The Future of the Canadian University

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President and Vice-Chancellor
University of Windsor

March 4th, 1965

Fredericton, N.B

This is one in a series of distinguished addresses given at the University of New Brunswick and published by the University

It is not easy to generalize about Canadian universities, since they exhibit a wide diversity of character, in origin, in history and traditions, in present size and development, and in their plans for the future. Some uniformity is to be observed within each of the main regions of Canada but, even so, some striking variations are to be noted between institutions geographically close to one another. It will therefore serve a useful purpose, before considering the future of our universities, to offer a regional summary of the historical evolution which has brought them to their current stage of development.

The regions are, as usual, obvious: the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, and the four Western provinces. The historical periods, less obvious and somewhat arbitrary, might be designated, as follows: first, the age of the foundation of the colleges, throughout the Nineteenth Century, up to 1875-1880; second, the emergence of the universities, 1880-1920; third, the diversification of the universities, 1920-1950, and, finally, their expansion in the fifteen years just past, 1950-1965, the prelude to a new phase of growth and maturity, which is the particular topic of this address.

I would not object if some of you were inclined to challenge the precision of the dates which I suggest for each period. They are approximate, at best, and some of the transitions were gradual, offering no obvious line of cleavage with the past, but as generalizations they are valid enough for the present purpose. Although the Atlantic area and Quebec show little conformity to this pattern in the second period, 1880-1920, and a rather limited correspondence through much of the third, 1920-1950, as I shall immediately indicate, yet my suggested schedule of evolution holds true in the rest of Canada and also in the United States.

In the Atlantic Provinces a number of colleges were established and loyally supported by the various denominations during the first three-quarters of the Nineteenth Century, usually equipped with one or two residences, possibly a separate library building, and the inevitable main structure for classrooms and a few academic and administrative offices. This central building, crumbling and obsolete, usually about a century old, with a slightly stale and musty atmosphere, is fondly remembered by the alumni, if not by the present staff, and is very much reminiscent of "Old Main", the almost invariable feature of so many American universities established in the last century.

With one or two exceptions, these colleges grew very slowly, for economic and social reasons, and were manned by a small staff, usually much overworked, and operating on a meagre budget. In terms of enrolment and diversification of academic offerings, they changed very little in the second period to which I have assigned the years 1880-1920, and even in the third period, 1920-1950, a friendly observer could not avoid the feeling that they were being left behind by Ontario and the West. It is therefore all the more agreeable to welcome the striking and rapid changes on this and many other campuses in the Atlantic Provinces during the past decade.

There are various reasons for this recent advance but the energetic and enlightened leadership of several university presidents must be given a special place, and first among them your own President, Dr. Colin Mackay. After twelve years in office he is now second in seniority among the Canadian university presidents, in spite of his youth, and he has already achieved a remarkable record at this University. I have watched his devoted and energetic labours with admiration for many years past, and it is simple justice to declare, as I do now, that he is deservedly held in great respect by his colleagues throughout Canada, who recognize, as you must, that he has earned the right to be numbered among the Founders of the University of New Brunswick.

If the universities of the Atlantic Provinces have, at least until recently, lagged behind the more prosperous institutions of Central and Western Canada in material advantages, their contribution to higher education in Canada should not be underestimated on that account. Among the various distinctive claims which can be made on their behalf I would mention first the high value which so many of their graduates attached to a university education and the distinguished service which a number of them rendered as professors in the newer universities, especially in the West. The first university president I ever met was a graduate of this university, Dr. Walter Charles Murray, who presided over the University of Saskatchewan for its first thirty years, to such good effect that he was rightly regarded as the leading president of that period in Canada.

Second, many of the denominational universities in the Maritime Provinces have been successful in achieving an effective harmony in what some might consider the competing claims of a liberal education and a religious formation, and for this they were rewarded, and still are, by a strong loyalty among their alumni, not equalled anywhere else in Canada.

In spite of the great difference in environment, much too complex for short summary, the universities of Quebec and their associated Classical Colleges exhibited the same pattern of slow growth throughout the last century and the first three decades of this century as I have attributed to the universities of the Atlantic Provinces. Although Laval could with reason trace its origin to the foundation of the Seminary of Quebec in 1663, it did not receive its university charter until 1852, and it did not release Montreal from the tutelage of an affiliate until 1920. Both institutions began to make impressive material and academic advances at the end of World War II, and have rapidly overhauled the leading universities of Canada in the past twenty years in the range and quality of their graduate and professional studies.

