Collaborating with the provincial government, U of T recently signed a new Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) to outline its goals and priorities for the next three years. Surprisingly, considering it was devised by university administrators and provincial public servants, the SMA lays out a plan to substantially improve the student experience at U of T.
While UTM and UTSC will see their undergraduate populations remain constant, UTSG will house almost 2,000 fewer undergrads by 2020. For those undergraduate students remaining, U of T plans to offer improved financial aid, specifically aiming to spend more on student aid per recipient and land in the top quartile of scholarship and bursary expenditure per recipient among Ontario universities.
Under the new provincial funding framework, metrics like these — and others, such as number of published papers — will determine a portion of the university’s funding. The SMA thereby creates a direct financial incentive for U of T to support its students — a surefire way to catch the attention of university administrators and an unambiguously positive development.
The SMA will also shift focus toward research and innovation. While this has a more direct impact on graduate students, undergraduates will benefit as well. More professors conducting more cutting-edge research will not only build the reputation of our school and our degrees, but it will open more doors to undergraduate research and encourage innovative industries to plant themselves within our ecosystem. Implementing the SMA will ultimately result in better opportunities for students in both academia and industry.
While it’s easy to dismiss densely worded documents as meaningless in the real world, the changes outlined in the SMA will have real, concrete, and positive impacts on students for years to come. U of T is doubling down on its strengths, and we will be the ones to benefit.
Andrew Kidd is a fourth-year student studying Engineering Physics.