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Collective Autonomy

A History of the Council of Ontario Universities, 1962-2000

By Edward Monahan
Subjects History, Canadian History, Education
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Hardcover : 9780889204430, 256 pages, May 2004


Chronicles the rise and decline of Ontario universities from the halcyon 1960s to the Common Sense Revolution through the history of its planning association, the Council of Ontario Universities.

Collective Autonomy: A History of the Council of Ontario Universities, 1962-2000 is the first full-length account of an organization that has played a major role in the development of the university system in Ontario. Edward J. Monahan served as the council’s chief executive officer for over fifteen years. This is his insider’s account, enhanced by archival material, of the key role the universities played in planning the high academic quality of the Ontario provincial university system.

Collective Autonomy traces the evolution of Ontario universities over a period of forty years, from the halcyon days of the 1960s, during which massive injections of public funds transformed these institutions from ivory towers to public utilities, through the 1970s and ’80s when universities were downgraded as a government spending priority and problems began to develop. It concludes by looking at the problems created by the “Common Sense Revolution” and the resulting severe cutbacks in government grants to universities. It chronicles the efforts of the universities to preserve their autonomy while expanding their service to the common good, and their efforts to maintain the delicate balance between university autonomy and public accountability.


``Monahan has the ultimate insider's view of these developments [in the purpose of the COU and its relationship to various governments and their mandates over the years]. As president of Laurentian University between 1972 and 1977 he sat on the council, and between 1977 and 1991 he as its executive director. You would never know this by reading his text, which is unleavened by personal anecdotes. That said, this exhaustively researched and well-organized book represents another major accomplishment by a man who has had many over his long career. ''

- Ashley Thomson, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006

``Ontario's universities represent one of the most autonomous differentiated public systems in the world. How we have achieved this status and the important role that the Council of Ontario Universities has played in this development makes fascinating reading in Ed Monahan's history. ''

- Bob Rosehart, currently president of Wilfrid Laurier Universityin Waterloo, ON, and former president of Lakehead University inThunder Bay, ON, 1984-1997

``Until I read Monahan I had not heard the term `MacTwit group'; referring to McMaster, Toronto, Western Ontario, Queen's, and Waterloo, the self-identified research-oriented universities. The term seems more than apt. ...The. ..reader can learn much from this book about the nature and course of university-government relations in Ontario. ''

- Michiel Horn, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2004