Sunday, March 24, 2013

Draft letter of expectation received


Late Friday (March 22), we received a draft of the letter of expectation from the Government of Alberta. The executive team has been reviewing it and engaged in discussions throughout the weekend. In general, we think much of the letter aligns with the University of Alberta’s longstanding mandate and leadership position with Alberta’s and Canada’s post-secondary sector. However, there are some aspects of the letter that concern us and warrant closer examination, clarification, and discussion. The letter is available here.

As you will note, the letter is clearly marked DRAFT and we have now been invited to provide feedback and suggested revisions. Our feedback must be ready for April 11th, 2013 when all of Alberta’s PSE presidents have been asked to meet with government officials.

Over the next two weeks, we will be asking for faculty, staff, and student input through a variety of channels:

1. We invite all interested faculty, staff, and students to use Change@UAlberta as a forum for feedback and discussion, by submitting comments on here on Colloquy or through email at change@ualberta.ca. (We continue to investigate software options that will help to facilitate the online discussion and hope to have that available sometime this week.) We will compile responses from the website for use at the April 11th meeting.

2. We have also requested that written responses from AASUA, NASA, GSA, and SU be submitted to the two of us by 5pm on Friday April 5th.  We urge you to work with your association representatives to prepare responses.

As these various discussions progress and as we receive clarification on aspects of the letter, we will continue to update the community regularly. Please watch Change@UAlberta for new information. 

Thank you for your continued engagement in this important process.

Indira Samarasekera and Martin Ferguson-Pell



117 comments:

  1. Is it possible to provide a link to a printable version? (Or is there a way to print from "slideshare"? I work better on paper that I can scribble on. I

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    1. We will look into printing options tomorrow and let you know. We are new to slideshare too and so don't have an answer for you readily at hand. Thanks for your patience.

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    2. Wouldn't this be a an occasion to use the famous and free Google Docs?

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    3. Maybe just post as a simple PDF? You can get a PDF from the 'slideshare' link but you have to sign up for a free account to get it.

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    4. The letter has been posted in pdf format for easy printing.
      http://change.ualberta.ca/-/media/change/letter-of-expectation---u-of-a/letter-of-expectation---u-of-a.pdf

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  2. A preliminary thought: three of the four "desired outcomes" mandated by the government in this letter are framed in terms of economics, productivity and commercialization. I feel our administrators need to make the case that curiosity-based research is essential to Alberta's social, economic and cultural progress, and that it should not take a backseat to research that appears more narrowly suited to these goals. I am optimistic that if this case is made carefully (not in a defensive manner, and certainly not in a way that conveys a sense of entitlement or elitism), the provincial government will be receptive.

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    1. I completely agree with both of these main ideas - that curiosity-based research is vital and that the case for this research must be made carefully to the government. Research at universities like UofA can be paired with industry sometimes, but independent research is of the utmost importance. When such research relates to industry, then it can provide a balanced view on the issue of inquiry. When such research does not relate to industry, it can enrich other parts of our lives, such as understanding our humanity and societies through psychological and sociological research. Aligning post-secondary education (or any education for that matter) with the priorities of the State is an idea that runs counter to liberal societies. We are not a Corporate State in the fascist sense, nor are we a totalitarian communist one - so why are we subjecting our free institutions to the government will? This government often espouses the virtues of competition, the free market, and freedom in general, and so they might need to be gently reminded of those principles.

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  3. Perhaps if this draft letter had been shared with the university community when it was received some faculty, staff, and students may have offered comments that the executive team could have benefited from during its deliberations over the weekend.

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    1. Here here! We were promised that it would be delivered to us, when it was delivered to the senior team. Sounds like it's two days late.

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    2. It was delivered late Friday and U of A posted it on Sunday, before any other institutions (as far as I can see).

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  4. The very existence of a mandate letter undermines our intellectual freedom and our responsibility as an academic institution to promote independent thought in our students and researchers. The govt is overstepping its authority and I hope we resist with all our strength.

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    1. I have been a long-time U of A student in multiple programs, have been involved with many different organizations on campus over the years (including but certainly not limited to SU, GSA, GFC, University Governance), and yes, I currently work for the provincial government.

      Below are my personal views on the matters at hand:

      There is no need to vilify the government since there are funding limitations and fiscal constraints for everyone in all eras of life, public or private, which are tied to the overall economy. This is more so an issue of public accountability with the educational services delivered.

      The U of A is a top heavy lumbering entity which would have to be revitalized and renewed from the top down, and only then would the benefits trickle down to the classroom.

