Jason Ellis

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Education policy
history of education

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology



Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

Projects related to my current research: history of education and social mobility, opportunity; education and housing markets; political economy of metropolitan schooling; policy; space and historical GIS mapping; history of immigration and education; history of educational finance and taxation. Or any project in the history of education; education policy.

  • Interested in history of education or in policy studies in education;
  • Background (degree or minor concentration) in history or history of education.


I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

From "friendly relations" to differential fees: a history of international student policy in Canada since World War II (2020)

This dissertation examines the development of policy related to international undergraduate students in Canada since the end of the Second World War. It draws on archival materials from the federal, British Columbia, and Ontario governments, and seven institutions: the University of Toronto, Carleton University, Wilfrid Laurier University, Seneca College, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The dissertation unearths the initial proto-policies developed by non-governmental agencies that provided services for international students, and examines how the priorities of these service groups were inherited by institutions as the organizations were formally incorporated into universities and colleges. It follows these early policy makers as they responded to international students’ own emerging consciousness, and the transition of students from welcome visitors to dangerous possible immigrants in the eyes of Members of Parliament. Out of this new context emerged differential tuition fees, which were first contested, then embraced by institutions. As differential fees became normalized, they reshaped institutions, driving them to dramatically expand recruitment efforts of international students. The dissertation concludes by examining another unintended emerging policy, as Canadian immigration policy and international student recruitment efforts combine to situate post-secondary institutions as immigrant selectors. In the process, the dissertation demonstrates the development of international student policy in Canada was uneven and reactive. Policy was crafted informally at the institutional level, or by non-governmental actors, and then formalized by institutions or governments when convenient. Although policies emerged fitfully, Canadian policy makers adopted policies only when beneficial for Canada and Canadian institutions, either politically or economically. Yet international student policies were consistently framed as an expression of the “internationalism” of Canadian higher education. However, the different attitudes towards international students embedded in policy demonstrate competing conceptions of internationalism at the institutional and government level. Finally, the dissertation argues that contemporary policy regarding international students, including the 2014 development of a Federal international education strategy, are not a break from this history but instead the culmination of decades of policy debates.

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Holding on while letting go : education, politics, and Yukon public schools, 1960-2003 (2019)

This dissertation presents a history of Yukon’s public school system between 1960 and 2003 – a history that is inseparable from Yukon’s colonial history as a territory of Canada. This period witnessed a devolution of power from the federal government to the Yukon government that resulted in a shift of the day-to-day political tensions and disputes in Yukon moving from a federal-territorial orientation to a territorial-local one. Two key themes are consistently present in Yukon’s political and educational history. The first is the tension between centralization and devolution of power between levels of government. The second is the confidence required by each level of government to devolve or accept power. Key developments of Yukon’s linked constitutional and educational development serve to periodize the history. The creation of the Advisory Committee on Finance in 1960, the appointment of elected Yukon Council members to the territorial Executive Committee in 1970, the arrival of responsible and representative government to Yukon in 1979 via the Epp Letter, the passage of the Education Act in 1990, and the final devolution of programs and services from the federal government (along with an updated Yukon Act) in 2003 all serve as events that show significant shifts in (or the potential to shift) the transfer of power from the federal, through the territorial, to the local level. Textual documentary sources including federal and territorial government documents and reports, correspondence, newspaper articles, and legislative documents were the primary source materials used to write this dissertation.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

'We educate wayward girls here': educational policy regarding teen mothers in Vancouver, 1959-2019 (2020)

Prior to 1973, unwed and pregnant adolescents in British Columbia had few educational options. The shame of out of wedlock pregnancy, to say nothing of school administrators’ intolerance of students in such a condition, did not permit mothers to continue their public schooling. Courts placed pregnant adolescents under the juvenile offenses’ “incorrigibility” or “unmanageability” at the Willingdon School for Girls, a training facility for rehabilitation of delinquent girls. Some pregnant teens were sent to the United Church Home for Girls, a maternity home in Burnaby. These institutions closed in 1973. In 1982, another approach to the pregnant teen emerged when the Vancouver School Board opened the Tupper Mini School, an alternative program for teen mothers. This program continues to exist under the name Heron’s Nest Education Centre for Young Parents. This thesis uses archival material and the historical method to understand the educational objectives of the various British Columbia educational institutions that dealt with young unwed mothers and how policy reforms affected these objectives between 1959 and 2019. Early institutions focused on what they perceived to be the young mothers’ need for rehabilitation and moral education. The Willingdon School for Girls emphasized instruction in proper social behaviour as a means of rehabilitating them to their acceptable place in society. The United Church Home’s message reinforced the importance of establishing a nuclear, Christian family and traditional gender roles that kept women at home. As these institutions closed the moral concern of pregnancy lingered into the next decade; however, the social stigma began to be associated as a financial concern. As teen pregnancy became increasingly visible, the public became concerned with the demands on the taxpayer involved in supporting teens on social assistance. This concern resulted in the initiation of the Tupper Mini program. This program sought to teach teen mothers the skills needed to support themselves independently upon graduation. Although this program continues to exist as Heron’s Next Education Centre for Young Parents, it is reminiscent of the past because the policy language continues to address young mothers as ‘at-risk’ rather than students who happen to have children.

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