Academic Freedom in Canadian Higher Education: Universities, Colleges, and Institutes Were Not Created Equal

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There has been substantial discussion, research, and debate about the role of academic freedom within higher education, primarily centered on the university model. Not as well documented or understood is the issue of academic freedom within colleges and institutes in Canada. In this paper, we examine the current state of academic freedom in colleges and institutes using a historical analysis of two Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Ontario. Beginning with an overview of academic freedom within universities, we then examine the development and evolution of colleges and institutes and discuss how or if academic freedom applies to them. We consider issues of collegiality, faculty engagement, and governance as they impact the concept and practice of academic freedom within these institutions. We also discuss the different origins, intents, roles, and governance models of universities in contrast to colleges and institutes, which are generally representative of the broader Canadian higher education landscape.


Le rôle de la liberté universitaire dans l'enseignement supérieur a fait l'objet d'innombrables discussions, recherches et débats, la plupart axés sur le modèle universitaire. Pourtant, cette même notion est encore mal documentée et comprise dans l'enseignement dispensé par les collèges et instituts, surtout au Canada. Cet exposé examine l'état actuel de la liberté universitaire dans ces établissements, à l'aide d'une analyse historique et comparative de deux provinces canadiennes : la Colombie-Britannique et l'Ontario. Il commence par un survol de la liberté universitaire dans les universités, puis examine le développement et l'évolution de celle-ci dans les collèges et instituts et enfin, il se penche sur la façon dont on applique cette liberté, le cas échéant. Cet exposé traite également des questions de collégialité, de la participation des membres du corps professoral et de la gouvernance, selon leur incidence sur le concept et la pratique de la liberté universitaire. En outre, l'exposé discute des différents éléments que sont les origines, intentions, rôles et modèles de gouvernance d'universités, habituellement représentatives du paysage canadien de l'enseignement supérieur dans son ensemble, en les comparant aux collèges et instituts.

There has been a substantial body of discussion, debate, and research about the role of academic freedom within the university. That discussion has intensified, especially as it relates to the effects of globalization and academic capitalism on the university. What is not as well understood is academic freedom within colleges and institutes, particularly those within Canada. This is an important issue because Canadian colleges and institutes are different from their university counterparts and their role within the higher education landscape is changing. Colleges and institutes are now offering a limited number of bach- elor's and master's degrees and engaging in applied research activities-the traditional domain of the university. This changing role has elevated the issue of academic freedom in colleges and institutes, particularly among faculty unions as it relates to workload, teaching assignments, and curriculum.

In this paper, we examine the current state of academic freedom in colleges and in- stitutes through a comparative analysis of two provinces, British Columbia (BC) and On- tario. We begin with a brief review of academic freedom in the university context and then look at the application of academic freedom from a college and institute perspective. This analysis involves a historical review of colleges and institutes in BC and Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs) in Ontario and takes into consideration the issues of collegiality, faculty engagement, and governance-concepts that are linked in varying degrees to academic freedom.

Prior to the 1960s, Canada had relatively few higher education institutions, most of which were universities. …


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