In the 1990s, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) mandated undergraduate program review audits through the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV). These procedures were to be undertaken every 7 years for each program in Ontario universities, very much like the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS) review processes that had been in place for decades at the graduate level. In 2005, OCAV adopted undergraduate degree-level expectations (UDLEs) and asked for compliance with these six outcome statements from all member universities beginning in the June 2008 review cycle. We need to show that students are meeting these threshold, base-level expectations through each of our programs and we have five years in which to ensure that procedures are in place to guarantee this. Universities – and individual programs – are certainly free to exceed the basic expectations, and indeed Waterloo has added two of its own in order to further clarify its unique strengths for the public and its community.
The impetus for such outcomes-based assessment of programs included the fact that Canada is one of a very few countries without any clear statement of the meaning of its undergraduate degrees. Ontario decided to take the lead because it was becoming clear through such channels, such as the Rae Report, that if we did not clarify and institute our own quality measures, external forces would surely do so for us. The UDLEs were seen as a homegrown solution by the Vice-Presidents and as such, may be preferable to the kinds of quality control measures mandated in the U.K. or Australia, for example. At the same time as the UDLEs were created, so too were graduate degree-level expectations (GDLEs) for both masters and PhD.