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Thoughts from Gillian Long

Dr. Michael Benarroch, Provost and Vice President, Academic at Ryerson University since July 2017, delivered the Third Spring Talk on Wednesday April 25th 2018. His topic was Being Bold and Pushing Boundaries: Thoughts on the Future of University Education. He is the bold child of immigrants from Tangiers (to chilly Winnipeg!) and was the first member of his family to push boundaries by graduating from university. A large, engaged audience listened closely to his thoughts on the future of university education and later asked many pertinent questions. We learned that universities are under enormous pressure from government, employers and students themselves to make changes in their educational model. It is very hard for universities to accept such loss of autonomy.

Although government funding is down, it is more and more contingent on performance metrics. Employers demand highly skilled employees who are also job ready. Faced with ever-rising tuition fees, students want value for money, to be trained for a job, even though that job may change every few years. Universities compete for philanthropic dollars – and donors make demands in return for their support.

The traditional university teaching model has to change, to include experiential learning (doing is more important than listening), co-op based skills training, flexible schedules and a willingness to embrace competency-based evaluation. Digital literacy must keep pace with rapid technological change. It is vitally important that aboriginal education improves and that traditional values are not lost. Universities must remain bastions of free speech, but the rules are changing and it is often difficult to maintain civil discourse.

The audience was obviously relieved to hear that Dr. Benarroch believes that there is still an important place for the Humanities in this brave new world of education. His advice to our grandchildren is to do something they are passionate about, even if there are bumps along the way. The path to real success is never linear.

Photos of the event to follow