Harry Valentine on a University in Cornwall Ontario – LTE – December 4, 2012

The Ongoing Discussion re a University at Cornwall

While a discussion is underway to investigate the possible establishment of a university at Cornwall, the idea of a establishing such an institution at Cornwall dates back over several decades. Beginning during the 1970’s, the University of Ottawa operated a satellite campus at Cornwall for several years. It offers several dozen local students the convenience of studying from Cornwall. However, enrollments never reached the numbers to have justified the establishment of an independent university campus in the city.

At the present day, nursing students may study at the university level at Cornwall and earn a degree in nursing, courtesy of an arrangement with an out-of-town university. Of the top 10-occupations that employ the greatest number of people in the general economy, only nursing requires a university degree while nursing assistants and personal support workers require a college diploma.


The remaining occupations include personnel employed by supermarkets and department stores as assistants and cashiers, waitresses, parking lot attendants, truck drivers and several other occupations that require no special college training.

In the USA, students graduating from institutions of higher learning have had a rude awakening, that being the lack of employment opportunities. Of university and college graduates who hold degrees, some 350,000 are employed as parking lot attendants while some 250,000 who work as waiters and waitresses. Some 1100 graduates who hold PHD degrees are employed as janitors. Graduates who hold social science degrees traditionally gravitated toward education (teaching) or employment in the civil service.

Advances in telecommunications and information sector technology have enhanced the convenience of distance learning. We have residents who live in this community who through modern distance learning via the internet, have obtained education and training from distant institutions and have been able to use that training toward career advancement in this city. Athabasca University is Canada’s leading institute in this regard, while University of Phoenix also offers a comprehensive choice of non-residential, distant learning opportunities.

Many courses of study are available on compact disc and allow interested students to “learn at their own pace”. This author enrolled is a distance-learning course offered from Australia in an area that usually intimidates the regular students. Except the “learn at your own pace” program of study was different to courses that required classroom attendance, allowing this learner to go through the course 3-times during the allotted amount of time. The method of presentation was very different to classroom lecturing.

An acquaintance who for several years worked as a long-distance truck driver, used his time behind the wheel to further his education courtesy of pre-recorded lectures made available through a distance learning program. He eventually earned a degree in law by making more productive use of his time on the road. As he traveled the road, he could “re-wind the tape” and replay sections of the material until he had fully understood the concepts presented, another form of learning at your own pace.

The world’s leading science and engineering university located at Boston, Massachusetts has put all their science and engineering courses online and accessible to anyone who is interested in furthering their understanding in these areas. While they cannot obtain a degree from the renowned institution without paying tuition, the entrepreneurial types may use the easily accessible educational material to expand their knowledge and understanding in areas of science and engineering. Courtesy of their “free” education, they could build a working scale model prototype.

The growing “open source innovation” sector economy may accept such a prototype or scale model as the equivalent to a diploma of qualification recognized by a growing list of companies and corporations worldwide. Many years ago, these companies may have hired engineers and/or science graduations, or perhaps engaged a group of consulting engineers. Now a growing number of companies are going the “open source innovation” route, opening doors of opportunity to inventive scientific and engineering types whose certificate of qualification may be a working scale model prototype of something in which a potential client or employer at a distant location may be interested.

As a group in Cornwall presently explores the possible establishment of a university campus in the city, universities worldwide face increasing competition from easy access to increasing variety of scientific and engineering education offered on compact discs and via the internet. Entrepreneurial types are finding ways to put their education in this regard, to productive use by building products or developing software for computers. Some of their associates or “employees” who have achieved a similar education have ongoing opportunities to creatively contribute to the competitiveness of their companies in local and international markets.

There was a time when the learning programs that are now available on CD’s and via the internet, were the exclusive domain of the colleges and universities. These institutions now face a level of competition in the academic instructional arena that had never previously existed. That competition has prompted a growing number of voices to question the relevance of the traditional institutions of higher learning, especially the entrepreneurial types who can put their “education” to productive use and them earn money by marketing the fruit of their productive endeavour to customers.

