The University of Toronto’s teachers college is phasing out its bachelor of education degree, choosing to pour its full resources into graduate education programs that it says lead to a greater range of career options.

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) will stop admitting students to its BEd program in 2015. That degree was already up for an overhaul after the provincial government promised to extend it from one to two years and halve the number of graduates produced, in an effort to stem a perceived oversupply of new teachers.

But the faculty instead decided that it should focus on growing its master’s programs, which Dean Julia O’Sullivan thinks offer a more “unique contribution to the profession.”

The move is partly a nod to the province’s current push on “differentiation,” which is expected to press schools to focus more on their strengths. And it is believed to make OISE the lone education faculty in Canada that offers only graduate programs.

Rather than spreading OISE’s current 1,167 BEd students over two years under the new system, the faculty persuaded the province to convert those spots to 500 new master’s spaces, on top of the 200 the school already has. After the change, OISE will host about 700 master’s students, graduating 350 each year, as well as some doctoral students.

The shift, which won approval on Friday, will mean admitting fewer students, and will curb the number of BEd spaces available in Ontario – something the government has encouraged.

But it is “revenue neutral all around,” Ms. O’Sullivan said. The province will provide the same funding, and because master’s tuition fees are higher – about $9,200 annually for two years compared with $6,500 each year for the BEd – OISE’s revenues will stay steady.

The school has been offering a master of teaching and a master of arts in child study and education for a dozen years. Graduates of both degrees are licensed to teach, but many “go on to careers beyond the school system,” Ms. O’Sullivan said. “They work in health, they work in the private sector,” for instance at professional development consultancies. Both programs are more oriented toward research and policy than the bachelor’s program.

The university expects faculty teaching in the BEd program will be able to shift to master’s teaching, as the programs offer the same teacher licensing, said U of T provost Cheryl Regehr. But Ms. O’Sullivan said OISE is still has to “figure out some of the implications” for overall staffing.

Dr. Regehr believes that there will continue to be great demand for BEd programs at other universities, but she expects other students “will be interested in this other kind of a degree that allows them to teach in the school system, but also prepares them for other kinds of careers as well.”

The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, May. 02 2014, 6:17 PM EDT
Last updated Friday, May. 02 2014, 6:21 PM EDT