The Universities of Ontario, to which I shall for most purposes add McGill, have kept pace, decade by decade, with the stages of growth which I have assigned, developing several graduate schools of notable quality in the last thirty years, and steadily expanding with the provision of many impressive new buildings. These advances have been possible as the result of increased provincial support in recent years. That support has been available only to a limited degree to universities and colleges under denominational control, and this fact has confronted several institutions with a painful choice within the past few years: either to stabilize their expenditures by refusing to expand, in enrolment and facilities, or to abandon denominational control in order to qualify for larger provincial grants. McMaster and Windsor have made the latter choice, and Ottawa is also currently reported to be considering some amendment in its charter to the same effect.

The growth in higher education is more noticeable in Ontario than elsewhere in Canada. The five university charters in 1952 have now increased in number to seventeen, and the provincial government has not only expanded its Advisory Committee on University Affairs, but has also established a Department of University Affairs, with a Minister and Deputy Minister, the first such portfolio in Canada. The four provincial universities in Western Canada were influenced in their constitutional structure by the University of Toronto Act of 1906, shortly before the period of their emergence, with its division of duties between a Board of Governors and a Senate, and were much affected, academically, by the example of the large American state universities with their many professional faculties, especially Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota which, with good reason, attracted much favourable attention in the first several decades of this century.

All four provincial universities have enjoyed a high level of public esteem, and generally an adequate and often an eminently satisfactory degree of financial assistance as well from their respective provincial governments. They have made good use of such resources, creating within a short space of time institutions of high quality and distinguished achievement, acknowledged as such elsewhere in Canada and in the United States. It is generally believed that part of this success is to be attributed to the initial limitation of university work to only one campus in each province, a decision evidently influenced by settlers from Ontario and the Maritimes who held the view that the multiplicity of institutions there had unduly divided the support available for higher education. In any event, in the three prairie provinces no additional university charters have ever been issued, to denominational or other groups, since the establishment of the provincial universities more than fifty years ago. In British Columbia none were authorized until two years ago, when it was decided to concede degree granting powers to existing colleges in Victoria and in Nelson, and to establish another university in Burnaby. The new example of British Columbia is not likely soon to be followed on the Prairies where the increase in population has been less phenomenal, and where rapidly growing secondary campuses in Calgary and Regina give the reality if not the legal effect of another institution.

To return to an overall view of the Canadian universities I would suggest that while we may seem to a superficial observer to be patterned rather closely after the colleges and universities of the United States there are in fact a number of differences, several of which deserve to be singled out. One of these is our particular claim to originality, the Canadian university term, without parallel elsewhere, quite unlike the three terms usual each year in Great Britain, or the semester or quarter system in the United States. Our universities open in September, recess briefly at Christmas, take no holiday at Easter except for Good Friday, and proceed to final examinations at the end of April, with Convocations held in May. I have yet to hear any convincing historical explanation for our development of this unique schedule, so different from the American, since the usual suggestion about the need to release our students for work at home on the family farm would seem to be just as applicable in the United States, where it has had no effect, as it is here. Lately there has been some discussion in favour of lengthening the term or adopting the American quarter or semester or trimester, although, with holiday intervals, study periods, and examination days these systems actually provide very few more lecture periods in the year than the Canadian term. Indeed, it is proposed to establish what is being called the "year-round" university. Those who favour such a change generally manifest considerable zeal for what they regard as a reform, unwelcome perhaps, and requiring a sense of greater service or even sacrifice to be accepted, but all the more worthy on that account! Some proponents are fretful because "the university plant" seems to be closed down for various periods in the year, a situation repugnant in business and industry. For these and other reasons there is some disposition in various quarters to abandon the present Canadian system and to inaugurate the year-round system. It has been announced that this will be done at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, and at the University of Guelph in Ontario, significantly both new universities.

Elsewhere, academic and administrative reaction has been reserved or adverse for various reasons, especially because year-round operation would clearly require more staff, when staff is already in short supply, and will accordingly be more expensive at a time when funds available at present are scarcely sufficient. I think that these are cogent difficulties but my own doubts rest on what seem to me to be more basic considerations. I can see no special merit in a year-round university as such, however gratifying it may be to those who equate year-round use of the plant with a higher efficiency, unless there are considerable numbers of year-round students, especially at the undergraduate level. In default of a significant number of such students the whole discussion seems to me to have started at the wrong end, and I must confess that I am rather sceptical that there will be many students willing or able to engage in year-round study, both on financial and psychological grounds. Even the present length of term is clearly a strain on financial resources and on nervous energy. However, it would only be fair to await the results of the new schedules to be established at Guelph and at Simon Fraser and to see what the student response actually is. Should it, by any chance, be considerable, we can expect further adoptions, but not otherwise, if we can judge from the adverse attitude of the special report of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and the strong reservations expressed by spokesmen for our two largest universities, Toronto and British Columbia.

