York did its homework on double cohort


Above: Students at the Keele campus

Bull’s eye!

York has hit its first-year admissions target virtually dead-on.

The prospect of the so-called double cohort has been looming ever since the Ontario government decided in the late 1990s to abolish Grade 13. But York faced the challenge squarely, did its homework – which involved countless hours of work over many years for a host of dedicated staff and faculty – and deftly managed to accommodate its share of the new student throng.

In fact, the figures of just how well York dealt with what was described as a “volatile and unpredictable” situation are astounding. Against a September 1, 2003 target of 9,985 new first-year students, York had 9,994 students when classes began. Just nine off!

And, despite the fact that the intake of new first-year students was 25 per cent higher than last year, the University is coping well. Upper-level enrolments and graduate enrolments are also on target.

“We met targets not just university-wide, but also generally at the Faculty level, and in most cases, even at the program level,” said Sheila Embleton, York’s vice-president academic, one of the key strategists. “We were able to maintain our commitments to quality and accessibility.

“We expect faculty-level FFTE [Fiscal Full-Time Equivalent] numbers to be even closer to targets, as a result of cross-faculty enrolments – arts students taking natural science courses, and science students taking general education courses, for example.”

In the planning period leading up to the double-cohort year, Embleton said, some of the concerns were about the University’s ability to accommodate the sheer numbers of students and, bearing in mind the younger age of many new students, their particular needs, as well as the need for curriculum adjustment.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation, and will make adjustments, if necessary,” said Embleton.

York tackled each concern systematically

York has worked hard on smoothing students’ transition to University, through enhanced orientation and counselling. As well, it made curricular adjustments in several departments in response to changes to high-school curricula that had taken place, for example in mathematics.

And York has made certain physical changes to accommodate students, constructing such new facilities as the Seymour Schulich Building, Technology Enhanced Learning Building, William Small Centre and the Computer Science & Engineering Building. As well, the Student Centre food court was expanded and new and clearer signage has been erected. Now, two more structures are about to begin on the Keele campus – the general academic buildings, which will offer more classroom space and dedicated rehearsal studios for York’s music and dance departments.

Not the least of the changes has been the consolidation of student services online, viewed by many as an enormous improvement. “We are moving student services to be online rather than in line,” quipped Embleton.

Students are one part of the double-cohort equation. The other part is faculty, who are needed to cope with the extra influx of students.

“Our hiring was very successful for the 2003-2004 academic year,” said Embleton. “We appointed 83 outstanding new tenure-stream faculty, despite a highly competitive hiring situation. Also, we appointed 40 contractually limited faculty, nine secondees [faculty seconded from school boards to teach in York’s Faculty of Education] and five SRCs [Special Renewable Contract faculty].”

Below: Students at York’s Glendon campus