      The ground truth is that the U of A (from a student’s perspective) does not provide the best quality of undergraduate instruction considering the lack of practical course content, large class sizes, overworked instructors, the high tuition and ever-increasing non-instructional fees. I personally believe that the U of A needs significant re-organization and organizational renewal starting from the top administrative levels in order to cut down some of those costs in terms of bureaucracy. There are a plethora of programs/courses which do not translate very well at all to the real-life working world in terms of transferrable/applicable skills for students, nor are they particularly consistent or transferable between the faculties themselves.

      Let’s look at some specific examples of mismanaged spending and/or areas requiring attention:

      1. Executive Compensation. Unjustifiably high compensation for top administrators and bureaucrats without proportional results.

      2. Academic Program Structure. Program elements too inflexible and non-transferable between faculties; some faculties are closed off to other students in terms of courses (e.g., quota faculties like Business, Law) while others have very large classes (e.g., Arts, Science) and non-relevant instruction for students in some classes (not practical enough for real world real life relevance and out of touch with reality).

      3. Existing courses not accessible to current students nor fiscally sustainable. Classes should be opened up in Law and Business (as well as other non-medical fields) for non quota program students to take instead of just trying to charge existing program students more. Keep the degree programs (such as Law) as being by quota just as they are now for admission purposes, but allow other non-program students to take any available classes in Law and Business (as well as in any non-medical fields). Opening up these large number of currently restricted classes to other students will decrease class sizes overall university wide, provide additional funding from tuition, and truly encourage lifelong multidisciplinary learning. We need to move away from a siloed compartmentalized mentality and try to be more flexible, interdisciplinary and inclusive when it comes to administering programs. The old traditional elitist and turf guarding ways will simply not work any longer.

      4. Wasteful spending on dead end initiatives. Misguided and unrealistic initiatives such as Top 20 by 2020 which wasted money in terms of funding planning and marketing initiatives only to be scrapped a short while later and long forgotten about.

      Perhaps implementing a transformative paradigm shift should be considered where there is more concrete practical coordinated action, and less grandstanding hyped-up talk about out-of-touch initiatives that do not ever really change the status quo.

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    2. I'm a current student who has been employed by the UofA in research funded support staff over the last decade. These are my personal views.

      To Anonymous @ 4:13 PM

      Regarding #1 What metrics or evaluation mechanisms are you using to justify your statement the the executive salaries aren't proportional to results. I'm an science alumni. Your statement without metrics is just rhetoric, grandstanding, hyped-up talk. How should a university executive's salary be determined? To me, it should be market driven. What would the executive at the UofA be making if they were in the private sector? I don't know but I trust the community leaders that make-up the UofA Board of Governors.

      #2 & #3 I'm curious, given that courses in given program build upon each other, how does your suggestion deal with the lacking knowledge when someone transfers between programs at the UofA? For example, stats in math and business are very different courses; one is very theoretical while the other is very applied and directed at a specific domain.

      #4 What current initiatives do you think are dead-end? All companies have initiatives that fall flat. Are the numbers at the UofA abnormally high? What portion of the failures are due to cuts from the UofA's funding sources?

      What are your thoughts on the following?
      http://new.livestream.com/accounts/1488160/events/1978388

      The Top 20 by 2020 and related vision, in my opinion, boosted moral, attracted world class staff, helped build world class buildings/infrastructure, enhanced donations, helped increase the UofA's brand equity.



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    3. We have received a response to Anonymous at 4:13pm which we feel does not meet the standard of civil and collegial exchanage outlined in our Community Guidelines. If you wish to reframe your comments, we would be happy to post them. Thank you.

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  5. I, for one, am looking forward to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in each and every one of my students.

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  6. The draft letter of expectation appears to me to be rather at odds with the PSLA in the detailed prescriptions and provisions that it lays down for U of A. If that is so then I suppose a legal challenge could be considered, though it would vex the Redford govt and would not solve the budget problem. Looking at the PSLA, I see that it superseded what prior to 2003 were separate Acts governing the university, college, and technical institute sectors. Ten years later, a renewed zeal for a strengthened "Campus Alberta" is the outcome, yet the PSLA still defines each Board as a corporation, implying autonomy from government in managing the internal affairs of the institutions (though I could not find the terms "independent" and "autonomous" in the PSLA). The changes the government is trying to force through under Mr. Lukaszuk (the Lyle Oberg of the post-secondary sector?) are too little thought-out and for the sake of the future viability of the Alberta post-secondary system we have a responsibility to resist the worst elements.

