The provincial government has introduced proposed legislation to establish the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) and Université de Hearst (Hearst) as independent, standalone degree-granting institutions.
“NOSM and Hearst provide specialized and important educational opportunities in Northeastern Ontario. They are ready to take the next step in their development and maturity as institutions,” said Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano. “This new independence will ensure that each institution has the autonomy to grow in ways that more effectively support the access to quality education for students and communities in the region.”
NOSM opened in 2005 and is currently a not-for-profit corporation of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and Laurentian University in Sudbury. Université de Hearst (Hearst) was founded in 1953 and has been an affiliate of Laurentian University since 1963.
As affiliated post-secondary institutions, NOSM and Hearst already operate largely independently, the province stated while adding that both institutions are unique compared to other affiliates across Ontario as they already receive direct funding from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.
The proposed legislation, if passed, would provide the institutions with independent governance and administration, and will empower them to expand and explore offering more programs in new communities across Northern Ontario, officials said in a statement issued on Thursday. It would also provide a pathway for the institutions to grant their own degrees, the statement read.
“With the Université de Hearst, Ontario now boasts two French-language universities, run by and for Francophones, which will undoubtedly strengthen the opportunities for Ontarians to learn, live and thrive in the language of their choice,” added Minister of Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney.
The announcement comes amid Laurentian’s struggles with bankruptcy which has led to several programs and staff being cut.
According to government data, in 2020-21, NOSM had nearly 460 full-time students enrolled at its two campuses in Northern Ontario while Hearst had approximately 160 full-time students enrolled at its three campuses in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Timmins.