On January 22 the Université de l’Ontario français (UOF) confirmed it now has the funding to move forward – the main focus will be hiring senior staff, including its next president.
The federal government will fund the university for its first four years, after which the Government of Ontario will take over for the next four years. The two levels of government will share the total funding of $126 million dollars, contributing $63 million dollars each.
“My priority for the board of governors is to assemble a top-notch team,” says Dyane Adam, chair of the board of governors for the UOF, who has been involved in this project since the beginning.
This includes the institution’s next president. The last person to occupy this role was Normand Labrie, whose one-year term ended in July 2019. Since then, the institution has been without a president.
Previously, financial insecurity had prevented the university from starting the process of hiring a new president. The institution will table a nomination within the next few months, in hopes of filling the position this summer.
“We’re in an urgent situation. It’s time for us to put someone in charge full-time, because there’s an enormous amount of work to be done,” explains Ms. Adam, who has also been performing the president’s duties on a volunteer basis in the interim.
“We can’t afford to take an entire year to choose our president as we would normally. We really need to find candidates who have experience and who are ready to take on the challenge of starting a new university.”
Many other challenges remain for the UOF, like hiring a large portion of the staff and establishing all the foundations of the university. Overall, though, the chair of the board of governors is optimistic that all the deadlines will be met.
The UOF has recently recruited a number of well-known names from Ontario’s francophone community, including Édith Dumont from the Conseil scolaire des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO, eastern Ontario’s public French-language school board). In April, Ms. Dumont will become the university’s vice-president for partnerships, communities and international relations.
No more uncertainty
After months of uncertainty since the new Ford government was formed, members of the UOF believe its future is now brighter than ever. “We’re all ready to go. Mr. Ford’s government now fully supports the UOF,” adds Ms. Adam. “There’s a very strong commitment to the university, and he wants it to succeed.”
While it’s too early to say whether that will happen, there’s a real sense of excitement in the air. Jason Luckerhoff, vice-president for program and knowledge development at the UOF, has noted a high level of enthusiasm. “We don’t even have our systems in place to accept applications for admission, or anyone officially assigned to responding to potential candidates, but every week we’re receiving questions, emails and messages on our social media channels. You can feel that there’s a lot of excitement and interest.”
Start of the school year and the campus
A little over 200 students are expected for the start of the school year in 2021. “We really want to start slowly, because we’ll still be in the program development phase,” adds Dr. Luckerhoff. “We don’t want to focus too much time and energy on recruitment, more on establishing the university and welcoming the first students, and thinking about our educational approaches, about content, and also giving the professors time to get settled in.”
After a few years, the UOF expects to be able to welcome about 2,000 students.
On February 26 it was announced that the UOF campus will be located in a new building on Lower Jarvis Street, in downtown Toronto. Construction is scheduled to start in coming months.
The UOF will occupy this new space for at least the first 10 years.