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    1. My view of this has changed having seen the degree of overlap in the letters for each Alberta institution (e.g. the one for Grand Prairie Regional College is verbatim identical to the one for U of A except for the funding part and a slight difference in the wording under "research"). The boiler-plate nature of them makes the letters less alarming than just plain ill-informed. The main actionable item in them is to show "10 percent improvement in seamless learner pathways", which is based on poor information but not objectionable. Nevertheless, when it comes to the prescriptive elements of the letter about the types of learning to be privileged at U of A, it is important to insist on academic freedom and university autonomy -- this is needed for the future of the province.

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    2. The degree of overlap between the mandate letters of the various institutions makes me even MORE concerned. The wording and the general blanket statements make me feel like the Government is asking us to sign a blank cheque, opening many doors to many different interpretations. Are we going to be in the same position with these mandate letters as we were with the budget. Remember "We knew the budget was going to be bad but we had no idea that they would cut us by 7%"...

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  7. Even at the very first glance two things ate totally out of any sense: a) how is it possible for UofA to not duplicate programs with other universities and at the same time provide online learning (I am thinking of Athabasca); b) *annual* responsibilities of the government for funding allocation are not possible for running a large university that has multi-years responsibilities for faculties, stuff and students taking programs; c) what the heck is key performance indicator data? do we have to give to all students A or what? d) and at last the "research" section - this is university with academic freedom. The only research that can be aligned with province expectations is the one they pay for. How can they ask as to do what they want while we are financially supported by NSERC for something totally different?

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    1. And where will the money come from to develop all these "online courses" that don't exist today"?

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    2. and developing online course materials, finding instructors who can use those mediums etc take time. We have until the end of the year? They are setting us up to fail.

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    3. You need to check out the report that was tabled and discussed at the last GFC meeting from the Online Visioning Committee which was struck by our president before all of these government suggested directions surfaced.

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  8. There seems to be a disconnect on the budget expectation. The UofA is expected to produce a balanced budget but there is not expectation for the gov't to provide a stable budget. How can we produce a balanced budget if the gov't can suddenly change its contribution?

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  9. I think it is very important that our administration make a strong statement in which they clearly defend the autonomy of the university, the independence of research, and the importance of Arts and Humanities. The "letter of expectation" appears as a direct attack on all three of these things, and I can assure you that if the university does not defend these then faculty will leave (even if we are not laid off or "reorganized"). I'm at the outset of my career, I have no intention to staying at an institution that cannot defend my research program (in the Arts, that has already brought significant grants into the University and employed numerous students). I, and others like me, will leave.
    It's quite simple really.

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    1. Thanks for sticking up for the Arts & Humanities! Their contributions to a well-rounded education are critical, and I say this as a member of a science-based faculty. Here's hoping the Board of Governors heed your words.

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  10. The text section of this letter seems rather generic, as if essentially the same message is being sent to all Alberta Post Secondary institutions.

    On the other hand, where or what is the Mandate and Roles Document referred to under Governance?

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    1. Yes, can we please have links to these documents?

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    2. They are all generic. The only difference is the money section at the beginning in terms of amounts.

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    3. The Mandate and Roles document is available here: http://www.governance.ualberta.ca/~/media/Governance/Documents/GO09/MAN/Mandates_and_Roles-_Approved_October_2011.pdf

      The latest Institutional Mandate (not Mandate Letter as it often mistakenly called) dated 2009 is posted here: http://eae.alberta.ca/media/277211/ualberta.pdf

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  11. The Government of Alberta appears to be playing the "short" game with their letter of expectation. While I understand that there is a skills shortage in this province, undervaluing the contributions of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the huge impact these areas of academia have in society. While they may be "fixing" things in the short term, it will have disastrous impacts as these changes undermine the vibrancy of our communities. The University of Alberta, as Alberta's flagship institution, has an opportunity to provide strong leadership in this area and defend curiosity driven research.

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  12. It's quite ironic that dependence on a single-market economy is what got Alberta into this financial mess into the first place, yet the government is requesting performance indicators measured in directly employable outcomes by today's standards (i.e. those that support an oil-driven economy). If the objective is to diversify Alberta's income generators, the government must be reminded that it must look beyond a polytechnic model to facilitate the diversity necessary across sciences and arts for a world-class education system to withstand the ebbs and flows of market forces. Government needs to be reminded that the arts offer a billion dollar economy in other provinces, and investing in these sectors also makes good sense to attract smart people to Alberta--a province highly stigmatized for investing relatively little in quality of life indicators that play a major factor in where innovation occurs. Judging by this letter, the current administration has failed its role to convince the government of the basic necessity for diversity in public education as it drives the sectors of tomorrow.