The second aspect of Canadian universities with a strong claim to originality is the now widely prevalent system of federation or affiliation through which denominational colleges can integrate with provincial, and also private universities. This Canadian or Toronto pattern, as it is sometimes called, has no parallel elsewhere in the Commonwealth or in the United States, and bewilders our academic visitors from these countries, where strong views are held in favour of the complete exclusion of all denominational interest from publicly supported universities. That policy has not prevented the emergence and the stubborn continuance of many denominational colleges in the United States. It has merely ensured that in nearly every case they are competing at a grave disadvantage, compelled to charge much higher fees than state institutions, and operating at a lower level of academic achievement, covering not only such subjects as philosophy, history and the social sciences, which are of direct denominational concern, but forced for the sake of completeness to teach such neutral subjects as mathematics, chemistry and physics.

The Canadian solution which first appeared in the federation in Toronto would seem to have much to recommend it. At any rate it has proven exportable to other universities, first to Saskatchewan some thirty years ago, and thereafter, with some variations, to other Western Provinces, and most recently to this campus where its operation will undoubtedly be watched with keen interest, as well as elsewhere in the Atlantic Provinces.

The practical advantages of this arrangement would appear to be mutual. The federated college is released from the extensive effort to offer a complete undergraduate curriculum, needlessly duplicating good courses available at the University, for who would pretend in this day and age that there is such a thing as Catholic Chemistry or Protestant Physics? And the university is enhanced by a direct accession of group interest and support which would otherwise not come to it. Moreover, its own offerings are varied and enriched, beyond the secular tradition usually dominant in our provincial universities, by the inclusion of classes and instructors not otherwise to be encountered. I accordingly learned with satisfaction that this University had successfully concluded negotiations with St. Thomas University to move from Chatham to Fredericton and to enter into a relationship of federation. It is important for the vitality of higher education in Canada that such experiments succeed, and if they do, as I confidently predict, they will begin to exert an influence beyond the borders of Canada.

In these observations and reflection on the past and the present of the Canadian university I have been preparing the way for my predictions for the future, especially in the incidental references which I have made to the recent sharp increase in enrolment. This factor alone overshadows all others in our consideration of the future of the Canadian University and calls now for specific exposition. In summary, our universities increased only about 50% in the two decades 1920-1940, then doubled in the next decade, and again in the next, 1950-1960. It is now the astonishing prospect that the enrolment will actually triple in the current decade, 1960-1970. Thereafter the rate of increase is less startling but even so should bring us a total enrolment of nearly half a million by 1976. The figures for the enrolment in the past and the projections calculated for the future are worth citing:

1920-21 ...................................... 23,139

1930-31 ...................................... 32,926

1940-41 ...................................... 36,319

1950-51 ...................................... 68,306

1960-61 ...................................... 113,900

1970-71 ...................................... 340,400

1976-77 ...................................... 479,700

Another way of emphasizing the import of these figures is to point out that in the past 45 years, while the population of Canada has little more than doubled, the university enrolment has already grown eight-fold, and will have grown twenty-fold in another ten years! It is this extraordinary disparity of growth which will create the problems and the opportunities for Canadian universities in the future.

As my comparison makes clear, the increase has come only in part from a rise in our total population. Every analysis of the statistics issued by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics and by the Canadian Universities Foundation discloses that the more important factor is the small but steady increase, year by year, in the proportion of the college age group, 18 to 24, attending university. It was 4.2% in 1951, 7.5% in 1961, and is projected to be 13.8% in 1971, and 16.1% by 1976. The increase is particularly phenomenal among women of college age: for men the percentages are 6.7% in 1951, 11.2% in 1961, and expected to be 18.5% in 1971, and 20% in 1976, whereas for women the figures begin as low as 1.7% in 1951, go to 3.9% in 1961, to 84% in 1971, and 12% in 1976. Putting it another way, the proportion of men in the college age group actually attending university will triple in the twenty-five year period, 1951-1976, but the increase for women during the same period will be six-fold. This differentiation seems to have attracted little comment or attention as yet, although it obviously explains in part the sharply rising enrolments in Arts, Education and other courses generally preferred by women, which have rather surprised some university administrators in recent years.

