My comments on the new Post Secondary Commission recommendations.
What I got right:
Mount Allison and St. Thomas – untouched – in fact the report calls for more funding for St. Thomas.
A pile of new dough recommended for the universities.
Community college counts towards Year 1 and in some cases Year 2 of university.
Comprehensive international student recruitment strategy.
What I got wrong:
Turning UNBSJ and the Northern campuses of UdeM merged with local community colleges into ‘polytechnics’. Remember this is a recommendation – it will take real hutzpa to reduce the mandate and influence of UNB Fred or UdeM.
What I didn’t mention but makes sense:
The remaining communities colleges split off from direct government administration and merged. Many of the NBCC folks were calling for this.
This is actually much more tame that some were predicting. Some were saying STU would be merged. The community college system would be spun out and merged (to the detriment of the North).
Essentially, this is actually a very politically correct report (almost). STU/MTA not touched. The North protected and some would say enhanced (UdeM loses control). Saint John gets its independence (what many have wanted there for years) – although is a polytechnic a university? It calls for piles of new dough for the system and as act of kindness to UNB/UdeM for losing 30% of their students, they get more graduate studies, research and more funding for distance education.
All in all, it seems they went out of their way to avoid controversial.
The real issue. Will it help?
I have said all along that the problem with the system is more tied to misalignment between what we are providing in terms of education and what the local economy needs. Up to 40% of university graduates leave the province (depending on what survey you look at) and the colleges have actually held job fairs here for companies in Montreal. A very good chunk of our community college graduates leave the province as well.
Will this new system assure more alignment between education offered and local requirements? Maybe.
As for the lack of R&D here – that does seem to be correlated to the lack of critical mass (no large university) – and that is not fixed in this report.
As for the so-called decline in students, again, that is as much tied to out-migration as to demographic shifts (Alberta universities are bursting at the seems). More coordination of international student recruitment (and hopefully retention after graduation) is a good idea.
More money for post secondary education? If it means more money to train Alberta’s workforce, then no. Not on your life. I am tired of being the labour market incubator for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. While a person is a drain on society (aged 1 through university), they live in New Brunswick. Then, the second they are tax producers, they are go to Alberta. And then the Albertans grumble they are sending all this Equalization to New Brunswick.
That money is right now being used to incubate your friggin’ labour market.
So, if we can keep these graduates here and keep them paying taxes here and if the community colleges can stop holding job fairs for Ubisoft in Montreal because we have attracted Ubisoft here, then things will be in alignment.
So, for me the bottom line is that post secondary education reform was really not the main issue. The main issue is a solid plan for economic development. The kind of economic development that will keep our graduates here and, in fact, attract more students because of the strong in-migration of people for the jobs.
If we keep losing people and creating disporportionately high non-university education requiring jobs (don’t you sneer at this, look at the last 25 company expansion press releases from the government and tell me how many of them require university), all the tweaking of the post secondary system in the world won’t matter.