Students in Canada are starting to be able to download software from their university’s student software repository to use in their classrooms.
In a statement on the Ottawa campus of the University of Ottawa, the school said students are allowed to access software from the student software project repository at no cost, although the university is not required to accept such downloads.
The announcement follows a report last year from the Canadian Association of Universities, which found that students at private colleges and universities were unable to access or purchase software from a repository maintained by the federal government, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
The CCPA’s report was based on a survey of 1,300 college and university students across the country, and found that only 6 per cent of respondents had access to university-issued software.
That compares to about half of private universities and colleges.
The CCAPA’s report is part of an ongoing project by the CCPA, which has been investigating software issues at the province’s private universities.
While the CCAPAA does not directly advocate for the inclusion of student software in universities’ offerings, the group is concerned that the lack of open access and availability of university software can lead to academic and economic harm.
CCPA president and CEO Michael Geist said he was pleased that Ottawa is recognizing the importance of student-managed software repositories, but stressed that students are still the primary users of the repository.
“Students should be able, when they choose to, to access the software that they want and to use it in the way that they need,” Geist told The Globe and Mail.
“They shouldn’t have to pay for access to software that the university has created for them.”
The new policy comes a few months after the Ottawa university introduced a policy that would require students to have the university’s permission to use their university-provided software, if they wanted to use that software for their own purposes.
In an emailed statement to The Globe, the university said it will provide students with the option to download the software for use by them, with the university responsible for ensuring that students receive no financial benefit from their use of that software.
“We have taken this opportunity to make it clear that students have the right to access and use the software, but we will continue to provide them with the tools to do so,” the statement said.