It does not take much imagination to realize that this large influx of students will soon begin, and indeed already has begun, to exert many pressures on existing colleges and universities, forcing an expansion in the academic organization and in the building program which, in the end, will radically alter the nature of the institution. Original campuses are suddenly found to be too small, compelling unpopular and troublesome expropriation, or the development of satellite campuses, or in Ontario and the West, the chartering of new universities.

The alumnus who returns to his old university, after an absence of even a few years, is likely to be deeply astonished at the changes which have taken place, and to view them with rather mixed feelings. He rejoices to see the fine new buildings, but he wonders whether with the growth in numbers there has perhaps not been some loss in the friendly intimacy of staff and students which he rightly recalls as so valuable a feature of the smaller liberal arts college of his day. And so we hear much anxious discussion about universities which are now too big and impersonal, and about the dangers of further expansion. I sympathize with the reaction and I congratulate those of you who were fortunate enough, as I was, to attend a college or a university when its enrolment was no more than a thousand or even only a few hundred, but I must confess that, seen realistically, such enrolments are a luxury today, and will be even more so in the next few decades. Of course, the small liberal arts college had many comfortable advantages for its students, in their daily round, compared with the great campuses now swarming with ten, fifteen, and twenty thousand students, but the small college had grave disadvantages, in the absence of honours work, or, if that was offered, in limited graduate work, and in adequate libraries and laboratories. The range of choice was necessarily restricted by the absence of classes in many of the newer subjects, even if inspired teaching in the basic liberal arts and sciences was a large compensation.

For these and other reasons I doubt that colleges which are still small will long retain their present size and character, or that there will be any serious or successful effort to establish a number of new colleges of restricted enrolment. Restriction of enrolment, for a year or two at a time, can certainly be justified in the absence of adequate accommodation, especially of residences, in universities located in small towns, such as St. Francis Xavier or Mount Allison, but it is significant that these institutions are hoping to enlarge their present residences, in order to remove the restriction. In the relatively near future, as the swarms of qualified students descend upon our admission offices I doubt whether public opinion or academic conscience will allow restriction of enrolment for any reason other than sheer lack of space, and will, in fact, demand the early remedy of such shortages in any institution receiving public funds.

What I do expect to see in our universities as they grow larger is a keen awareness of the possible disadvantages of bigness, and a desire to offset them by devising various expedients especially in a reorganization of the traditional administrative and academic structure which will produce smaller and closer knit units within the larger colleges. Significantly, such steps have already been taken at Toronto, Western, and Manitoba with the assignment of students in the large faculty of arts and science to one of several co1leges", specifically formed for the purpose, with which they are expected to identify themselves more closely than would be natural or possible in the case of the larger unit.

The large university, growing larger, is clearly here to stay and, from certain points of view, none too soon for Canada, where our libraries lag far behind those in comparable institutions in the United States and where we have been much too slow to develop graduate work, preferring all too often to fall back on the generous availability of graduate facilities open to Canadian students in the United States, in Britain and France. This is no longer good enough from the standpoint of our own academic self-respect, for the well-being of our universities which need the stimulus of dynamic research programs and graduate studies, and above all not good enough in meeting the grave challenge of the serious shortage of trained university teachers, already acute and destined to become more so as our enrolment increases.

I touch here upon the gravest problem in the future of the Canadian university, for which there is no easy and obvious solution. It is my own expectation that the present shortage will become more stringent, as each year we do not quite catch up, and that much enterprise will be required if the lack of a full complement of teachers is not to hamper the essential work of the university. It is an inconvenience now, and energetic measures must be taken if the situation is not to become more ominous. We need to commend a teaching career at the university level in strong and persuasive terms to students with an academic inclination and capacity, and to encourage them, more concretely, by the provision of teaching fellowships, and other ample scholarships for the expensive journey to a Ph.D. degree.

As I have indicated, I am somewhat pessimistic that our most valiant efforts along these obvious lines will quite close the gap and I accordingly suspect that we will be driven by necessity to do what we should have attempted sooner voluntarily, namely to turn to various technical aids, films, tapes, radio and TV, as supplement to the traditional lecture. Some experiments in this direction with TV during the past two years at McGill and Toronto confirm the favourable experience of American universities, and strongly suggest that the Canadian university of the future will make great use of such modern inventions not only to help meet the teacher shortage but also to improve the quality of our teaching. I have watched some teaching over closed circuit television at the university level and have found it eminently successful. The initial cost is considerable but the results justify it, and it is hard to understand the suspicion and dislike which prompts many professors to refuse even to consider such innovations. I predict that such reactions will soon be much less common and that there shall shortly emerge the beginning of a strong trend favouring the full use of various audio-visual devices.

