Universities, students and staff push back against post-secondary budget cuts.

More than 600 students and staff from the University of Alberta rallied against budget cuts in front of the Alberta Legislature.

More than 600 students and staff from the University of Alberta rallied against budget cuts in front of the Alberta Legislature.

“You don’t want to have five mediocre engineering schools. You’re better off having two really good engineering schools. There’s no doubt about it.”

And on that note, Deputy Premier and Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk kicked off his overhaul of Alberta’s Post-Secondary Education system.

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk

It should be noted that there are only two degree-granting university-level engineering schools in Alberta (some of the smaller universities have transfer programs). Unlike the Deputy Premier, I am not in a position to comment on the mediocrity of Alberta’s engineering schools.

After recently returning from a long-scheduled personal trip to Vietnam, the Deputy Premier is faced with an uproar from students, faculty, and school administrations facing the reality of a 7% cut to Alberta’s Advanced Education budget. The budget cuts, along with government plans to harmonize institutional roles, has lead some academics to worry that their autonomy could be put at risk.

Last week, more than 600 students and staff marched from the University of Alberta to to the Legislature to rally against the budget cuts. Organizing under the banner of the ‘Coalition for Action on Postsecondary Education‘, or CAPSE, students are planning for actions to protest against the budget cuts.

Demonstrating uncharacteristic independence for a group of provincial appointees, the University of Alberta Board of Governors sent an open letter to Premier Alison Redford, warning of the consequences of the cuts. The letter was signed by governors, including board chairman Doug Goss, a former senior Progressive Conservative Party official.

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

“…we must go on the record as being deeply concerned that the recent budget decision of the provincial government to cut the university’s funding by more than seven per cent will have a dramatic effect on the progress that the U of A has made in reaching its potential, both as a research and a teaching institution.

It is difficult to imagine the detrimental effect that cutting more than $43 million from our annual budgetthis year alone will have on our students, who are the critical next generation in this province. The sameis true of our faculty, who lead the teaching and research initiatives that can help position this province as a global leader on the issues of greatest concern in the 21st century. Staff members at our university who support our students and faculty also will be deeply affected.”

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