I was involved for half of my professional career and for about half of the association’s lifetime to date.

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) is a voluntary association that represents the publicly funded universities of Ontario. Established in 1962 as the Committee of Presidents of the Universities of Ontario (CPOU), it has been (and continues to be) a major player on the Ontario university scene and beyond in Canada. My involvement began in 1971, when I served for a year as the executive assistant to John Deutsch, principal of Queen’s University. Dr. Deutsch was a principal architect of the Ontario university system and at that time was serving as a member of the Wright Commission on Post-secondary Education in Ontario. My involvement continued during my six-year tenure as president of Laurentian University of Sudbury, when I served as a member of council representing that institution. in 1977, I accepted the position of executive director of cou and served in that capacity for almost fifteen years, until retirement in 1991.

This history, the first full-length account of cou to be written, is intended to supplement the growing body of literature on the history of higher education in Canada. An “insider’s” account, it offers a picture of the activities on an association that, while seldom achieving a high profile, has acted continuously and quietly to serve the interests of the university community in this province and beyond. Other publications, including the growing number of excellent institutional histories, provide broader accounts of the development of higher education in a province or the country, comparative studies of universities in different provincial or national jurisdictions, analyses of public policy issues involving Canadian universities, or more detailed accounts of the history of par-

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