With Franco-Ontarian Day coming up on Sunday, the university that first raised the Franco-Ontarian flag in 1975 is finalizing its steps to offer courses for the first time as an institution. The University of Sudbury recently submitted documentation to an independent review board, so it hopes to open its doors to students soon.
Chancellor Serge Miville confirms that Sudbury’s francophone community has “never been so close” to getting the university it has dreamed of for a century: an autonomous, public, French-language institution. Since its inception more than a hundred years ago, the university has been affiliated with other institutions, including Laurentian University, except for a three-year period. However, the deal with Laurentian ended in 2021 when Laurentian went into hiding from its creditors and dissolved the contract.
The University of Sudbury then began a transformation to survive and become fully francophone. “We are the first institution to say: we will stop being bilingual and become French,” explains Serge Miville, trained historian. In this sense, the university project is a symbol of the philosophy of the green and white flag, which mainly represents the strengthening of the Franco-Ontarian community. The rector believes that he can contribute to this strengthening.
However, the university must go through a rigorous approval process to achieve this goal and to receive provincial government status as a publicly funded degree-granting institution. On August 22, the institution submitted a document key to the process to the Commission on the Evaluation of Quality in Postsecondary Education (CEQEP). CEQEP is an independent organization in Ontario that, among other things, evaluates universities’ ability to offer courses before making recommendations to the Minister of Colleges and Universities. The minister has the last word.
The submitted document details the administrative capacity of the institution to accept students. This precedes an evaluation process with independent experts who analyze the documentation and then produce an evaluation report. The university management will immediately respond and then send it to the CEQEP board. Citing the confidentiality of the process, Serge Miville prefers not to comment on its development, other than to say that he is “really happy with where the university is”.
Financial costs of separation
According to Serge Miville, the status the province could grant the University of Sudbury if it is satisfied with PEQAB’s assessment will allow it to receive provincial funding and thus be able to provide quality programs. The rector says that the community wants the university to get status and not be a private university. However, the financial situation of the institution, as described in the submission, also testifies to the importance of public resources.
The dissolution of the agreement that united the University of Sudbury with Laurentian University until 2021 “suddenly reduced” the facility’s funding, according to a PEQAB submission document. To help with its transformation efforts, the federal government awarded the university $1.9 million in March. The sum was intended for the development of a business plan and for supporting the institution in the PEQAB process. The fact that you got this amount “is not trivial”, confirms Serge Miville in an interview. “These are real achievements,” he says.
In its submission, the institution claims that it has demonstrated its administrative capacity since its foundation in 1913. Among other things, she notes that she has gained Policy of academic freedom “which recognizes and protects the rights of individuals to seek knowledge without fear of organizational retaliation”. The university now also has a Principles of organization evaluation it provides for an evaluation of its administrative processes and policies every seven years.
Serge Miville has an entire community supporting him in his endeavors, from people working on the set for 50 years to Franco-Ontarian students. “We would benefit from avoiding an exodus of young francophones from the north,” says Marie-Pierre Héroux, a student at the University of Ottawa whose program at Laurentian was canceled in 2021. “The future will tell where we will be. another Franco-Ontarian day,” said Serge Miville. “I’m very happy and satisfied with where we are,” he said.
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This story is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative funded by the Government of Canada.