The Francophone University of Ontario combines old dreams and new pedagogy
Francophones in Ontario have been waiting a very, very long time. But in September 2021, the wait was finally over with the opening of a university “by and for” the French-speaking population in Canada’s largest province. It complements the existing French-language education system in the province, which ranges from early childhood to higher education.
The University of French Ontario (UOF) is located in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, home to a growing global and intercultural hub where all Francophones are represented. With nearly 620,000 Francophones in Ontario and the growth of Francophone immigration to Canada, the UOF is the unifying option for Francophones, as it trains a new generation of leaders.
Building a tradition of university studies in French in central and southwestern Ontario is essential to ensure the sustainability of the Francophone community in Ontario. It means having the UOF recognized as a major player for everyone, making it a gathering place for the knowledge and leadership of Francophones and Francophiles in the region, and becoming the indispensable ally that the community has always wanted. Francophones in Canada, who are also bilingual or multilingual, will develop skills that match the needs of today’s workplace through UOF’s programs and innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
The first cohort
Our ongoing student recruitment work is centered on raising awareness about UOF to maximize the number of people who choose to attend our university. The focus is on young Ontarians attending the province’s French-language high schools, but we also reach out to the broader global Francophone community.
In its first year of operation, UOF attracted nearly 150 students to enroll in one of its bachelor’s or micro-certificate programs. That said, UOF is still in its eight-year start-up phase. Like any new educational institution, the university needs time to promote its programs and recruit a critical mass of students. The university will be in a better position to talk about its impact on the community as we progress through the start-up phase to 2027.
Transdisciplinarity and experiential approach
The complexity of the times we live in demands a more holistic approach to education. The UOF offers programs aimed at better understanding our modern world and its ever-changing challenges. We see the university as an innovative institution focused on creating and mobilizing knowledge in French to train the leaders of tomorrow.
To achieve this, UOF has adopted a transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. Our teaching philosophy is based on inductive and experiential teaching strategies. Courses, internships and workshops allow students to develop knowledge and skills that facilitate their transition to employment and social engagement.
Through transdisciplinary programs, UOF allows its students to navigate disciplines that are no longer seen as silos of independent study but rather as complementary to other disciplines. Classes are problem-based rather than topic-based.
The university offers four undergraduate programs: Urban Environments; human plurality; economy and social innovation; and digital cultures, all based on the humanities or social sciences and aligned with some of the major issues of our time. The university is already working to add other programs in the coming years, including a Bachelor of Education to address the shortage of French-speaking teachers in Ontario.
UOF has collected best practices from its peers, such as the idea of having small class sizes, focusing on a transdisciplinary approach to learning, opting for innovative programs and ensuring that its students are involved in the community.
We will continue to build on these strategies, modernizing and reinventing our educational model to foster excellence and train generations of leaders and workers.
Pierre Ouellette is rector and vice-chancellor of the University of French Ontario.
the Times Higher Education The Young Universities Rankings 2022 will be released at 10:00 GMT on February 15.