Did the roadmap for differentiation was first proposed in the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario’s (HEQCO’s) 2010 report The Benefits of Greater Differentiation of Ontario’s University Sector (Weingarten & Deller) and the subsequent framework created by MTCU in 2013 yield differentiated SMAs for SMA2?
I used a corpus-based critical discourse analysis to interpret the data in six key sections of each university’s SMA2 in relation to the corpus itself.
Corpus Linguistics word-lists and concordance links were used to computationally quantify and qualitatively analyze six specific sections of SMAs. Word-lists provide insight into the frequency of the use of terms, where concordance allows for analysis of words in context, because unlike word-lists, the linkages are depicted to allow for words (or groups of words) to be studied in their more or less immediate environment. Voyant-Tools’ Terms table and Links graph were used to determine selected content words’ collocations and meaning signified by the words’ semantic lexical relationships.
I started with the ranked word-lists for each section, the analysis then identified where specific SMA2s were differentiated from the corpus for that section.
More on the basics of the SMA2 document structure can be found in this post Ontario SMA2’s Basic Document Structure.
Vision, Mission and Mandate
Most SMA2s had similar themes to the corpus itself, though the word length or proportion of the SMA2 for this section varied from Wilfrid Laurier University’s 4%, the most common 6% (McMaster University, Queen’s University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, University of Windsor, and York University) to OCADu which had the longest section at 1441 words. It was also proportionally the longest, representing 18% of their SMA2.
Universities were differentiated from corpus through a number of themes. Foci on teaching themes over research were reflected in three SMAs: Algoma University’s did not mention research, Trent University and the University de Hearst had teaching and pedagogical themes that were more prevalent than the corpus. The student experience or perspective was greater in York University’s as “student” was the second most prevalent word. The pronoun “we” was the most used word and started many of York University’s statements, describing the university’s attributes as being of the people associated with the university. Western University proclaimed the best student experience for a several areas, including discovery, research and other areas.
Other SMAs were differentiated by the prominence of a single topic: Brock University and community, Carleton University and regional items, Nipissing University and indigenous, OCADu and design, Queen’s University and exceptional or excellence, the University of Guelph and science, the University of Ottawa and French, the University of Ottawa and experience, the University of Toronto and global rankings, and the University of Windsor and their commitments to a number of topics and stakeholders. Notable by the lack of prominence was the theme of research in Algoma University’s and Lakehead University’s SMA2s’.
Thematically, all SMA2s were similar in this section. None were differentiated by omission and there were only a few instances of extra prominence. Career themes were more prominent for Brock University and Wilfrid Laurier University. International students were prominent within Trent University’s section. The University of Toronto’s section focused on sexual violence or harassment and international students. It was also the second shortest section by word count and proportion.
Innovation in Teaching and Learning Excellence
This section made up the smallest proportion of Brock University’s SMA at 9%, 800 words, and the most of Lakehead University’s at 21%, 3,396 words. Brock University, McMaster University, and York University had a stronger focus on experience than the rest of the section corpus. Queen’s University focused on the spirit of inquiry. The University of Waterloo focused on co-op. UOIT/OUT focused on online courses and online resources. There was no differentiation in the form of themes that one SMA2 omitted.
Access and Equity
Brock University again had the shortest section at 6%, 545 words, and Nipissing University had the longest proportionally at 19%, 1,559 words, less than York University’s 1,651 words and Lakehead University’s 2,368 words. The third most referenced word across the corpus was indigenous. All SMAs included this theme, most with high prominence with Algoma University specifically referring to the Anishinaabe and Brock University having indigenous as a primary theme in a short section. Université de Hearst and the University of Ottawa had a greater discussion of access for French speakers.
Research Excellence and Impact
The Université de Hearst had the shortest section, 6% and 516 words, and the University of Windsor had the longest at 21%, 3,497 words. Most SMA2s were similar to the corpus. Extra significance was placed on community or region by Brock University, Lakehead University, Université de Hearst, and Wilfrid Laurier University. Industry was more prominent with Ryerson University, but partnerships were also significant for the University of Guelph, Carleton University and OCADu. McMaster focused on rankings, and health as a topic. OCADu had a greater focus on art and design. The University of Guelph focused on health and food. The University of Windsor focused on the international border and the Great Lakes. Western University had interdisciplinary as the second most frequent word. It was notable that the corpus had students as the fourth most frequent word, but it was very infrequently used by Western University and Wilfrid Laurier University.
Innovation, Economic Development and Community Engagement
Nipissing University had the shortest section at 6% of total, 484 words, the shortest section of Nipissing SMA2 by half. York University had the longest at 19% of the total, 2,460 words and the University of Toronto had the second most at 18%, 1,302 words, in the shortest SMAs of all. There were no notable omissions, but universities were differentiated by their foci. Brock University focused more on its region than others, as did Nipissing University and Queen’s University. Lakehead University, Laurentian University and the Université de Hearst focused on development. McMaster focused on health, but did not mention the fifth most frequently used word in the corpus “students”. Ryerson University described their “zones” in one of the longer sections. The University of Guelph focused on food. The University of Ottawa, the University of Waterloo and York University had a greater focus on entrepreneurship.
There is evidence of some differentiation, and most of us would be able to blindly identify the institution described in a random section. But the themes discussed are mostly the same, and differences were limited.