What’s in a name?

The lead today in the TJ is about the recommendation to make three new ‘polytechnic’ schools in New Brunswick and the furor this is creating in Saint John. Apparently, there are a lot of folks that think a polytechnic is a major step downward from a university.

The authors of the report admitted they would see no problem dropping the term ‘polytechnic’ from the new schools.

I have to admit when I heard the term ‘polytechnic’ I thought it was just a clever political marketing term. Based on what I read, the new schools are essentially universities – maybe more practical skills focused and I am unsure how much research they will undertake – but essentially the same.

My first thought was that the government injected the term polytechnic (or recommended to the consultants) because the optics were extremely bad around the creation of three new universities.

You will remember the senior politicians running around for months complaining we have “too many universities” in such a small province and one would think adding three more would make them look quite silly. With ABU (which is a university by the way conferring a pile of non-religious training university degrees every year) and the new three, that would mean eight bone fide universities in New Brunswick or about one for every 100,000 people.

So to have a study come out that is positioned as a deep structural change to the system and then open up three new universities would be bizarre.

So, call them polytechnics and placate the cranks (like me).

But the 1,700 protesters in Saint John yesterday are none too pleased with the term.

And, how may, Cabinet members are there from Saint John? Refresh my memory. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6……

I suspect that at the end of this thing, the Saint John campus will be autonomous but will likely have the word ‘university’ in there somewhere.

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0 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. mikel says:

    Here’s a word of advice from media studies. When the government gets lots of press and protest from a decision that may essentially mean only a name change, then its always a good idea to see what ELSE the government is passing legislation on. These recommendations sound very much like the ATV legislation, something to distract voters away from important issues.

    Like you said, changing the title of a word does little. I burst out laughing when they said that New Brunswick should try to be ‘ahead of the curve’ in setting up ‘polytechnics’. Yes, a school that is half a sub par university and half a sub par community college is really just the wave of the future.

    But to refer to the previous post in the ‘can’t satisfy everybody’ file, I fail to see how a province can have ‘too many universities’. Taxpayers are paying an ever decreasing amount of a students tuition, and Halifax itself has six universities, a fact which played a large part in getting RIM to set up shop there.

    So I would have thought you’d be HAPPY about this. I keep seeing the argument ‘too many schools’ and THAT makes me sad, now we’re at the point that we WANT people to be uneducated.

  2. David Campbell says:

    I didn’t say that more universities would be worse. I think that more access to university education is desirable. I hope they evaluated the University of California model. They have 10 campuses – one in every region of the state. That could have been a model here (maybe I don’t claim to be an expert in this).

  3. Anonymous says:

    An excellent point. Too bad nobody is talking about branch universities in other parts of the province. Seems like that would be a pertinent point to get across in a big commission on post secondary education..yet not even a mention.

  4. David Campbell says:

    I have to believe it was looked at but left out of the final report. You could have a UNB – Fred, UNB – SJ, UNB – Moncton, UNB Bathurst, UNB – ED, etc. but with a single overarching structure and overhead. Politically that would be even harder than the current option.