As we continue to develop this website, we will do our best to troubleshoot any questions our visitors have here. Should you require further information at any point, please do not hesitate to contact our Toronto office by telephone or email.
Some of your most frequently asked questions follow here.
1. We are not from Canada and see that Ontario colleges offer programs in areas of study we cannot find at home. How do we choose a college?
All 24 colleges of applied arts and technology in Ontario offer a range of programs designed to meet the needs of their communities and students. Each college maintains an internet presence with a website that will contain all the relevant information about the programs it offers; application and selection information; as well as financial information related to tuition and ancillary fees. As well, the colleges support and maintain a centralized application service (Ontario College Application Service www.ontariocolleges.ca ) where all programs offered by the college system can be found.
2. Are Ontario colleges accredited?
At the present time there is no accreditation system or mechanism for colleges or universities in Canada. As a result the colleges in Ontario are not accredited as institutions of higher education. However, the college system has instituted a quality assurance process audit mechanism that ensures colleges have a range of quality systems, policies and practices in place to ensure the meeting of internationally recognized characteristics of high quality institutions. This quality assurance system will form the basis for a move to attaining recognition and possibly accreditation in the near future. As well, many of the programs offered by the colleges in Ontario are accredited by the regulatory bodies which oversee the fields of study. It is mandatory that a college have all its programs accredited where this is a requirement for employment of program graduates.
3. Can we be assured our child will find work when they have completed the program?
Recent statistics show that about 90 percent of graduates who enter the labour force find employment within six month of graduation. In addition ninety-three percent of employers surveyed indicated they are satisfied or very satisfied with the college graduates they hire. One of the advantages colleges offer is a blend of academic learning with practical experience which will prepare graduates for the world of work in their chosen field.
4. Where else can we go to learn more about studying in Ontario?
There is information available through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (www.tcu.gov.on.ca) website, as well as all the individual college websites.
1. What is the OCQAS and why does it matter to the Colleges?
The Ontario College Quality Assurance Service (OCQAS) is established to provide effective and efficient mechanisms that ensure specific program quality and consistency standards are met by the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT) in Ontario. The service was mandated into existence by the provincial government to be the colleges’ self-regulatory quality agency.
2. Who is involved in the OCQAS?
The OCQAS operates within the structure of the Colleges Ontario, and is responsible to a separate Management Board. The Management Board operates independently of government and of any individual college or the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. It develops policy and oversees the implementation of related processes within its specific mandate. Members of the Management Board are appointed, on recommendation of the Vice-Presidents, Academic, by the Committee of Presidents. Staff of the OCQAS is under the administrative direction of the Vice President, Research & Policy of Colleges Ontario. The Management Board is made up of Senior Academic Officers from the Colleges, and Curriculum / Instructional Design experts from the Colleges. There is also representation from external quality assurance experts and students. The OCQAS is staffed by three positions; two permanent staff who manage the overall service, and one bilingual position who provides French-language services to the French-language colleges. This staffing model means that service for French-language colleges will be available in French, and English-language services are available to the English-language colleges through both aspects of the OCQAS. From time to time there may be need and opportunity to second additional staff resources, at peak times, to manage the workload.
3. How is this different from the previous way of ‘doing business’ for colleges?
Prior to the introduction of the CVS, government approved all programs offered by the colleges in Ontario. Along with the approval of programs the government provided an ‘automatic’ funding of the programs. With the introduction of legislation (The Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act, 2002) the responsibility for the approval of programs was given to the colleges (through the local Board of Governors), while the responsibility to make funding decisions was left with government. As a result of this move to de-centralize program approval decisions it was determined that there was a need for an oversight body that could provide reasonable assurances that programs developed and approved by the individual colleges were of sufficient rigor and credibility. Under the present model Colleges develop and approve the programs that they are going to offer and, if requested by the colleges, the government will provide a funding approval decision, once the program has been validated by the CVS.
1. How is quality assured through the work of the OCQAS?
The OCQAS is committed to continuous improvement; for the colleges and for its own operations. As a result, regular reviews and external evaluations are undertaken on behalf of the Management Board to provide reasonable assurances that the service is credible, viable, and aligned with global best practices. Copies of these external evaluations are available to the public. The Management Board meets regularly to develop policy and provide strategic direction to the staff and the service, and the day-to-day operations are overseen by Colleges Ontario.
2. What is a quality audit?
The OCQAS has developed a set of six Quality Criteria/Characteristics which are seen as quality exemplars for higher education institutions. These criteria were developed from researching other internationally-recognized quality assurance models. Each of Ontario’s public colleges, on a five-year, cyclical basis, conducts a Self-Study whereby they rate themselves against the six criteria and determine to what extent their quality policies and practices meet the requirements of the PQAPA model. Following this Self-Study an external panel of trained auditors receives the report and the supporting evidence identified by the college and undertakes an on-site, quality audit to ensure there is valid and reliable evidence to support and sustain the findings of the college. In cases where there is not credible or adequate evidence the audit panel may determine a different rating against the criteria. A final audit report is written for the approval of the OCQAS Management Board prior to it being released to the College and posted on the website.
3. How transparent is the actual quality audit process for colleges?
Colleges are audited on a cyclical basis, every five years. Copies of the Executive Summary Reports are posted on the public OCQAS website after they have been accepted by the College and approved by the Management Board. As well, Colleges provide an interim follow-up report 18 months after the audit and these reports are also available on the public website. Our process is transparent as we are an arms-length organization who does not report to colleges, that provides information publically to colleges, students, government, industry and any who wish to access quality audit information on Ontario’s colleges.
4. How rigorous is the program validation process?
The Credentials Validation Service (CVS) undertakes a thorough review of the applications for validation that are submitted by the colleges. This review ensures that the programs meet or exceed the expectations and requirements set out in government policy through the Minister’s Binding Policy Directive, Framework for Programs of Instruction. While our staff are not content experts, they bring their expertise in the area of program outcomes to bear on the review and validation process. The process of validation involves a number of ‘back-and-forth’ iterations with the colleges prior to the applications being validated. As well, staff of the CVS provide on-going training and orientation with college personnel to ensure full comprehension of the validation application process and the requirements thereof. In successive external reviews and evaluations of the service, it has been determined this is an effective and efficient service to colleges that is ensuring rigor and quality of programs developed and offered by the colleges.
1. How is the OCQAS unique?
The OCQAS is unique in that it is owned and operated by the 24 public colleges in Ontario. While its existence was mandated by the provincial government, it is not a government agency and has not reporting or other relationship with government. Most other quality assurance agencies in Canada are government agencies or arms-length agencies of government. Also, OCQAS is responsible for ensuring quality at both the program level through the CVS as well as at the institutional level through the PQAPA. This again sets it apart from other models where a quality assurance service may provide a program-level approval process (such as is found in the university sector in Ontario or in other jurisdictions such as Campus Alberta or the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Council) or an institutional-level recognition or accreditation service such as is found in British Columbia or throughout the United States and most European countries.
2. How is the OCQAS funded?
The Service is funded by the 24 public colleges in Ontario. Each college makes a contribution based on the relative size of the college.
3. Does the OCQAS charge colleges for the services it provides?
There is no extra charge made against the colleges (other than an annual fee) for the validation of programs or for the academic audits. The colleges are responsible for their own costs of program development and for all costs associated with the development of their Self-Study Reports that are prepared for the PQAPA. The majority of costs associated with the academic audits (costs of the audit panels – accommodation, travel, honoraria, etc.) are paid by the OCQAS while the colleges pay the costs that may be associated with having the audit panel on site for two or three days (food, materials, etc.)