The language of death

From a Telegraph Journal story this morning:

Debate rages over number of universities
Former chair of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation sees too much duplication

Warren McKenzie, who has donated so much money to New Brunswick universities that he can’t remember the total, has got a big beef with this province’s post-secondary education system.

The multi-millionaire businessman and University of New Brunswick graduate believes a province with the population of Vancouver Island shouldn’t have four publicly funded universities.He wants to see that cut in half, to one English university and one French.

The New Brunswick government is poised to launch a commission this spring to study the future of post-secondary education in the province, and Mr. McKenzie is pushing hard for the merger of UNB, Mount Allison and St. Thomas University into one English university system.

He envisions it centered out of UNB in Fredericton, with the University of New Brunswick Saint John, STU, and Mount A as satellite campuses. L’Universit√© de Moncton would continue to run on its own.

Here’s my two cents and that’s about all its worth:

This is silly. I don’t care if Mackenzie is a gazillionaire and if he has given a billion to UNB. I’d be more interested in understanding why on Mackenzie’s watch as head of the NBIF New Brunswick did not make up one ounce of ground and is still last place in Canada for R&D spending per capita and as a percentage of GDP (the famous Prosperity Plan called for NB to rocket to third place in Canada for R&D and the NBIF was supposed to be the catalyst). Premier Lord has never again mentioned that itsy bitsy objective…

Am I the only 0ne who is seeing the language of decline all over the place? The schools are being told to get ready for less students; the hospitals in rural areas are scaling back; economic development funding is declining. People are now talking about population decline not in some dire, apocalyptic if-we-don’t-change-course way but in an inevitable-just-get-used-to-it way. The president of the Atl. Provinces Chamber of Commerce was on CBC last Friday and he talked about population decline in almost a casual, matter of fact way – as if it was as natural as a slight increase in the unemployment rate.

Here’s my thought on this. The universities should start collaborating more – absolutely. They should look at ways to reduce duplication – absolutely. But the language and focus of our universities should be on growth. How do we get more high school kids into university? How do we keep them here? How do we attract more foreign students? How do we better position the universities as catalysts of economic development? Growth oriented – not decline oriented.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and it didn’t collapse in a day either. Ditto for New Brunswick.

Let’s start talking the language of growth.