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University hopes to fill need for French instruction in southwestern Ontario

Photo by Sean Marshall 

The University of Ottawa recently announced plans to petition the provincial government to create a satellite campus in Woodstock, Ont.

The partnership comes in response to recommendations made by an expert panel to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. According to the ministry, enrolment at French language schools in central and southwestern Ontario sees frequent drops in the intervals between primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.

This is partly due to “deficiencies in access to French-language programs at the post-secondary level,” according to a ministry report.

A U of O satellite campus in the region is a possible solution, said president Allan Rock.

“As Ontario’s flagship bilingual research-intensive university, we are committed to meeting the needs of Francophones and Francophiles,” Rock said in a press release.

The post-secondary attendance rate of Francophone students in the region is the highest in Ontario — central and southwestern Ontario is home to one third of the province’s Francophone community yet there is no major French-language institution in the region.

The ministry’s recommendation inspired a similar proposal last year by MPP Monte McNaughton.

McNaughton, who represents Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, suggested establishing a French-language satellite campus in Strathroy or Chatham-Kent.

“I am just ecstatic that they are coming out to southwestern Ontario,” he said about the new proposal. “It has been something that I have been championing since I was elected two and a half years ago.”

Woodstock’s mayor has also expressed support.

“Downtown Woodstock has all the necessary ingredients to quickly create a dynamic university campus and city council is excited by this opportunity to further revitalize the downtown,” said Mayor Pat Sobeski.

Woodstock’s city council has offered Reg Hall as a residence building which would begin accommodating about 1,000 students, with hopes of accommodating 10,000 by 2020.

Woodstock city council is scheduled to meet in September to further discuss what commitments it is willing to make to the U of O.