A cash-strapped provincial and similar municipal government that both need to curtail unnecessary expenditures and save where possible, may be asked to provide revenue to establish some form of university presence at Cornwall. That task may be far more formidable today that it was some 40-years ago when the University of Ottawa first established a satellite campus at Cornwall. At that point in time, correspondence schools such as ICS attracted only a small number of students from each city, perhaps barely enough from one region to fill a single classroom on a university campus. The growing competition in the arena of higher learning today would likely impact on plans to establish a university at Cornwall.

 Harry Valentine – Cornwall Ontario(Comments and opinions of Editorials, Letters to the Editor, and comments from readers are purely their own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the owners of this site, their staff, or sponsors.)


Cornwall Free News


  1. Thank You ,very interesting

  2. A good model to look at is the University of Ontario and Durham College, where they are both on the same campus and provide back end economies of scale.
    There are economic benefits to having an institute of higher learning that can provide degrees up to PHD level on our doorstep, and by aligning the university with the college, it provides prospective students with options, and also benefits the community by bringing an influx of higher paid professions, that in turn will hopefully spend in Cornwall, live in Cornwall, and that in conjunction with an influx of students will boost the economy.
    The only question is where to get the infrastructure money from

  3. Stephen, I don’t believe the trickle down theory will apply to Cornwall. Far too many people go out of town to shop, either in the US or Ottawa and Montreal. Those people in higher paying professions seem to prefer to shop elsewhere to get a wider variety of choice and bragging rights.

  4. great letter harry….right as usual. the group behing this initiative would be able to provide real assistance to the students if they gave them relocation money to the west for the 80% who find out after they graduate that they are only needed here if they speak fluent french.

  5. Great letter Harry ,thought provoking.

  6. The boomer’s echo generation ended in 2001, meaning that since 1992 there has been a gradual decline in the number of natural births in Canada. This means the rate of university enrolment will drop significantly over the next 10-20 years while universities (mostly in urban settings) will compete with each other for new students (international students) or males, as today’s universities are filled with females.

    Can Cornwall afford to have empty seats after establishing such an undertaking?

  7. Author

    Jimmy I think there are two natural voids to fill. A use for Nav Can which would make an amazing campus. And the need for higher education in Cornwall. I met with Mr. Benson months ago about this. I and other media were asked to keep the project quiet until it they were able to make an official announcement.

    There are different types of Universities and I shared with Mr. Benson that I thought a research facility would be ideal here in Cornwall as it could be cosy and any achievements would highlight our city as well as those that discovered them. I’ve also heard talk of having a discount university and of course a bilingual one.

    With advances in technology I think we can create something special. My one concern is that if it’s the same people only working with their same cronies and not making this exciting potential addition to our community as INCLUSIVE as possible we will be losing a huge opportunity for success.

  8. Good points. Very interesting. Time to bring professor Foote back to talk to Cornwall about the impacts and opportunities of the demographic shift and the new economy of Canada, which is increasingly service and technology oriented. We need thinkers like you, Jamie, as well as our online community.

  9. Does the City know about our online community? It’s a great resource.

  10. Author

    Jimmy the city this year has spent more dollars having their legal firm monitor CFN than they did advertising with us in 2011. Methinks they’re aware of our content and commentators 🙂

  11. oldest story in the book…reigning aristocracies usually bring about their own defeat because they self-construct the cages

  12. Author

    ….as history has shown again and again….

  13. A university would be great for this city. Thinking it could bring big changes on many fronts. Just a question here. Didn’t the college come close to closing at one time for lack of students? Just asking.

  14. I’ve come across families who have children in high school . . . who are also registered in a post-secondary program offered through distance learning. The cost of post-secondary education is increasing . . . fewer families can afford to send their children to an out-of-town institution. Distance learning costs less and I’ve come across teenagers who completed a bachelor’s degree shortly after completing their high school program.