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    1. Bravo: insightful and well put. I would urge administrators to take special note of this contributor's comments, and to frame their communications with these ideas in mind.

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    2. Excellent point.

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    3. Excellently put. When the oil runs out in a generation or two, where will the workers be, who have knowledge and skills in any other sector? Not here in Alberta, if the post-secondary sector focuses solely on today's economic drivers. The mandate letters stress innovation as part of the duty of this university. Ask any business leader what kind of degree gives their employees the most flexibility and drive for innovation; they will tell you it's an Arts degree.

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  13. While I agree with the comments that this letter lacks support for fundamental, curiosity driven research, it does let us make a strong case for it by underlining the importance of basic research to applied research.

    Research is essentially an assembly line: at the forefront there are basic researchers extracting the raw knowledge about the nature. These knowledge breakthroughs are then refined and processed by applied researchers to create the technological breakthroughs that industry then takes and uses to create devices and processes which increase our standard of living.

    If this were the oil industry applied research would be a refinery and basic research would be the prospectors and drillers which extract and feed the crude oil to the refinery. Nobody would ever suggest that we stop prospecting and drilling for oil and focus purely on refining because, once the existing reserves ran out the refinery would shutdown. The same is true for basic research: you have to continue doing it to keep feeding the applied research machinery. What's more you would not tell the prospectors only to look in certain prescribed areas - you let them tell you which areas look promising for oil and, modulo environmental concerns, you let them explore those areas to see what they find. This is exactly the same with basic research: you need to let researchers explore the areas which look promising to them, modulo funding and ethical concerns.

    Where this analogy breaks down is with timescales and reproducibility. The journey from basic research to technological breakthrough is a long one of many decades and is an uncertain one at that - not all basic knowledge leads to better technology. However by its very nature it is impossible to tell what you will find when doing basic research so, unlike an oil prospector who can rely on geology to make predictions, all we can do is search currently unknown areas of knowledge which we have the tools and techniques to explore.

    There are of course many other arguments for basic research such as attracting students, engaging the public, training future researchers, side benefits of the research (e.g. the World Wide Web is a fringe benefit from my own field of particle physics). However if the government really want to achieve their stated aim to make Alberta a truly excellent centre for applied research they must support basic research with the same priority to achieve that goal. If not they risk being the sort of government that would have told Michael Faraday to stop messing around with wires and magnets and work at building a better oil lamp which is an outcome that nobody, least of all the government, would want.

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    1. This is a great argument, made by a distinguished member of the academy. Please submit this as a letter to the editor of Alberta's major newspapers, so that it may reach a wider audience!

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    2. Yes, please, do send this to the Journal or the Globe. Thank you.

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    3. Wonderful to see your letter in the Edmonton Journal! Thank you!
      http://www.edmontonjournal.com/opinion/Oped+Limits+research+lead+bonsai+universities/8161502/story.html

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  14. Loving some of these comments. We NEED education that leads to deeper level thinking as well - thinking that challenges the status quo, those in power, the statistics we are fed. Thinking that is big picture instead of reacting to corporate demands (which tend to be focused on only one objective). I question the insistence that we "rebrand" ourselves as "Campus Alberta" and that ALL communication leaving the university be branded as such. What does this mean? What are the implications? Why??? I find this item deeply disturbing.

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  15. I find the content of the letter to be disconcertingly specific in some areas and untenably vague in others. There needs to be a larger discussion about the role of the University in the post-secondary system. The role and the focus of the University should be curiosity driven research, not packaging for employment. While many of the degrees offered by the University of Alberta do not linearly translate into a job (in the way that taking a plumbing course at NAIT will make you a plumber) they do allow our graduates to be flexible in the market place and provide us with a unique opportunity to choose from a variety of career options or to further academia.

    It is up to the President and the BoG to educate the minister and the premier on the value of curiosity driven research and the skills our graduates bring to the table. If the Government is serious about moving us to a knowledge driven economy, undermining the province's flagship University is an incredibly shortsighted move.

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  16. I feel we are being played ... most of us skipped the budget issue and the causes behind, didn't we, while we are arguing on this letter?

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    1. Not necessarily. The budget was a tool to promote the changes we are all so concerned about.

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    2. Agree! The changes which are being forced upon us, because of the budget but using these "mandate letters",are what we should be concerned about.

