Windsor

'What's the purpose of a university degree?': prof worried about tying university funding to performance

Marc Spooner, an education professor, will speak at the Green Bean Cafe in Windsor Tuesday night about what he calls an "over-emphasis" on performance measures.

'They start doing what counts instead of what matters'

Announced as part of the Ontario government's budget, new agreements with 45 post-secondary institutions will be negotiated to tie funding to ten performance metrics. (Getty Images)

A University of Regina professor is worried tying university funding to performance metrics might have a negative effect on Ontario universities.

Marc Spooner, a faculty of education professor, will speak at the Green Bean Cafe in Windsor Tuesday night about what he calls an "over-emphasis" on performance measures.

Announced as part of the Ontario government's budget, new agreements with 45 post-secondary institutions will be negotiated to tie funding to ten performance metrics. In the next five years, 60 per cent of a university's funding will be based on performance. 

"The problem with accountability metrics is they tend to do more harm than good," said Spooner. "One of the things universities and university programs go through is a rigorous five-to-ten-year review. Accountability is already happening."

Basing funding only on what Spooner said is essentially test grades limits the full graduate experience in something he calls 'audit culture.'

"What's the purpose of a university degree? You're leaving out an equally or even more important part which would be creative thinking, empowerment, becoming a well-rounded citizen," said Spooner.

Spooner said what performance metrics do is bring standardized testing from elementary and high schools into the university sector. 

"It all but strangles good pedagogy," said Spooner. "People lose sight of the whole picture and start to teach to the test. They start doing what counts instead of what matters."

Universities and university programs already go through review processes on a regular basis. Spooner said if the government wants to look at performance metrics, it need to look at things outside of graduate earnings. 

"Student retention data, proportion of expenditures in student services. How many are being taught by full-time faculty?" said Spooner. "These are the kinds of things that are important to us and yet get left out."

Spooner will also speak at the Crucial Conversations in Teaching and Learning conference, held at the University of Windsor on Wednesday. 

With files from Windsor Morning

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