Ontario plans to introduce legislation to create its first French-language university “in the coming months” to give French-speaking students more opportunities to study in the language.
The provincial government said that the new university would be “governed for and by francophones” and would welcome its first cohort of students by 2020.
It added that Ontario was home to 611,500 francophones – the largest population in Canada outside Quebec – and that central and south-western Ontario had the country’s fastest growing francophone population.
The government said that the university would be the first of its kind in the province, but there are currently two publicly funded French-language colleges and nine universities at which students can study in French.
The move has come under fire, with some claiming that the francophone community is already well served by the province’s education system.
Writing for the National Post, Josh Dehaas, former online education editor for Maclean’s, said that there was already a “struggle to fill post-secondary seats” in the region.
“The estimated C$83.5-million [£52.2 million] ‘startup cost’ of the newly proposed waterfront campus in Toronto – which its proponents believe federal taxpayers will fund half of – would be better spent on fixing broken classrooms in existing institutes, or giving raises to underpaid contract professors. This new university is really the last thing Ontario needs,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the president of the French students’ association at Laurentian University told the Sudbury Star that the proposals would sap students and funds from Laurentian.
“There hasn’t been enough research done to support a free-standing university,” said Jessica Findlay.
“And on multiple occasions, in all of the limited research that they’ve done, they have repeated that a lot of the students would be coming from existing French education institutions.”