Don’t like the news? Change the channel

The British Columbia government did a great job of changing the channel on higher education this week.

If you recall, the B.C. government was facing a lot of attention for its recent changes to higher education; specifically, lowering the amount of funding for higher education.

In March, the B.C. government announced that it would be diverting funds from colleges and universities to high priority areas such as health care and skilled labour. Initially, it was believed this diversion would result in more funds for colleges to offer programs in these “priority areas.” This made it a non-story. Not many people paid attention. After all, it was only $16 million in funding changes, and the money wasn’t disappearing.

It became clear at the beginning of April, however, that the changes were not a diversion of funds, but actually a funding cut. The BC Confederation of University Faculty Associations (CUFA) pegged the figure at close to $50 million. UBC alone faces a $15.8 million cut between its two campuses. Overall, each B.C. college and university is facing around 2.6% less in government funding for the coming school year.

Once it became clear that the BC government was cutting funding instead of prioritizing funding, the negative press began, and continued over the last few weeks.

This week, the government acted.

No, it did not reverse the cuts.

Instead, it changed the channel by announcing changes to the status of three university colleges to universities.

University College of the Fraser Valley was renamed University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen University College becomes Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and like magic, Malaspina University College will be called Vancouver Island University.

It was a great magic act by the government. Everyone loves universities and everyone wants one in their backyard (preferably without students but that’s another post).

The government claims these announcements were planned in advance and are merely following up on the recommendations of the Campus 2020 report which recommended the changes.

Funny thing is that for a government that suddenly preaches out of Campus 2020, I can’t help but note (much like the poor Christian I can be) they seem to be ignoring the sections about properly funding these new universities.

So, I’m left to conclude that the announcements that BC has three new universities amounts to nothing more than a gigantic smoke and mirrors rebranding exercise meant to change the media channel.

Hey Gordon, it didn’t work.