Ontario’s community colleges want to rename their three-year diplomas to “degrees”, arguing that the current title belittles the credentials given to students and makes prospective students hesitant to take courses they are interested in. The question is, do three-year college programs  merit the status given to university programs? Ontario’s community colleges seem to think so. Sheridan has been lobbying the current government for consideration of this initiative. Ontario is one of the only provinces where three-year college programs yield diplomas, rather than degrees. Those in favour of the change say college diplomas require the same skills as university programs and are more hands-on. Not everyone agrees with the change. “I don’t think it’s fair that college students would have the same degrees as those of us paying higher tuitions here at UTM,” says Jordan Tranquada, a  third-year philosophy student. In the same vein, university students are worried that potential jobs requiring university qualifications would go to college graduates instead. “This change would definitely increase the competition outside in the real world,” says fifth-year student Safra N. “It’s already competitive enough, so I don’t think the change is taking all students into consideration.” Some diploma programs have already expanded into degree programs, for example many of Sheridan’s arts programs (e.g., animation and illustration); others are in transition (e.g., musical theatre). Sheridan’s short-term plan is to become “Sheridan University”, like OCAD and Ryerson did a while back. Sheridan wants to repurpose itself as a teaching and applied skills university, allowing for more undergraduate and professional graduate degree programs. “Advanced diplomas are similar to three-year degrees; they’re just taught with a more practical experience and conductive learning experience due to a smaller class size,” says Ashley Churchill, a fourth-year sociology student who has taken both college and university courses. “If it would help someone out, I’m in favour of the change.” “I can sum it up in three words: unwarranted credential envy,” says Michael Jones, a Sheridan professor and program coordinator for the UTM/Sheridan joint program in communication, culture, and information technology. “Adding theory to applied arts degrees has been met with some dissatisfaction by some faculty and students who prefer the more applied-arts-perspective diplomas, and some of this has been done through more advanced general elective courses—which can be quite demanding, but at the same time exist outside the core curriculum, which means many don’t see these courses as important.” Jones said that the benefit is that students graduate with a degree that continues to have a popular perception as being “better” than a diploma. Although he thinks the change is a good idea, he said college degrees should be more “teaching-focussed”. “That’s what colleges do best,” said Jones. “Universities aren’t particularly career-focussed, and it’s arguable whether they should even try to be.”


  1. I wouldn’t disagree. I am currently a UTM student in the midst of a career change. Previously though, I was a student at Sheridan, I did my three year advance diploma in Business. The funny thing about it is it’s true, I was more prepared leaving Sheridan, I graduated, and landed a job right there after. Compared to a friend who had left UTM and still had to go to Sheridan to take extra courses after to be able to qualify to take his CHRP designation test.

  2. Why must one be lesser than the other? Both have their own focus, and should be differentiated appropriately. No change will come from this, a simple google search and your employers will know whether you graduated from a reputable institution or not. If they simply used the degree/diploma as the deciding factor, you’d probably wouldn’t walk to work for them anyway.

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