Curious about post-secondary review

Looming changes to post-secondary education could become the most pivotal steps on the province’s path to self-sufficiency and New Brunswickers will begin giving their direction today with the release of a long-awaited discussion paper – Telegraph-Journal article today.

Changes to post-secondary education ‘pivotal’ to ‘self-sufficiency’? I am curious to read this discussion paper. The lead in to it one would think sets an impossibly high level of expectation.

Those who read this blog regularly will know that I remain somewhat skeptical about this process. Not that we don’t need reform and certainly not that we do not need a higher level of education in the workforce (we are already at one of the lowest levels in North America).

But, again, I am just curious as to the linkage between PS and SS.

History has shown that the more university graduates we churn out, the more that leave the province for greener pastures. To put it another way, in terms of raw numbers, we are graduating more post-secondary graduates than the workforce needs. If we crank up the numbers and encourage more NBers to take post-secondary, will we not be giving them more tools to leave the province?

I know that’s a silly argument. Education is too important. But I still think that we need to align industry development strategies with education strategies to try and limit graduate leakage to other provinces. Over the past 30 years or so, the New Brunswick government has spent tens of millions if not several hundred million educating Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia’s workforce. I have pointed out before that – at least until recently – British Columbia had the lowest level of university seats per capita of any province in Canada – and the highest level of university graduates in the workforce of any province in Canada. Why? Because they just imported their university educated workforce – at the expense of other provinces.

The other point I would make is that New Brunswick, despite the rhetoric, has been basically immune to any systemic and bold moves by its government in recent years. Changes to health care have been limited. Changes to economic development have been limited.

Bold would be free university until the age of 21 like in the UK. Bold would be paying for the tuition of immigrants willing to commit to work in our key growth industries for a period of time (sort of like when you go in the military and get educated on the public nickel). Bold would be calling for research levels in NB universities to reach or exceed the national level within 10 years (we are now second last in the country).

My hunch is we are in for a little more deck chair shuffling onboard the Titanic. Enfold St. Thomas into UNB, some will say. Make education more affordable others will say. Restructure the community college system so that the training people need takes place in the communities they reside, others will intone.

In the end, who really thinks we will get bold changes to the post-secondary system that will be ‘vital’ to the province’s self-sufficiency? I hope so, but ‘bold’ has been all but written out of the lexicon of the New Brunswick government in recent years.

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0 Responses to Curious about post-secondary review

  1. Anonymous says:

    What I found funniest is the idea that “new brunswickers will begin..” making these decisions with the release of a discussion paper.

    Wouldn’t New Brunswickers being involved mean WRITING the discussion paper, sort of like the way people present to committee’s or through public meetings. Some guy sitting in a room is hardly consultative, one or two guys framing the issue and then letter ‘democracy’ work by watching Irvings decisions of which ‘letters to the editor’ get printed, and which calls Rogers lets onto phone shows is hardly ‘participatory democracy’.

    Just to engage in the debate though, free tuition for immigrants is absolutely insane. Ontario’s universities basically survive by the tuition of immigrants. As you say, if there are no jobs then a contract to stay just adds them to welfare rolls, make work projects, or competition for low wage jobs.

    There are two routes to go through, which I think I’ve mentioned before. Go headhunting for immigrant students, but make sure you have the facilities for them. STU is out, no chinese are going to come here to study journalism.

    IF as you say, the problem is industry-education alignment, then tuition changes will do nothing. However, like you say, at least graduates would come out with more money if they pay less, however, that is less money that the provincial government has.

    If you are looking at industry and education, the problem is the bureaucracy. How did Waterloo spin out all those businesses? Well, in the seventies it practically cut out the university royalties on industry that spins from educational investment.

    There are two routes to creating industry-either the professors do it, or the graduates do. Either way that means entrepreneurial skills.

    So ‘bold’ would be making such courses COMPULSORY. Bold would be getting rid of the extra layer of bureaucracy that has to be jumped through with the regional university counsels. I remember going to school there, and I know people who have recently worked as consultants and the professors are a HUGE problem. So ‘bold’ would be finding some way to marginalize the decisions of these people who simply will not change.

    One issue not specifically mentioned is incorporating. People simply know little about it, even though its relatively easy. Nobody is going to ‘buy into’ a family business, it is very difficult, time consuming, and there are no protections. There was even the comments from the province’s best know cancer doctor who out and out admitted he had no idea how to go about commmercializing his product. I notice his schpeel worked though, and now he is getting propped up by taxpayers.

    So tuition is not the central issue, its not even an issue from your point of view. From your point of view the emphasis would be on professors at least maximizing their industry connections to bring investment here. How to do that is another story.

