Is Seneca College Violating Ministry Standards?

| 25/01/2016

Seneca students potentially short-changed by over 25% of instructional hours

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities publishes system-wide program standards for all types of programs at Ontario post-secondary education institutions, indicating amongst other things their required vocational standards, essential employability skills, and general education requirements. The distinctions between standards for various levels of academic programs (e.g., diploma, degree, certificate) and the expectations for each type of credential are outlined in the 2010 Ontario Qualifications Framework, available at

One element of the standards for each program is the number of instructional hours required by the province for each particular credential. Given that several programs have seen cuts to instruction hours in the last year (under the auspices of V.P. Academic Joy McKinnon), and in light of rumours of further cuts, it is appropriate to compare the number of instruction hours provided in Seneca College’s various programs to the instructional hours dictated by the Ministry in the Qualifications Framework.

To begin with, the Framework stipulates that the “typical duration” of an Ontario College Diploma program is “four semesters or 1200-1400 equivalent instructional hours”. Let’s do the math to calculate where Seneca’s diploma programs fall in that range of instructional hours.

The Seneca website lists weekly teaching hours for all required courses in all of its programs (including General Education options) for the 2014/15 school year (although curiously, it fails to do so for the current academic year). From these numbers we can arrive at a total of the hours of instruction for each semester.

To do so, we multiply the number of weekly instructional hours associated each each course in a semester, multiply that number by the 13 weeks in which classes are held each semester, and then add two instructional hours per course for exam week.

Looking at the popular International Business diploma program, we can see that, upon graduation, students are expected to have taken a total of 22 courses, with a cumulative total of 73 weekly instructional hours (or average of 18.5 instructional hours per week).

Multiplying the weekly hours by the 13 weeks of classes per semester plus exam week, it appears that students of the International Business diploma program receive the following total instructional hours:

  • Semester One: 16 hours x 13 weeks + 10 exam hours = 218 instructional hours
  • Semester Two: 21 hours x 13 weeks + 12 exam hours = 285 instructional hours
  • Semester Three: 18 hours x 13 weeks + 10 exam hours = 244 instructional hours
  • Semester Four: 19 hours x 13 weeks + 12 exam hours = 278 instructional hours

The total is 1025 instructional hours15% below the minimum number of 1200-1400 instructional hours for Ontario College diploma programs specified in the Framework.

The 2014/15 curriculum for another diploma program, Police Foundations, saw students taking a total of 22 courses (with a cumulative 65 weekly hours of instruction) over the four semesters, for a total of 845 scheduled classroom hours plus 44 hours of exams… a grand total of 889 instructional hours, or 26% below the minimum 1200 instructional hours specified in the Ministry’s Framework.

Moving on to Advanced Diplomas, the Ministry’s Framework outlines that the typical duration of an Advanced Diploma program should be “Six semesters or 1800-2100 equivalent instructional hours”.

Seneca’s website indicates that, in the 2014/15 academic year, students in the Business Administration – Entrepreneurship and Small Business program were required to take a total of 33 courses (with a cumulative 104 weekly hours of instruction) over six semesters. This would result in a total of 1,352 classroom hours plus 66 exam hours, for a grand total of 1,418 instructional hours over six semesters – 21% or 382 instructional hours below the 1800 minimum stipulated for Advanced College Diplomas by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges, Universities and Training.

Caveats abound: students in co-op programs or field placements receive additional instructional hours, and students in highly technical programs often receive additional hours, whether in a lab or on a shop floor. Additionally, these figures assume an average of 2 hours per course for final exams, which may not be the case for all classes.

However, there are additional causes for concern: students whose classes fall on Mondays receive fewer instructional hours, whether due to holidays or, more recently, “Experience Seneca”.

It is somewhat difficult to identify the precise causes for Seneca’s apparent failure to comply with Ministry directives regarding typical instructional hours for diploma programs. It may be driven by a misguided notion that providing less instructional time for students to learn new material from professors will somehow improve retention and student success.

But the examples above, if correct, suggest that students in several Seneca College programs are denied instructional hours that are deemed appropriate by the Ministry. Several Seneca diploma programs appear to offer students literally hundreds of hours fewer than the Ministry’s Framework directs. These are hours to which we believe students are entitled.

The facts and calculations presented in this article are true to the best of our knowledge and based on information provided on Seneca College’s website. The publishers invite you to send feedback to We will be happy to publish any necessary corrections in our next edition of The Local.

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Category: Colleges, Workload

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