Getting Your Sheridan of the Pie . . .

Okay, well, there was a bit of a surprise in today’s Toronto Star, which featured Sheridan College’s Jeff Zabudsky musing about his intention for Sheridan to become a university in the next seven years.

Zabudsky frames the decision not as one motivated by the as-yet-unspecified funding promised by the Ontario government for the construction of three new undergraduate campuses, but rather by his concern about the current barriers faced by the current graduates of Sheridan’s degree programs:

Frustrated by growing demand for its degree programs that Ontario graduate schools refuse to recognize — most are called “applied” degrees when offered by a college — Sheridan president Jeff Zabudsky said the school owes it to students to become an institution that gives its grads the most options. 

“So we’re waving the white flag and saying, ‘Okay, we might as well become part of the (university) club,’ ” said Zabudsky.

“We’re being driven by student demand for degrees, but I want every graduate to be able to carry on to grad school if they choose. Currently they confront many barriers.”

And, while I’m a bit amused by Zabudsky’s description of his efforts to convert a college into a university as an act of surrender, I think that it’s worth analyzing his claims at face value.

The alleged cause of his determination for Sheridan to become a university is the limited graduate-school options open to the graduates of Sheridan’s degree programs.

Let me crunch the numbers for a moment:

  • A June, 2011 document published by Sheridan’s Board of Governors claims that Sheridan “serves more than 1,500 undergraduate degree students in its own programs”.  Those would be the students for whom Zabudsky proposes to convert Sheridan into a university.  (Sheridan also claims another 1,000 students in university-partnership programs, but although the Star article conflates those two figures, students in university-partnership programs would already be graduating with university degrees, and would therefore be comparatively unhindered in their quest for grad school.)
  • 1,500 current degree students would equal an average of 375 students in each year of Sheridan’s four-year degree programs
  • The retention rate for Sheridan’s diploma programs was an impressively high 70% (in a 2000 study).  If one is generous and guesstimates the same proportion for its degree programs currently, that would result, I believe, in an average of 313 students graduating annually with Sheridan degrees
  • Taking a wild guess that perhaps 20% of successful undergraduates at any institution are interested in applying to grad school, that leaves us with a grand (purely speculative) total of . . .

Approximately 63 graduates.  Annually.

Approximately 63 graduates, annually, for whose sake Zabudsky is reluctantly (but bravely) “waving the white flag” and proposing to transform his college — which currently claims to serve over 15,000 students in its certificate and diploma programs — into a university.

Further updates to follow — As ever, feel free to send your feedback to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com

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