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  17. Two strategic thoughts in lieu of a short essay that would reiterate some of the arguments already made by previous commentators:

    1) This would be a good time to call upon the expertise available in our Law School to get a clear understanding of the legal standing of university autonomy (although this cannot protect us from the blackmail of withholding the money; it gives us ground from which to rally);
    2) Ask to see the Ministry's research (I'm guessing they haven't done any, as usual).

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    1. The "Enterprise and Advanced Education Grants Regulation" makes clear that the Minister may impose any terms or conditions the Minister considers appropriate on grants of money to universities. He or she can also vary the terms of a grant. An independent university could go independently without the money, but money from the government can by law come with conditions.

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  18. The expectation letter looks like a request for Alberta's universities to work more closely to reduce duplication and effort while achieving some common, shared goals. Let me ask three questions. Is there at least one thing that can be done by Alberta's universities under a common approach that would yield as good an outcome as done currently? What would that be? why not collaborate and do it together?

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    1. I do not speak for the University of Alberta, but as a graduate student at the University of Alberta, and as someone who has worked as administrative staff at another post-secondary institution in Alberta, I know for a fact that universities in Alberta ALREADY work together closely to reduce duplication and will continue to work together to achieve common, shared goals because it is in their interest to do so to attract top-notch students.

      To give a couple of examples: 1) all students/faculty/staff in Northern Alberta have access to the same library system that allows students to search, find, and sign out books from any university library within all of Northern Alberta. There is a similar system for Southern Alberta. In moving to this shared system, librarians across the province culled their collections so that superflulous copies were removed and single books made available for sharing instead of bought twice. 2) Alberta post-secondary institutions work closely with ACAT (Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer) to ensure their courses can transfer between universities. I'm sure other people could provide several additional examples.

      Not only does the expectation letter not acknowledge the work Alberta Universities have ALREADY put into collaborating, it seems not to have even considered how much money it might take to undertake additional collaboration. To consider the previous example I had given with relation to ACAT, Universities have to pay staff members to assess and and then apply to make a course transferrable to another institution through ACAT. If the government wants our universities to push through additional transfers and increase effort on this front, they should be prepared to pay for the staff required to do so. The fact that they want universities to put additional resources towards collaboration yet at the same time are cutting their budgets by 9% is frankly ridiculous. Who is going to undertake the collaboration if there are no staff left to collaborate?

      The other thing I have to point out: Who is going to pay for the rebranding of Alberta institutions to "Campus Alberta"? This seems to me to be a riduculous waste of money that could be far better spent in other ways...like on actual education.

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  19. I agree with the other comments posted and share their concerns. I take issue with having all 26 institutions being told to adopt the Campus Alberta brand and logo for all correspondence. I feel they are trying to strip the institutions of their individuality and expertise. The UofA is not the same as NAIT or NorQuest or UofC et al. The UofA has worked for decades to become world renowned, leaders in innovation and research (in medicine, engineering, arts {archaeology etc}) but they want us all to appear to be part of the same "Campus Alberta". No thank you! The government approved other institutions (E.g.: GMU) to grant the same degrees as the UofA, now they want us to eliminate those duplications? They want to streamline administration as well - do they think it would take fewer staff to process admissions or payroll if it was all centralized (because I can promise you, it wouldn't)? We need to push back and express our displeasure. This is simply unacceptable. I am all for finding efficiencies and eliminating waste/excess cost, but this is going too far.

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  20. All I can say is I am disgusted and am leaving Alberta. There are many places recruiting talent to do research and our government has failed to make research institutions competitive time and time again. It's that simple.

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    1. Oh yes - I am sure many agree and many will follow! The Government of Alberta has kick started the brain drain...

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    2. I also got worried when I saw they were trying to package U of A together with 20+ smaller, less reputable at the world stage, institutions under the Campus Alberta brand. When I got hired as a faculty member a few years ago, I thought I was joining U of A. With all due respect for our peers in other academic institutions in the province, I by no means intended to join any other university/college. If U of A loses its unique identity and prestige, I will consider moving. Our stature in the academic community is tied to that of the institution we are working for.

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    3. Unfortunately, a lot of damage has already been done. The brain drain will not be limited to faculty, though. Students are already looking for a better education that they will no longer get with the budget cuts and the de facto elimination of arts and basic science. Taxpayers and parents should be worried, too. For insignificant savings of a fraction of what our fancy interchanges cost, they are about to lose a world class University, where their kids will no longer want to go due to mediocrity. This is not only disgusting, this is incredibly stupid.

