Ontario announces new university in Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. will be getting its own independent university, the Ontario government announced Thursday. Algoma University College—which was established in 1965 as an affiliated college of Laurentian University in Sudbury—will soon become simply Algoma University. Currently, the institution offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts and sciences issued by Laurentian University. Algoma University will be Canada’s newest public university since the University of Ontario Institute of Technology was established in 2003, and like the UOIT model, Algoma will offer a highly focused curriculum responsive to the needs of the regional economy and population.

David Oraziette, Liberal MPP for Sault Ste. Marie and a former member of Algoma’s board, made the announcement along with Chris Bentley, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, on Algoma’s campus. “This new university would mean a brighter future for Sault Ste. Marie,” Oraziette said. “More opportunity for our youth, greater economic growth, and a new vibrancy for our community.”

For his part, Premier Dalton McGuinty stated: “This is a historic day for the people of the Soo, for the north, and for post-secondary education in Ontario. Our government intends to introduce legislation that would not only create a new, independent Algoma University here in Sault Ste. Marie, but expand opportunity and choice for Northern families.”

The change will allow Algoma to issue its own degrees, further enhancing its ability to brand itself. It will also gain the autonomy to create its own programs. In recent years, Algoma University College has expanded its programs to include a post-graduate degree in computer science, which they offer off-site in Toronto.

“Algoma is delighted with this announcement today that supports our evolution into an independent university,” said Celia Ross, president of Algoma University College. “This is a strong endorsement of our ability to create unique programs that build leaders and capacity in Ontario. Many of our students are First Nations students, and they use the education earned here to transform their communities. We will be the university for students who want innovative, community-based programs in technology, science, business, and liberal arts.”

With a student body that has grown by 73 per cent since 1998, there is no shortage of applicants to fill the new university. With this announcement, Sault Ste. Marie will be a regional hub for higher education having both a full-fledged university and a college in the city.

“It is very exciting for all of us here,” said Jennifer Reid, an Algoma English graduate. “It will help us to feel a general sense of independence, students will know that the university has the ability to make decisions about is own future.” Reid believes that an independent Algoma will “give the university a greater sense of creditability.”

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has an implementation team that will work with Algoma University College to draft the necessary legislation and produce a timeline for creating the independent university. Once this is complete, a date will be set for the official dropping of College from the Algoma University name.

Arthur H. Perlini, Algoma’s academic dean and library director, believes that “independent universities are afforded greater flexibility in academic programs and greater opportunities in respect to course and program offers.” He added that Algoma will face fewer challenges in regard to recruitment, especially among international students as the term “university college” could result in some ambiguity as to what Algoma does.