Is media coverage biased in favour of universities over colleges?

The media are biased in their coverage of higher education in Canada, favouring universities over colleges. That was the contention of Anne Sado, president of George Brown College in Toronto, speaking at the Worldviews 2013 conference on media and higher education held at the University of Toronto near the end of June. “I’m not here to challenge whether university or college education is better,” said Ms. Sado. However, “I do feel there is bias around coverage between universities and colleges.”

Ms. Sado was speaking as part of a panel discussion, alongside University of Toronto President David Naylor and journalists Simona Chiose, education editor at the Globe and Mail, and Louise Brown, education reporter at the Toronto Star.

“I think there is an opportunity for the media to make sure there is a recognition of a much broader range of postsecondary options than perhaps there was at one point in time,” Ms. Sado said. “We have “two robust streams of education. Students choose their pathways based on many needs and interests. Some choose colleges, some choose universities.” At George Brown, she noted, 20 percent of students have completed a university credential and another 11 percent have some pervious university experience. “We’re told they come to use for our practical and applied programs that lead to jobs.”

And yet, “I feel the media do continue to emphasize universities in their reporting. There are far more experts from universities that are quoted when discussing many, many subject areas. I feel the perspective of colleges is often overlooked.”

Ms. Sado gave the example, among others, of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, an “incubator” program for student-led digital media start-ups. That program has had “well over 100 media mentions” over the last year, she said. “We have a digital media and gaming incubator at our college – not mentioned once.”

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