March 2021

Ontario colleges to independently offer baccalaureate programs

On Dec. 11, 2020, government passed a law allowing Ontario’s colleges of applied arts and technology (CAATs) to offer standalone baccalaureate programs in nursing. Before this change, students obtained baccalaureate degrees in nursing from universities (although many colleges offered students access to this education by collaborating with universities).

CNO's mandate is to protect the public, so whenever the Ministry of Health determines that a regulation change is needed, CNO identifies if it requires changes to regulatory mechanisms. In this case, CNO’s role was to ensure graduates of CAAT baccalaureate programs would be prepared to enter the profession and practice nursing safely, competently, and ethically.

Council decided that our current regulatory mechanisms would ensure patient safety. Like all nursing education programs in Ontario, CAAT programs must go through CNO’s Program Approval process and receive our Council’s approval before they are offered to students. Programs that do not meet the comprehensive standards are not approved.

Your feedback

As part of CNO’s standard practice for changes to regulation, we held a consultation period in October 2020. We received an impressive 5,407 responses from nurses, educators, students, nurse employers and others about CAATs offering standalone baccalaureate programs in nursing.

The majority of respondents expressed support for the change. Here were some common themes:

  • the impression that the changes might increase access to education programs, leading to increased numbers of nurses working in their own communities

  • underserviced practice areas, such as long-term care, might benefit from the change because the programs would bring more nurses to the sector

  • the advantages of a college education, which can include smaller class sizes and more hands-on learning

Those who did not support the changes were most commonly concerned that a college-based education is insufficient to prepare an RN to enter practice. Many said that the demands and complexities of current RN practice require a university education.

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback about this change. A summary of the responses we received begins on page 59 of this report, which Council received in December.

Have more questions about CNO’s role once the Ontario Ministry of Health determines a nursing regulations needs to be changed? Visit our FAQs about changing nursing regulation.
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