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    4. I certainly agree that there will be a brain drain of faculty and students as a result of these cuts. Another area where people are becoming totally disillusioned is that of the support staff. I've ben working at the U of A for 5 years now and I've seen a number of experienced, quality people leave over the last several years due to the complete lack of opportunities for advancement within the university. This lack of opportunity was a result of the last round of cuts. How much worse will things be now? Like many others, I am considering leaving the university. You can only wait so long for "things to get better". Sadly, with the seriousness of these cuts, they can only get worse.

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  21. Business process re-engineering takes time and money.

    Typically you have to have both old and new systems running in parallel for a period of time before you completely cut over to a new one.
    So, if we do administrative systems consolidation across the 26 institutions, where is the budget for such a provincial initiative?

    To put it plainly, each participating institution for each system identified for consolidation would need to provide subject matter experts from their own administrative staff to work with the government's business process re-engineering and consolidation team.

    And who are these administrative staff?
    Why, they are the very people most likely to be hit by the cuts as they are not faculty members.

    Does the government understand they will need to inject close to $300 million* in new funds into the Alberta PSE to kick-off a massive business process systems re-engineering program that allows each participating institution to still run their operations while also seconding their subject matter experts to the program?
    Because if the institutions have already been forced by cuts to lay those administrative staff off, then it would be impossible to achieve the government's vision.

    Without knowing which or how many systems the government would like to target for business process re-engineering and consolidation, it is impossible to guess how much this may cost the province.
    I do support the idea and over time, after typically 5 years of sunk costs, there will be savings realized, but it doesn't seem clear to me that the government understands how much they will need to pay up-front in consultant and staff resources for the program and during the time when parallel systems will run.

    *The $300 million estimate is a rough best-guess based on the 2010 costs of consolidation and replacement of the provincial crown corporation's ATB retail banking system (see: http://www2.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/calgarybusiness/story.html?id=9b650f42-9306-41f4-8cbf-583895fcc447) which may or may not serve as a rough equivalent to the number of processes and transactional systems the government wishes to consolidate across PSE.

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  22. A huge "thank you" to Mr. Doug Goss and his colleagues on the Board of Governors for their open letter to Premier Redford, published on the Edmonton Journal website today
    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/board+decries+budget+cuts+open+letter+Redford/8149305/story.html?cid=dlvr.it-twitter-edmontonjournal

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  23. For heaven's sake, please stop referring to it as "curiosity-based" research. That makes it sound trivial, like an "idle curiosity."

    If "basic" research is too vague, and "pure" research is too elitist, how about "fundamental" research? As in, "fundamentally important."

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    1. Good point. Basic or fundamental research sounds much better to those of us outside the academy (like me).

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    2. preferred term is 'Discovery-based' Research.

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    3. Although it is a good point, for use in politicized situation, in its origin 'curiosity-driven' is the term introduced by granting agencies.

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  24. Does the Minister seriously expect an institution of 50,000 individuals to be prepared to come to the table with proposals within 16 days of receiving his letter? What's the rush? This does not sound like serious engagement.

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  25. It should be pointed out, that in the Canadian model there is practically no other places that do basic research but universities. We do not have CNRS like in France or the system of Max Planck institutes as in Germany, or Academy of Sciences as in China. Especially in view of recent federal restructuring of NRC that proposes to merge NRC basic research to ... universities. So as of now basic research is part of universities mandate.

    In Canada, downgrading basic research in universities essentially means outsourcing it to somewhere else. It should be asked if Alberta government wants to outsource it to Ontario, Quebec and BC. Or perhaps Canada in general whats to outsourse it to Europe, Brasil, China and other forward looking places ?

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    1. In Canada, central government does not have any power over education (yep! it is solely provincial governments responsibility). So if they outsource fundamental science to universities, this basically means that they do not want to deal with fundamental science at all.

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    2. Not yet, federal government still funds fundamental research via TriCouncil, whereas the researchers receiving it are supposed to be stationed at the provincially run Universities. That's the only model in place, and it is this model of mixing research with education which made North American universities as attractive to students as they are. Steps to undermine this model at the provincial level should actually be concern of academia in all of Canada.




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    3. This letter mandates an alignment of research priorities with the themes of ARIP (Alberta Research and Innovation Plan). Most research funds are either from the federal govt (tri-council agencies) or from the industry. Provincial govt funding is minuscule in relative terms. Show me the Alberta equivalent of the Ontario Centres of Excellence's research grant competitions. Alberta Innovates does not get even close to that. Alberta Innovates has zero funding opportunities for professors in engineering to apply for; that is what I know for certain. It is a mismanaged funding body. Then, you want me to align my research with the province's wishes, which is presumably oil-and-gas focused?