  2. Wendy Waters says:

    I’ve always wondered whether provinces could attach student loan repayment assistance to staying in the province where they received their highly subsidized post-secondary education.

    For example, for every year after graduation you stay in the province, you receive a substantial tax credit for loan repayments (essentially, the government pays you back for staying in the region and making your payments).

    In the USA the government tries to direct grad students toward certain fields using this method. A friend studing microbiology and immunology discovered that if he switched his field to HIV research, and worked in the field for 5 years after graduation, they’d pay back all his student loans (so he rang up about $150K!).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately the states is simply awash in jobs so that doesn’t work in NB. Even BC is a different story. New Brunswick is a province which has no english medical school, only one english university offering full curricalae, no school of pharmacy, and little in the way of a scientific community. Most of its technical workforce is trained in nuclear energy.

    Just for fun I looked at Geology courses at UNB. Most larger universities have climate change departments, hydrology, environmental studies, heck, the University of Minnisota has coursework in “how to build a habitable planet”. Under UNB I found Isotope geochemistry (in other words nuclear), petrology (oil), optical mineralogy (mining), and physical geology (introductory courses). And that’s it. Hmmm, perhaps ‘bold’ just might mean actually TRAINING some people in what most of the rest of the industrialized world is already taking for granted. Perhaps just widening the curriculum enough to acknowledge new industries would be ‘bold’.

    Tax credits are nice, but basic economics comes into play. Are you going to stay in a province to earn $20,000 with a tuition tax credit in a job that may have nothing to do with your field, or are you going to go somewhere and earn $40,000 in your field and pay off your tuition?

    Bold, would mean NOT having your Head of Natural Resources bragging about how you are beefing up the forestry education to get more students in an industry that has half as many jobs as 15 years ago.

    Bold, quite litereally means a change of focus. Heck, you can find literally everything you find in a university online, you can provide the structure and have people graduate without setting foot on a campus or attending a class, simply provide the tests. That costs almost nothing, but of course universities will be screaming bloody murder.

    Bold means putting a legal department right on campuses and in towns, even online, where people can contact the NBIF and learn how to build equity positions in their products. From David’s point of view, with the intent towards foreign investment, you can even provide student labour. What if one of those animation companies were invited to ‘train’ students specifically in their projects and this ‘co – op’ meant the students provided the labour? That’s what Microsoft does at the University of Waterloo.

    I can guarantee that after a couple of years of students graduating and either doing their own thing or working for another company locally that company would want to set up shop there-they’ve literally got a trained staff up and ready to go.

    But again, this is to assume that the government is actually interested in any of this, and from the view so far, I tend to agree with David that the whole thing is just a PR exercise. *&^%! So why did I just *&^% away twenty minutes!

  4. MonctonLandlord says:

    IN University of Calgary bold is:
    The U of C is pursuing the biggest single capital expansion in its history. Fuelled by Alberta’s nation-leading economic growth, the university has embarked upon an over $1 billion plan to add capacity for 7,000 more students and a host of new teaching and research activities.
    – taken from a job ad today

    IN University of Alberta (Edmonton) bold is:
    The Faculty of Engineering has over 3500 undergraduate and 1100 graduate students, placing it in the top 5% by size of over 400 engineering schools in North America. The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta intends to expand significantly its role as a leader in the provision of engineering education and the conduct of leading, internationally-recognized research. Toward this end, we will be seeking candidates to fill 100 new positions at the Assistant, Associate and Full Professor ranks, as well as a number of Canada Research Chairs and Endowed Chairs.
    – taken from a job ad today

    Meanwhile, the downward trend continues, rumor is that universities in New Brunswick are so desperate for enrolment, that they have lowered the admission criteria: high school marks to 65% (the lowest in the country).

    The I heard that UNB will see the lowest number of Electrical Engineering grads (ever?) in the coming years. Does anyone tell high school kids seeking career counselling that the average age at NB Power is 48 ???

    Last year, U de M quietly announced the cancellation of its popular Industrial Engineering Program. Why? I heard there were only 2 or 3 grads per year for the last 5 years.

    BOLD in New Brunswick is an announcement that Irving Oil will donate $25M to each UNB and U de M for the creation of an Oil Refinery Engineering Management Program.
    BOLD in NB is the creation of paid internships for nursing and teaching students (yes, at this time of critical recruiting, the internships are still unpaid).
    BOLD is NB paying a chatered plane to fly to China annually and offer free flights to student wanting to choose NB for their place of education.
    BOLD is NB flying this same plane in West Africa where many dream of coming to U de M (did you know there are 40 students from Mali in Moncton today studying?)

    Thank you David this forum helps me vent, on a topic of great importance.