Milton campus sits in wait of new government policy

Moratorium. Its definition according to Webster is rather simple: “A suspension of activity.” To Wilfrid Laurier University, its definition is much more than that. It’s a roadblock in the way of expansion to Milton.

Expansion to Milton has been a hot topic for conversation among those in the Laurier community, but the production of a policy by the Ontario government has caused a delay in any thinking of building.

Instituted by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities, the new policy being developed changes the procedures for post-secondary institutions, in the largest way, by giving the province the final say in where satellite campuses will be built, and by which host institution.

“This will ensure tax dollars are allocated in an effective and responsible manner. Of course, the province recognizes that, for many municipalities, having a postsecondary institution in the community is important for economic and regional development,” said Tanya Blazina, a spokesperson for the MTCU.

“That said, the province also needs to strike an appropriate balance between community and institutional aspirations and the province’s direction around capacity, growth and the need to expand postsecondary education and training in areas of the province that are needed the most,” Blazina continued. “The formal satellite campus policy will be aligned with the province’s growth plans. Under MTCU’s new satellite campus policy, decisions on the location and host institutions will now be made by the province.”

Knowing that the university will now have to pitch a bid, Dr. Max Blouw, Wilfrid Laurier University’s President, says the school is now in the planning stages for such a bid.

“Laurier is currently working, with our partners in Milton and Halton region, to think about what our bid might look like, to strategize around the elements of a bid and how we might present such a bid, if Milton were to be chosen as an area where another campus would be deemed suitable by government.”

While the criteria going into a bid have not yet been released, Blouw hypothesizes they will focus on quality and manner of undergraduate education to be delivered, as well as cost-effectiveness of both capital and operating dollars, and also the partnerships that could be brought to the table.

As the fertile land for a campus sits, with its fast growth rate, proximity to Toronto, and amount of space to build, having the province accept bids could cause increased competition for the land.

Regardless, Blouw says he thinks Laurier is in a good position, albeit without knowing the criteria for what the province is looking for.

“We have a long-standing partnership, we’ve done an awful lot of groundwork, we’ve been very explicit in thinking about multi-campus governance and putting in place principles that will enable us to effectively move forward as an institution in multiple places,” Blouw said. “We have a history of success of establishing additional campuses. Brantford is a shining example of success in post-secondary development that didn’t have a campus previously.”

Regardless of whether the moratorium stands in place, Blouw is very confident that Laurier will outdo any other schools looking at expansion to Milton.

“Quite frankly I’m not all that worried about competition, I like competition, it’ll sharp everybody up. I look forward to competing and winning.”

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