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  26. I am very concerned as to how the rebranding "Campus Alberta" and the the provincial governments mandate to control the direction of research will effect future federal and international funding? I am also concerned how the accreditation of our numerous professional programs will be effected? If the province does not support the UofA how will medicine, dentistry, dental hygiene, occupational and physiotherapy, nursing, nutrition and lab medicine be impacted?

    The BoG needs to remind the minister that several highly skilled and trained professionals exit the UofA and directly impact the quality of life of all Albertans.

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  27. Was I the only one to see the irony in the final paragraph about moving forward in an open, honest and transparent manner? It was the government and the minister themselves that delivered a sucker-punch to the BoG and all of UofA when releasing the budget. Where was the openness and transparency then?

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  28. I am not yet clear about the relationship between the Draft Letter of Expectation and the U of A mandate approved in 2009 .

    The mandate includes the following: "The University establishes and maintains an environment of inquiry-based learning ... The University attracts scholars of international reputation ... they foster, conduct, and disseminate research and creative activity, both pure and applied, within and across all the major program areas."

    These points all appear to have been lost in the Draft Letter of Expectation, which does not include the words "inquiry," "scholar" or "scholarship," or "creative," and does not suggest that there is any room in the university for pure research. If it is meant to complement the mandate of 2009, all the aims of which are to be preserved intact, we need to be told. If it is meant to supersede the mandate of 2009, we should be told that too.

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    Replies
    1. In addition to John Considine's excellent points, the draft letter of expectation does not mention several other key phrases from the 2009 Mandate, including "internationally respected credentials" -- our degrees! -- and the "balanced academy," which is vital for maintaining an appropriate relationship between what the document terms the "foundational" faculties and the professional faculties. In short, the 2009 Mandate and the new Letter of Expectation are quite different types of document, and more clarity about the relationship between them is certainly needed.

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  29. There is no vision beyond Alberta.
    There is no vision beyond fulfilling short to midterm needs of existing, local industry.
    There seems to be preference for mediocrity and quantity over excellence.
    There seems to preference for micromanagement over academic freedom.
    None of this is compatible with a world class university in a global market.

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  30. I could not agree more with the comments posted above, particularly with regard to my shared concerns regarding the devaluation of curiosity driven research and the seeming effort on behalf of the provincial government to deconstruct Alberta Universities, to mandate research programs, and to in essence dictate narrow definitions of what constitutes both 'valuable' research and 'valued' graduates.

    I am further deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of the re-branding of "Campus Alberta". As both a UofA alumnus and a current member of the academic community, I feel betrayed in the sense that the value of my degree and current affiliation with this renowned institution is being discredited by the provincial government and I take specific issue with the implication that my degrees should carry equal weight relative to those awarded by other institutions that would join the UofA under the umbrella of "Campus Alberta.

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    1. At the same time that this government is demanding we reduce duplication, they are approving US based institutions' graduate programs to compete against those provided by Alberta-based institutions. These non-resident programs are for profit, and as the Alberta-based programs cease to be offered in either Calgary, Lethbridge, or Edmonton due to duplication, US-based for profit institutions will be more than happy to provide these post-secondary programs. While Alberta institutions are attempting to respond to massive budget cuts, the Campus Alberta Quality Council is currently reviewing proposals from American universities to offer cost -plus programs in Edmonton that compete with existing U of A programs.

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    2. I agree wholeheartedly with the first point. And while I sympathize with the second, I think that we as a community have to be careful about how we communicate it to the provincial government and to our fellow Albertans. Comments such as these are easily reframed as elitist and hoity-toity, easily seized upon by angry talk-radio hosts. (And to be honest with you, having taught both here and in some of these "other" institutions, I'm not sure that we can claim a special virtuosity in teaching that is unavailable to students elsewhere.)

      I suggest that we try to argue for the U of A's greatness and distinctiveness in more positive ways: in particular, by showcasing concrete examples of curiosity-driven (okay...sigh..."fundamental") research that have emanated from these walls, and have profoundly changed people's lives and ideas and ways of thinking about the world.

      This positive tack is essential, I think, to winning any of the arguments we need to win in Alberta. The budget crisis has already prompted other schools to try to distinguish themselves from us based on the supposed utility of their programs (witness NAIT's print campaign). To judge by the language in this document, they already have a better claim to the affections of the Minister than we do. For heaven's sake, let's not exacerbate the situation by giving Dave Rutherford something to scream about.