    Given the wide range of interests among high school students, a local university could only offer a few programs that can attract sufficient numbers of students.

    While some distance learning programs do their course testing online or use “take-home” exams, some exams require proctoring at a educational institute. I know several students who registered with Athabasca University back during the 1990’s and had to go to Ottawa where university personnel were willing to proctor exams.

    There are significant changes occurring in primary, secondary and post secondary education. More children are being home-schooled and being accepted into prestigious post-secondary institutions (after passing the entrance exams). In some prestigious institutions in the USA, academic achievement is only part reason to accept and applicant . . . . there is a wide range of other non-academic factors that determine acceptance.

    The concept of a university at Cornwall looks good on paper. Let us recall the late 1990’s when high-tech boomed . . . then collapsed. JDS Fitel in Ottawa saw their employment drop from 11,000 down to around 300. Nortel went bankrupt, as did many other high-tech companies. Any number of former high-tech employees with university degrees started driving taxi, truck or OC Transpo while others went to work as waiters, waitresses, parking lot attendants, chefs, janitors, retail clerks and cashiers.

    We have a shortage of qualified and apprentice tradespeople across Ontario . . . and we have a government that has been putting roadblocks in the way of potential apprentices. The famous American lawyer, Clarence Darrow learned his trade by working for an established lawyer who later elevated him to the post of apprentice.

    Perhaps there will be need for more discussion on the subject of access to post-secondary education and related job training in this community . . . . in some areas, I am of the view that the provincial government has screwed up.

  15. Great letter Harry . I commend Mr Benson and others on his team for their efforts ..however keep in mind ..we are in Cornwall here .. Our council can’t even make a decision on PIGEONS .. How many tiring feasibility studies will there be for a university. Once all the money is spent on ‘STUDIES” there will be no coin left for a university. The only hope you have is to get that university built in Le Village and hopefully close to the waterfront because these are the favoured groups for studies and funding .Don’t count on having your names on any dorm or research building anytime soon ..nor in your childrens or grandchildrens lives either .. remember .. this is Cornwall where ..as reported in our local paper today, boasts that we have more mininium wage workers than most remote northern communities …are you proud yet ?

  16. I don’t think that Cornwall has the population for it,We have a high senior population & a high welfare population,add on Cornwall,s history of failures to lure anything bigger than call centres or distribution centers.Present honour kids are already enrolled ,Our college combined with that & previous low enrollment almost closed,the french college did close.RN’s already being turned out for jobs in the States.Even if the money comes from OLA funding…remember this is Cornwall with old fuddy duddies running our city,until they get the boot nothing will change.

  17. Nobody will come here to go to school. Few here will be able to afford it. My kids will take their Bachelors degrees online and then they can go to university. Many kids are opting to stay here and take distance learning from the several degree programs at St. Lawrence already. This idea of starting a university is a ridiculous move by a few to get their name on a building as they feel their mortality creeping ever more insisiously towards them. Son.

  18. I would acknowledge all who have contributed to this discussion.

    Stephen’s contribution has merit . . . in Oshawa that is also the eastern turn-around station for the GO Transit (Metrolinx) commuter trains. A local graduate from Ontario University has access to a massive job market, courtesy of the regional transit system. In Cornwall, university graduates have the choice of public sector jobs in Cornwall (mainly teaching) or commuting to Ottawa.

    In the general economy, high-tech boomed due to a massive influx of government funding before it went bust during the late 1990’s and more recently. More recently and due to a similiar massive influx of government funding, the renewable energy sector boomed and due to government fiscal cutbacks that result from te worldwide economic slowdown, green-tech is now on the decline.

    At the present day, China graduates 9 to 10-times the number of new scientists and engineers as the USA. India’s Institute of Technology has been ranked by the US high-tech sector as being on-par with America’s leading school of engineering. High-tech and related industries are still thriving in India and in China.

