Setting the stage on garbage cans and institutional differentiation
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Setting the Stage: On Garbage Cans and Institutional Differentiation. Glen A. Jones Ontario Research Chair in Postsecondary Education Policy and Measurement, Higher Education Group, OISE/UT. Outline. An introduction to institutional diversity Possible approaches for Ontario Garbage cans ….

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Setting the Stage: On Garbage Cans and Institutional Differentiation

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Setting the Stage: On Garbage Cans and Institutional Differentiation

Glen A. Jones

Ontario Research Chair in Postsecondary Education Policy and Measurement,

Higher Education Group, OISE/UT


  • An introduction to institutional diversity

  • Possible approaches for Ontario

  • Garbage cans …

Institutional Diversity

  • Research literature (with Birbaum’s 1983 book as a foundational work)

  • Accessibility is the key theme/rationale

    • Diverse students have diverse needs

    • Creating new, less-expensive institutional types to address the needs of mass higher education

From an international perspective …

  • The “university” is not a universal institutional type

  • Huge variations in “non-university” institutions (often degree-granting, limited research activity)

Where do first year students go?

Derived from Taylor et al (2008), Non-University Higher Education in Europe. Dordrecht: Springer.

From an international perspective …

  • Without government involvement, pathways between differentiated institutions are unlikely to emerge.

  • Without government involvement, academic drift will occur.

  • Public policy challenge is to find an appropriate balance (enough, but not too much, diversity)

Ontario in the 1960s

  • Expanded the existing university sector and created new, similar universities

  • Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology created as comprehensive PSE institutions but without a transfer function

  • Created two quite different policy and regulatory environments for the two sectors

Ontario Universities

  • Quite limited systemic (type/mission) diversity within the Ontario university sector

  • Systemic diversity has actually declined over time (OISE, Ryerson Polytechnic, OCAD, Algoma)

Ontario CAATs

  • Common institutional type distinct from universities

  • Increasing programmatic diversity, especially in relation to degree-granting

  • Limited “traditional transfer” and major concerns with “vocational transfer”

Ontario System

  • High levels of participation

  • Two distinct sectors, but with limited diversity within the university sector

  • There has never been a system-wide plan, or vision/strategy (decisions have tended to be incremental and ad hoc)

  • How to address the current issue?

We were asked:

  • To review the evolution of the Ontario system and determine whether, compared with other systems, there were gaps.

  • What are some of the policy options that the government might consider in addressing the future needs of the province?

Options to address anticipated demand?

  • Create Satellite Campuses of Existing Universities

  • Create New Universities of a New Type Focusing on Undergraduate Study and With a Limited Role in Research

Options …

3.Providing selected colleges with a new substantial role in baccalaureate programming

4. Improving transfer arrangements

5. Create an open university

Garbage Can Model

Organized Anarchy

  • Problematic preferences

  • Unclear technology

  • Fluid participation

Garbage Can Model

  • Rather than a rational, orderly process, decision-making takes place in an environment where there are separate streams of participants, problems, solutions, and choice opportunities.

  • This is a wonderful example …


  • Come and go …

    • Many have specific problems or solutions that they carry with them

    • The participants in this discussion include a wide range of individuals representing institutional and regional interests, as well as individuals who have particular views about solutions and problems

Problem stream …

  • Predicted demand for increased access to degree programs

  • Current model of comprehensive institutions is expensive

  • Quality of undergraduate education

  • Limited institutional diversity

  • Regions without universities (historical injustices)

Problem stream …

  • Some existing institutions face a problem declining demand

  • College-university transfer

  • Failure to differentiate “research universities”

  • Access for certain groups/populations

Solution stream …

  • Primarily teaching, undergraduate university

  • Increase missions/status of some existing colleges

  • On-line institute

  • Open university

  • Improve transfer arrangements

Solution Stream

  • Create satelite campuses of existing institutions (perhaps those that are concerned about future enrolment)


Choice opportunities …

  • Occasions when organizations are expected (or think they are expected) to make decisions

  • In the absence of clear priorities or strategies, choice opportunities become “garbage cans” where problems and solutions are dumped and become stuck to each other.

And so …

  • We need to step away from a garbage can approach

  • Today is about engaging in a public discussion of problems and solutions

  • We need an integrated plan or strategy for Ontario higher education that will form the basis for informed decisions about moving forward.

Thank you

[email protected]

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