Are Recent Cuts to Alberta Post-Secondary Education Justifiable?


April 9, 2013 :: various speakers
Moderated by Jason Laurendeau

Special Session in partnership with the Lethbridge Public Library
Tuesday April 9th from 7-9pm at Lethbridge Public Library

Alberta’s March 7 provincial budget featured a 6.8 percent cut to basic operational grants for post- secondary institutions, compounded by revocation of an earlier promise of a 2% increase. The Ministry of Enterprise and Advanced Education has also sent “letters of expectation” to each of the 26 post-secondary institutions in the province, requiring universities and colleges to work more closely with each other. “What we have right now is an orchestra of some virtuosos — they are fabulous at what they do,” Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said, “but unfortunately, this orchestra doesn’t have a conductor and they’re all playing their own tune and they’re off-beat.” Minister Lukaszuk has also indicated he will expect more emphasis on commercializable research at Alberta’s universities.

The University of Lethbridge faces a 7.3% operating grant cut, reducing the operating budget by $11.9 million. Implementation of these cuts will begin within the next six weeks and, combined with cuts at Lethbridge College, they will have wide-ranging effects on students, faculty, support staff, and the Lethbridge economy.
However, there are bigger questions raised by a ‘revolution from above’ indicated in the Letters of Expectation sent to Alberta universities and colleges. Could acceptance of these letters affect the role of Boards and academic councils? Could a more directive and powerful ministry, headed by a cabinet minister willing to intervene directly in the details of university and college business, enable the Alberta Government or a political party to dictate what can and cannot be taught or researched in future? Does emphasis on the economic role of post-secondary institutions and the commercial prospects of research, reinforce or undermine the public interest? What should be the civic role of post-secondary education generally, and of universities in particular? Our speakers will discuss these issues in relation to the budget crisis, and will respond to audience questions and comments.

Speakers:

Shannon Phillips, Director of Policy Analysis for the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Dr. Bill Ramp, Associate professor, Sociology, University of Lethbridge.
Dr. Robert Sutherland, President, Confederation of Alberta Faculty Assn’s.; professor of neuroscience, University of Lethbridge
Dr. Chris Nicol, Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science, University of Lethbridge
Julia Adolf, Student, VP-Academic, U of L Students’ Union; serves on General Faculties Council & Senate.
Leyland Bradley, Student, Board member of LPIRG, News Editor of the Meliorist.
Armin Escher, Student; President, U of L Student Union; serves on U of L Board of Governors.


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