    Given the new reality of easy access to low-cost online learning and the sheer number of engineers and scientists across China and India, the question begs to be asked as to what subjects will be taught at a university in Cornwall?

  19. A university would be a nice addition but the education system supplying post secondary education here is greatly flawed.

    We currently have a small growth of logistic companies here in the Cornwall area, yet we have abosuluely no technical support to serve for a portion of the maintencnce department.

    In high schools we can produce academic students to fill teaching programs, engineering programs or other university programs. What we do not have or have in limited capacity are trades oriented or hands on technology programs. Even if the student opts for university a solid techprogram in high school would suply a better hands on approach. Take a look a the local high schools, you have auto-mechanics, welding, and food prep or hair dressing and even some cabinetry courses. Very limited and by in no means capable of providing a student insight into automation which is what the majority of manufacturing runs with today.

  20. Good point Hailey

    Most of the occupations in the workforce today do not require a college or university education . . . . people receive “on the job” training. The local college will be offering a course on transportation logistics . . . . hopefully the graduates of this 18-week program will be hired by the distribution companies that operate in Cornwall

    Major changes are expected in the world of maritime transportation over the next 5-years. Depending on some officials of the area conservation authority, a shallow-draft barge port that handles shipping containers, could be built at one of 3-possible locations along the south shore of South Glengarry. Except that a few of the conservation authority’s personnel were quite anti-progress in the not too distant past.

    Kids seeking some or training into some simulation automation programs or simulation transportation logistics programs, they may be better off getting a computer-based program and playing with that. Perhaps some programmers who develop computer games, could develop teaching games . . . to teach the game player about industrial automation or about some aspects of transportation operational logistics.

    While the local college did offer a training program for game developers, perhaps there may be CD gamer-developer-training-programs that may allow a prospective game developer to acquire the essential skills of that trade, via some form of home-based, learner-paced instructional program

  21. harry
    I just went through that with the local high schools as I am considering a career change.

    The unfortunate thing is the schools have a closed box, they only do what they think is needed yet have nobody that has ever worked in industry nor expereinced the industrial work ethic making students the loosers.

    Take a look at how a teacher is considered qualified, all they need to is take a course in most cases it is an online course so they can continue to teach what they are learning on line. I am not sure any other career would call that a qualification.

    It is my belief if you are going to teach you should have experience in what you teach.

    Book smart is ok, but I;llbet Bernoulli did not ormulate his therom with out a little trial and error or expereince.

    In short our kids are not getting an education as the educators are not truly qualified

  22. Hi Hailey,

    You’ve raised a very valid point. If you were a high school teacher, you teach whatever the principal assigns you to teach . . . as a result, many teachers are 1-lesson ahead of the students. There is certainly much to be said for “hands-on” learning and for practical experience. Unfortunately, we have too much politics involved in education . . . to the detriment of the learners.

    I’ve heard complaints from people in industry about the new recruits who arrive with a college diploma . . . . they advise that the apprentices from an earlier period who acquired their skill “hands-on” while under the guidance of an experiences worker, were well ahead of the new recruits.

    I know motor vehicle mechanics who were well versed on the older who admit having to consult computer programs and mechanics’ manuals to guide them when undertaking repairs on the modern vehicles. They admit that an apprentice who could read the guidelines in a manual or follow the instructions from a computer graphic illustrations, could do as good a job as an old veteran.

    We have a situation occurring in both Canada and the USA where only a minority of college and university graduates are actually getting jobs in their fields of qualifications. Those getting hired are invariably graduates of professional programs such as nursing, health care, technology, engineering and related applied sciences and applied mathematics.

    I hope that you could find an online program that could assist you in gaining some background in your future career.

  23. As I progress in my endeavour to understand education I find more and more thatour system of education is busted.

    Recently wehn asking the Ottawa area about programs and meeting the labour markets needs it was explained that schools offer courses based on what students request. Students are asked to select their courses during the year, then the Principal creates a timetable to meet those requests….

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