Does proximity trump value?

U of T needs to be clear on what we will be getting out of a Brampton facility


I’m sure I’m not the only person whose parents have told them that they used to travel long distances by foot to go to school when they were growing up.

So I guess we should be grateful that schools are coming closer to us with the development of online education and the recent news that Brampton might finally get its own postsecondary institution.

At long last, the many students who spend over an hour to commute to UTM from the city (including me) will now have the choice to earn their degrees closer to home.

Principal Deep Saini makes a good point when he says that it’s easier for someone to commute to downtown Toronto from Brampton than to Mississauga, which is much closer.

By transit, it can take up to two hours for someone to commute to UTM from the north end of Brampton. That’s two hours that a person could have spent studying or relaxing, and it surprises me that after all these years, things still haven’t improved.

So talk of having access to postsecondary education within Brampton itself is exciting, to say the least. But is that excitement well grounded?

Well, as we learn in a follow-up story on the issue this week, U of T’s own plans for Brampton are not as clear as the hype makes it sound.

First of all, U of T clarified that it’s not looking to build an actual “campus” in Brampton. Instead, the “facility” that they intend to build is supposed to act as a branch of UTM.

“What does that mean?” you might ask.

As this week’s article notes, U of T’s plans for a possible Brampton facility involve a reliance on “interactive videos” for learning. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble picturing a video accomplishing the kind of interaction that’s achieved through physical classrooms.

Granted, even today’s physical classrooms don’t always achieve a great degree of interaction between professors and students. That’s kind of hard with ever-increasing classroom sizes.

Also granted, Saini also said that videos wouldn’t be the exclusive method of instruction at the facility.

But to express interest in building a postsecondary facility in a city with a relatively large population of postsecondary students without actually planning to offer the same services that they’d receive elsewhere is highly disappointing at best, and a complete   rip-off at worst.

Yes, the Brampton facility with virtual learning would cost much less to build than an actual Brampton campus.

But if the savings in costs (and consequently, tuition fees, I would hope) translates to anything like the ratio of tuition fees to value of education we get here, at an actual university campus, then I would seriously wonder what kind of learning students would get from watching videos at a non-campus in Brampton.

I think I’d rather walk to a distant school if it meant getting an actual education.

It’s like Saini said: “You can’t do everything through interactive videos.”

No, you can’t. And greater access to university doesn’t necessarily mean greater education.