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Med school, Hearst U to become standalone universities

Province moves to pass legislation providing them degree-granting status
Northern Ontario School of Medicine at its Lakehead University campus in Thunder Bay. (File photo)

The province is taking measures to establish the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) and Université de Hearst as independent universities.

On April 15, the Ontario government indicated it's working to pass legislation that would give the two postsecondary institutions degree-granting status.

Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities, made the announcement in a news release, noting the “specialized and important educational opportunities” the two institutiones provide in northeastern Ontario.

“They are ready to take the next step in their development and maturity as institutions. 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,” he said.

“Hearst will become Ontario's second standalone French language university, joining the Université de l'Ontario français. NOSM will become more agile and nimble to the changing needs of students as they help tackle the need for doctors and other health human resources in Northern Ontario."

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The move comes just a few days after mass layoffs at Laurentian University in Sudbury as part of the insolvency process being undertaken under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

More than 100 professors and faculty were let go, and more than 60 programs at the school were cancelled on April 12.

Laurentian University filed for creditor protection in February, citing millions in accrued debt.

Ernst & Young is acting as the court-appointed monitor in the proceedings and is assisting the school in devising a restructuring plan.

The deadline to meet key components of that plan is April 30.

NOSM and Université de Hearst currently operate mostly independently and already receive funding from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, noted the province.

If the legislation is passed, the schools would gain independent governance and administration, and would have the ability to expand programming through the North.

Opened in 2005, NOSM is a not-for-profit corporation of Laurentian University and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. In 2020-2021, it had nearly 460 full-time students enrolled at the two campuses.

Université de Hearst (Hearst) was founded in 1953 and has been an affiliate of Laurentian University since 1963. In 2020-21, it had approximately 160 full-time students enrolled at its three campuses in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Timmins.