Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Differentiation and Diversification in Higher Education: The Case of Private, Faith-Based Higher Education in Manitoba

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Differentiation and Diversification in Higher Education: The Case of Private, Faith-Based Higher Education in Manitoba

Article excerpt


The central proposition of this article is that Manitoba's faith-based higher education institutions have become more accepted by, and more closely integrated into, the mainstream post-secondary system in the province. Drawing on theoretical work explaining change in higher education systems, the article examines legislative and policy actions by government, public universities, and the faith-based institutions themselves that have increased the legitimacy of the private, faith-based institutions.


L'idée maîtresse de cet article est que les établissements confessionnels d'enseignement supérieur du Manitoba sont aujourd'hui plus acceptés et mieux intégrés qu'auparavant par le courant principal du système d'enseignement postsecondaire. À l'aide de travaux théoriques qui expliquent les changements apportés aux systèmes d'enseignement postsecondaire, l'article étudie les interventions législatives et politiques exercées par le gouvernement, les universités publiques et les établissements confessionnels, et qui ont accentué la légitimité des établissements confessionnels privés.

Faith-based education has played an important role in the development of higher education in Manitoba. The province's contemporary univeristy system resulted from uniting a community of religious colleges beginning in the late 1800s (Gregor, 1974,1995,1997; Harris, 1976; Morton, 1957), and early religious influences on Manitoba's contemporary public university system included the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Mennonite, and United denominations. Today, faith-based, degree-granting institutions in Manitoba include the Canadian Mennonite University, Providence University College and Seminary (Evangeli- cal Christian), William and Catherine Booth University College (Salvation Army), and Steinbach Bible College (Mennonite). These institutions together enrolled approximately 1,500 students in 2009-2010, equivalent to 2.7% of the public university student body.

Faith-based institutions exist across Canada, often with the legislative sanction of their host provinces (Canadian Council on Learning, 2010), yet their place within post-secondary systems is unclear (Marsden, 1994), and they have generally been marginalized (Skolnik, 1997). This article argues that in Manitoba, any marginalization of these institutions has been reversing itself as these institutions achieved greater legitimacy through a process of de-differentiation that has accelerated significantly since the late 1990s, resulting in faith-based institutions being more heavily integrated into the province's mainstream post-secondary system.

To demonstrate this thesis, the article examines structural change in Manitoba's postsecondary system brought about through legislative and policy change by government, as well as through procedural changes by the private post-secondary institutions themselves. A challenge to examining structural change in post-secondary education is that "Canada does not have a clear framework for understanding the many changes that have occurred within the [post-secondary] sector over the past 15 years" (Canadian Council on Learning, 2010, p. 4). The article also uses van Vught's (2008) ideas on differentiation and diversity as conceptual tools to help explain structural change in post-secondary systems.

In pursuing its main argument, the article examines three areas. First, it seeks to determine what has happened in Manitoba's faith-based higher education institutions in relation to the overall higher education system in the province. Second, it identifies how this situation came about and then outlines what Manitoba's experience reveals about change in post-secondary systems generally.

This article examines not individual colleges and universities in Manitoba, but rather the system of higher (that is, degree-granting) education, a system that includes both public and private sector institutions, and since 2009 includes Manitoba's public community colleges as degree-granting institutions. …

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