Accreditation and Aboriginal higher education: An issue of peoplehood


Accreditation and Aboriginal Higher Education: An Issue of Peoplehood


Mary Ann Naokwegijig-Corbiere

Department of Theory and Policy Studies

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto




his thesis asserts that an Aboriginal collectivity of some form ought to accredit any university degree program designated as Native-specific. Substantiation of this thesis rests principally on a critical analysis of policies that bear on Native higher education in Ontario. The author is concerned with three specific policies: the Ontario Aboriginal Education and Training Strategy (AETS); the federal government’s Indian Studies Support Program (ISSP); and the guidelines of Ontario’s Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB). The study reveals that the former two policies have limited potential for ensuring that Native-specific programs offered by universities serve those Aboriginal community goals related to survival as peoples. The constraints imposed by the PEQAB guidelines are identified as significant impediments to this goal.


The literature surveyed as part of the study is principally that pertaining to higher education and self-determination as articulated in the Native scholarly and political forums. This thesis relates this discourse to the notion of peoplehood. The author’s analysis also draws upon diverse interpretations of self-determination and the potential ramifications of the various definitions that scholars in other academic forums have considered.


The thesis juxtaposes those theoretical considerations with accounts of Aboriginal communities regarding their exclusion from the processes that have defined the university as a societal institution. Those accounts were obtained through interviews with eight individuals who work in two Native higher education sectors in Ontario: Aboriginal postsecondary institutes and Native-specific degree programs in universities. The author also utilizes data drawn from her own experiences over the course of several years in the latter context. Evident from those accounts is a deep conceptual divide between Native and academia’s views on the role and purpose of universities. That divide presents another challenge in the Aboriginal quest for self-determination and survival as peoples, and it necessitates a dialogic engagement between Native communities and academics if universities are to serve Native community goals in this regard. Aboriginal accreditation of Native-specific degree programs, apart from according appropriate recognition to the original peoples in their midst that some universities are striving to serve, would present an opportunity for such dialogue.

Higher Education Perspectives. ISSN: 1710-1530