To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday
I will be updating this post as I read New Brunswick’s latest post-secondary review which was released today.
Week’s after the report was leaked to the media, the New Brunswick government finally released the report of its “Working Group” on post-secondary reform.
You may recall last year the “Commission on Post-Secondary Education” released a comprehensive report which, among other things, called for the creation of a first-rate Polytechnic school to replace third-rate University of New Brunswick – Saint John.
It upset the inmates stakeholders and the government quickly announced they were turning the asylum over to the inmates the creation of a post-secondary “Working Group” (WG) ran by the stakeholders to create a new vision for post-secondary education in New Brunswick.
So, after weeks of delay, we have a fancy webpage for the report which includes a big picture of Premier Shawn Graham releasing the document – wait two pictures and video of the release!
**17:19EDT: **What do you call a polytechnic which is not really a polytechnic when you know you should have a polytechnic but don’t want to upset stuck-up people by calling it a polytechnic? If you guessed “Institutes of applied learning and training” you’d be correct! They even have a nice acronym to add to the alphabet soup of higher education – IALTs.
17:23EDT: Shiny object alert! Another story has appeared that I need to work on. I shall return to this report – there’s lot of new acronyms, administrative bodies, inefficiencies and other ideas to improve New Brunswick higher education!
0015EDT: After getting distracted by the release of P.G.’s contract, watching the Tiger-Cats lose, and playing pinball – I’m back.
0020: Love the opening “Dear Premier Graham and Minister Doherty: In the fall of 2007, you boldly presented us with a challenge to participate in the
transformation of the New Brunswick Post-Secondary Education (PSE) system to achieve the goal of making the province self-sufficient by 2026.” Yes, it was really bold to cave to pressure when a proposal for real reform was presented.
**0029: **Lots of talk about improving participation and outcomes to surpass the national average. Eventually NB wants to surpass all other provinces.
**0039: **The WG calls for a decrease in two student by freezing tuition for two years and lowering student loan interest rates by 2.5% to prime.
0043: This is innovative – a 25% credit on student loan debt for the timely completion of programs over two years of length.
0052: Many recommendations we’ve heard in other reports. Increase participation of under-represented groups especially aboriginals. Good stuff, not surprising or ground-breaking.
0057: Transferability of credits between colleges and universities – more good stuff. Lots more of this… I skimming for now.
(Note: computer crashed… lost content.. restarting from this point. Giving up on timestamps.)
Into the structural reform section. No surprise here, “autonomy” is a key buzzword. Colleges want more autonomy from government. You don’t say, “autonomy” is so much better than the accountability that stems from strong government oversight of publicly funded bodies. Oh, here is it – Recommendation 11 is that the colleges be independent of government. The report states: “the community college system should be moved from the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and become an independent corporation.” The WG calls for an expansion of 1,400 seats / 7,000 spaces by 2013.
How will the colleges be overseen? By the creation of new bodies. A Board of Governors provincially and six “Community Advisory Boards.”
Remember to not confuse the colleges with the new “Institutes of applied learning and training” or “Consortia of applied learning and training.” They are separate but connected to the colleges and universities. Make sure you don’t confuse them with or refer to them using the “P-word.”
Just to be clear, “The Working Group does not endorse the establishment of the polytechnics as recommended in the Commission on Post-Secondary Education final report.”
The WG says university presidents should be commissioned to review programs at the various institutions to recommend changes to improve the system. They even make list the programs which should be priorities for the province “priority areas to include applied health, education, applied business, engineering and liberal arts programming.” So, everything is a priority but science. Seriously, if your going to set priorities, it shouldn’t list every choice available.
Now were making sense. The province needs more graduate students and recommendation 16 addresses this. The WG calls for New Brunswick to increase graduate enrolment by 855 students over the next three years to bring the total number of grad students to 3000.
Recommendation 17: The new”not-polytechnics”
Bare with me here, this section makes no sense.
– The new institutes are needed because the current “PSE system is often incapable of responding quickly enough” to changes in the needs of the economy and labour market.
— Just to be clear, this means that the current system of colleges and universities are not capable of changing quickly enough to respond to the market and the new institutes are needed to correct this.
– The new institutes will not be “brick and mortar” initiatives. They will be partnerships between colleges and universities. Run by the institutions and housed on either a college or university campus.
— Get that, the colleges and universities are “incapable of responding quickly enough.” However, they will magically become more capable of responding quickly if their is another layer of bureaucracy involved in their decision making processes.
The goals of the new institutions are laudable. The problem is that they are being formed as an politicially acceptable alternative to the “P-word.” The CALT’s make much more sense in that they are designed to reach out to communities that are currently underserved for post-secondary options. The rest of the listed goals are things that should be happening anyway and could be done without the new layer of bureaucracy.
Section Four “Collaboration, Governance and Administration”
This section should have been entitled “creation of new bureaucratic bodies”
The summary of this section is simple, just list the new bureaucracies. (Remember we already have the new BoD of the community colleges, the CABs, the IALTs and CALTs.)
1) “A central agency for post-secondary education” – a provincial body to oversee the PSE system. The agency will have a staff of experts and it’s own management board. Appartently, the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour doesn’t fit this role already.
2) “New Brunswick Presidents’ Council” – the presidents of the colleges and universities plus the “Deputy Minister of the PSE Agency.”
“Share Services Bureau” – this body will oversee collaborative spending for non-academic functions such as the purchase of insurances, applications, administrative services, and information technology. From the WG report “The SSB would be owned by the PSE institutions, from which a management board and a director would be recruited. The SSB would be accountable to the PSE Agency to deliver ervices to the institutions in the system, and to do so at a lower overall cost.”
“New Brunswick Council on Admissions and Transfers” – a new body to facilitate a joint application and admission process between the colleges and universities. Will also facilitate transferability between the institutions.
“Change Management Bureau in the PSE Agency”
Section 5: Implementation (aka, show us the money)
The WG wants $466-million in new funding over ten years with most of that in the first five years.