Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Situating Ontario's Colleges between the American and European Models for Providing Opportunity for the Attainment of Baccalaureate Degrees in Applied Fields of Study

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Situating Ontario's Colleges between the American and European Models for Providing Opportunity for the Attainment of Baccalaureate Degrees in Applied Fields of Study

Article excerpt


During the last third of the twentieth century, one of the principal ways in which many countries increased access to postsecondary education was by establishing new sectors of institutions that were intended to provide an alternative to traditional universities. The primary mission of these institutions was to prepare graduates for jobs and careers. Besides their focus on preparation for employment, other characteristics that differentiated the newer sectors were emphasis on teaching; use of pedagogies that emphasized experiential and hands-on learning; limited involvement in research; and admission of students from a wide range of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, including secondary school vocational streams. The new sectors were created by merging existing vocational institutions and by adding new institutions.

In the early 1970s, analysts at the OECD reported that the new sectors fit one of three patterns: the multipurpose model, the specialized model, and the binary model (OECD, 1971; OECD, 1973). The prototype for the multipurpose model was the American junior college. Its defining characteristics were a "fairly close" link with the university, and diversified curricula that included purely academic programs, various types of general education, and vocational training of a "terminal nature" (OECD, 1973, p. 15). The main locations of this model were said to be the United States, some western provinces of Canada, and Québec.

In the specialized model, the institutions provided vocational training of a terminal nature largely for students from the non-academic streams of the secondary schools. Most of the institutions specialized in one or a few fields of study, and links with universities were "loose or almost nonexistent" (OECD, 1973, p. 16). Almost all the countries of continental Europe were said to fit this pattern, but it was noted that some had introduced reforms that could lead to significant changes.

In the binary model, the newer sector was independent of the universities and offered its own degree programs that had an applied orientation. It was noted that among OECD countries, the binary model was found almost exclusively in the United Kingdom, but it was suggested that this model might be emerging in Ontario.

As the new sectors continued to evolve after the early 1970s, the specialized model largely ceased to exist, leaving two principal models that were similar but not identical to the other two original models. Most specialized non-university postsecondary institutions have been amalgamated into comprehensive institutions, and the few that remain exist alongside comprehensive institutions rather than in a sector that is composed of specialized institutions.

What the OECD called the binary model has become the predominant model for the non-university sector in Europe, where these institutions offer a wide range of baccalaureate and, in some countries, postgraduate degree programs and constitute a parallel degree-granting sector to the universities. The term "binary" is no longer appropriate when describing this model because that term has often been used in a more generic manner simply to denote the existence of two distinct sectors of postsecondary education, regardless of their relationship with each other. What was originally known as the binary model could now be described more accurately as a parallel model, because degree granting is a major function of each sector, or it could be called the European Model because of its predominance in Europe.

In the multipurpose model, the institutions in the non-university sector do not normally award any baccalaureate degrees although, as will be discussed later, recently in some jurisdictions some of these institutions have been allowed to award a limited number of baccalaureate degrees. In this model, the principal-and until recently, only-avenue for students who complete an associate degree, diploma, or certificate in the nonuniversity sector and wish to attain a baccalaureate degree is to transfer to an institution in the university sector and complete a baccalaureate degree there. …

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