Turning from questions of quantity to quality, it is clear that Canadian universities are now exhibiting a keen awareness of high academic ideals, not only in research programs but in the diversification of offerings and in the establishment of new areas of study. We have lately seen a great widening in scientific and professional departments and a most notable enlargement in the social sciences and in the humanities which gives me high confidence for the future.

I would expect a significant advance into one vast area of learning still very little represented in our universities, the history, literature, language and philosophy of the countries of the East. The trend of world events, if nothing else, will turn our attention to these studies which still seem strange and irrelevant to Canadians, although we are increasingly involved in relations with Japan, China, and India, and affected by events which take place there. Intellectually we are almost totally Western European in our formation and curiously impervious to the influence of other cultures, however ancient and massive, but this situation cannot long continue, and the university of the future will be the major agent in this overdue change in Canada and elsewhere.

The university is a most durable institution, of greater antiquity than any other organization except the church, unchanging to an astonishing degree in many respects over the centuries, and yet flexible and open to change in others. In Canada, until recently, it stood outside the mainstream of national life, on the fringe of developments, curiously remote except to those who studied or taught there. Now all this has changed, and the university of the future in Canada will benefit greatly. University problems are widely debated, and the university has moved into a central area of public concern and discussion. It is no longer generally considered a privilege for the few to attend university, and it is increasingly realized that it is an obligation for all those of academic talent.

What has made the change? Enlightened self.interest, in part, is at work here, but surely there is also much idealism, springing from the knowledge that a country, especially a democracy, suffers if its citizens are indifferent to their own full development. I would select two historical episodes which have helped in a specific way to promote this attitude. One of these was the influx of veterans coming to the universities in 1945-50, determined to complete their education after the distracting interruption of the Second World War, and prepared to endure a wearisome marginal financial situation until they had done so. If I am not mistaken, historians will attach great importance to this attitude of the veterans and will credit it with much influence in the growth of the prestige of Canadian universities.

During the same period renewed attention was given at the popular level to the basic philosophic concepts which lie behind democracy and the efforts to promote world peace and cooperation. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948 does not say anything which is novel to our ears, but it says it well, in simple and direct language, and it has put into general circulation in our schools and universities the fundamental doctrines of the rights of the individual, of his dignity as a person, and his right to full access to knowledge and education. The Declaration has been frequently invoked in times of political crisis, and is better known and is more influential than many of us have perhaps realized. In particular, it has served to focus attention on the key importance of education, and I believe that its influence, if intangible, has been nonetheless widely operative in Canada.

As a result of the favourable convergence of the variety of factors, practical and theoretical, which I have mentioned in this address, the universities in Canada find themselves in a more advantageous situation in 1965, in their development and their public acceptance, than could possibly have been predicted for them in 1950. From that fact I take my assurance that the advance in the next few decades will be equally splendid. But I do not assume that this will happen automatically. We are asking the people of Canada to make sacrifices on our behalf and to provide funds for our development far larger than ever previously required. They will do so in so far as they have confidence in us, teachers and students, to make good use of our resources. And, they will have that confidence if we respond to the bright opportunity which faces us, now and in the future, in the Canadian university, an institution uniquely situated to advance the essential interests of the people of Canada.

It has always been an agreeable and satisfying privilege to serve in a Canadian university. It will be even more so in the future, as our successors, and their fellow citizens, see ever more clearly what we have begun to understand, that the Canadian university is not only the gateway to higher knowledge for the individual, but is also the bulwark of freedom and democracy in Canada.

John Francis Leddy received the bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees at the University of Saskatchewan before undertaking post-graduate studies in classics at the University of Chicago and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Exeter College, Oxford, where he obtained the degrees of B. Litt. and D. Phil.

Appointed, a member of the Department of Classics at Saskatchewan in 1936, he became head of the Department in 1946, Dean of Arts and Science in 1949, and served as Vice-President (Academic) from 1961 until his appointment in July 1964 as President of the University of Windsor.

Travelling widely in North America, and also abroad to Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, Dr. Leddy has been a Canadian delegate to the International Union of Academies, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Commonwealth Education Conference, the East-West UNESCO Conference, the International Federation of the Societies of Classical Studies, and the United States National Commission for UNESCO.

He is a Knight Grand Cross of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.

Dr. Leddy has been awarded honorary degrees by St. Francis Xavier University, Assumption University of Windsor, Laval University, University of Ottawa, and St. Mary's University.