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New Programs Expand Kingdom Impact

April 10, 2024

Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont., plans to launch new microcredentials, certificate programs, and graduate degrees, creating building blocks to diversify the institution’s academic program array.

Over the past decade, post-secondary education has seen a significant shift to nontraditional forms of learning. In 2020 the Government of Ontario announced a $59.5 million investment over three years to support microcredentials. This was a response to shortages in the labor market and the need for a faster turnaround for specific skills. A microcredential is a short, competency-based learning opportunity culminating in the recognition of completing the learning required in a specific area, skill, or competency.

While Redeemer is not eligible for that provincial funding, it too recognized that the needs of students and the marketplace are changing, so it began conversations to explore options for educational opportunities beyond traditional undergraduate degrees, such as microcredentials and certificates.

These options would result in Redeemer’s expanding its traditional audience of undergraduate students. They would also increase the university’s resource base through revenues, which go beyond those associated with tuition fees for the academic programs currently offered. New nontraditional programs would help meet industry and learner needs, expanding Redeemer’s kingdom impact while maintaining focus on Redeemer’s primary mission, vision, and Reformed Christian approach to learning.

“The post-secondary landscape continues to change, and young Christians continue to look for a wide variety of learning opportunities,” said vice president, academic Dr. Peter Neumann. “The goal is to begin offering programs that help to expand opportunities for more Christian students while preserving Redeemer’s foundation, which is the formative four-year undergraduate degree integrating faith, life, and learning on campus.”

In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated significant investment in classroom technology at Redeemer that allows for a future with more flexible course delivery. Later that same year, Redeemer gained provincial approval for greater degree-granting authority, allowing the university to grant 20 possible new degrees, including nine master’s degrees.

So how does a Christian university set out to offer more options to meet the needs of more Christian students? Neumann said that Redeemer must build the infrastructure, systems, and processes to be able to innovate for the future.

“We want to keep what we’re doing well, and to expand and build on that,” he said. Offering greater flexibility and accessibility to students who might have begun a career, have a family, or don’t have the ability to be on campus full-time will open up many new possibilities in the future. “We can’t launch these programs without having the roadway, the infrastructure, for this new type of student.”

As the shape of the local church changes post-pandemic, the need for church leaders to obtain knowledge and training increases. Redeemer is confident that it can serve learners in the greater Christian community through church leadership microcredentials.

“We have a constituency that is strongly connected to Redeemer,” said Neumann. “There’s a lot of goodwill through church support across a wide range of denominations, especially in the Reformed world.” 

He said the university isn’t looking to compete with seminaries but to offer supplemental church leadership microcredentials on topics that would serve church board members and ministry leaders. Biblical leadership, administration, pastoral care, human and legal resources, and denomination-specific microcredentials could be offered as early as this fall in a flexible format that allows learners to participate at their own pace online.

Microcredentials are intended to enhance skills, develop expertise, or provide certifications relevant to specific industries or professions, and to adapt quickly to changing trends and needs in various sectors. 

Redeemer also has plans for new academic programs for the 2024-25 academic year. Redeemer’s School of Business has seen significant growth in the past few years, and the recent addition of its bachelor of business administration degree has only strengthened that growth. 

Building a certificate program in not-for-profit management that makes use of courses Redeemer already offers or has offered in the past, but with more flexibility for students, is a natural fit. Courses in this certificate program will be offered online asynchronously, giving students the flexibility to learn at times during their day and week that are convenient for them while they continue completing courses within the term timeframe.

Certificate programs in other areas are also being explored. Once the infrastructure is in place to offer courses for new certificate programs online, Redeemer will be better prepared to undertake bigger program initiatives to attract even more students.

“We’re going to learn and develop infrastructure that doesn’t currently exist,” said Neumann. “And a year from now, we’re going to look back and have much more knowledge and experience. A lot of planning, thought work, and collaboration is happening with groups across the institution. We’re creating the stepping stones to take bigger steps.”

By fall 2025, Redeemer expects to be ready to offer its first graduate-degree programs. A committee of faculty and staff from various departments across the university has been meeting to discuss the infrastructure required to run master’s programs that set Redeemer apart. 

Initial talks have the committee looking at a master of business administration program as a starting point to launch Redeemer into graduate studies. Other master’s degrees that are being considered are in areas such as humanities, Reformed philosophy and thought, and counseling. A master of education program is also under consideration. 

“We’re really excited about what God is going to do next in terms of the degrees and programming Redeemer offers,” said Neumann. “We think God is really at work in leading us forward. Jesus has put it on the hearts of many to work in different fields, and that fits deeply with our mission to prepare students to reflect his love in every career and calling.”