      Let's, instead, appeal to the "Redford" wing of the Tory party and their constituency. They are a growing majority in this province -- and they, I believe, can be rallied to the cause of basic research if an enthusiastic and passionate case is made to them.

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  31. I would like to see us (the University or AASUA) to respond in a way that insists core values get put in the mandate. I don't think the minister will be willing to take out anything he's put in there - so we might be better advised to see if we can add things in. We should try to emphasize the positive side of the things we want added - i.e. express them as definite "goods," things we think the university should endorse, and consequently things it would be difficult to say "no" to. (And I think it's important that we say what we stand *for*, not just what we're against - and that these positive values be included in any vision or mandate for the university.) A few suggestions:

    p.1:
    Ensure that institutional resources are allocated in ways that best achieve the following desired outcomes:
    o Albertans are engaged in lifelong learning;
    o INSERT: "Albertans are engaged citizens with opportunities to express and develop critical thought;"
    o Alberta’s workforce is skilled and productive;
    o Alberta demonstrates excellence in social awareness, research, innovation, and commercialization; and,
    o Alberta’s economy is competitive and sustainable.

    p.2
    Programs
    • Review the range of programs offered with the aim to ensure that programs offered:
    o Build on the strengths of your institution and advance the Campus Alberta system,
    o INSERT: "Engage with all of Alberta’s diverse cultures and communities,"
    o Are in demand by employers and students, and
    o Are designed to develop the full potential of learners for our economy and society
    (engaged critical thinkers, ethical citizens, entrepreneurial spirit)

    p.3
    • Enhance your work with INSERT: "local communities, cultural groups, social organizations," business and industry to maximize the responsiveness to community and regional economic and social needs.

    p.4 Under ‘Government’s responsibilities’ INSERT:
    “The Government of Alberta respects principles of academic freedom, and acknowledges that a free and open academy is a vital safeguard for a democratic society. In academia as in business, the Government recognizes that professionals know best in their field, and that academics are therefore better-placed to understand the needs of their area. Ultimately, the Government will respect the autonomy of academics, and does not seek to impose its agendas on them. The University and Government will work as equal partners to ensure the continued flourishing of investigation, research, and debate in Alberta, and to provide education for the Albertans that considers a broad range of perspectives in an open, thought-provoking environment.”

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    1. To introduce the additions into the draft is absolutely great idea.

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    2. I fully agree. This is a smart idea. The government will look awful if it tries to resist against positive ideas being added to the letter.

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    3. In addition to what you are suggesting here, perhaps a letter of expectation towards the government from polled taxpayers should be included since they are eventually footing the bill for all of this and their opinion should count as well.

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    4. This is an excellent idea. I hope the upper admin takes note of this post.

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  32. I think the letter of expectation is part of a larger rhetorical action to prompt movement/change in the higher education system. More subtle approaches in the past have not resulted in substantial change (specifically in relation to the idea of Campus Alberta). This letter and the attendant cuts may be the blunt instrument used to effect these changes. One point the government makes that I'm sympathetic to: "Demonstrate a 10 per cent increase in the development of seamless learner pathways, including transfer agreements . . ." Both of my children, when they were doing undergraduate degrees, transferred schools (one to the U of A). Both were not given credit full credit for previous courses, and in one case did not graduate with the degree they were pursuing as a result. The system can do better on this particular count, but progress over time is hard to see. This is an issue that will resonate with voters and graduates, I expect.

    There are other issues, such as developing resources that can be shared throughout the system, that we should acknowledge could be developed but which have not been. The letters of expectation are negotiating tools that attempt to promote change, and we would do well to identify where those changes are possible and good.

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    1. I'm sympathetic to: "Demonstrate a 10 per cent increase in the development of seamless learner pathways, including transfer agreements . . ."

      Yes, in general, however since Campus Alberta aims to bundle quite a disparate institutions, from UofA to Norquest, there has to be some control of quality. Imagine an agreement with NAIT, for first year course. We'll end up spending second year trying to get all students in class to the same level. Or will have a cohort that will take first year courses where it is easier to get higher grades, which will put pressure on our grading.

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    2. I take exception to your NAIT example at 2:26 P.M.. NAIT is not just a trade school but a poly-technical institute and thus easily comparable to the other poly-technical universities that exist in the U.S.A. and Europe. The next time you provide institution comparisons with the University of Alberta for your argument sake, try using a regular college that exists in Alberta.

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    3. I agree that it is a complex and difficult undertaking to create and maintain these pathways and transfer agreements, and I think the government should acknowledge that to some extent (a large extent?) these are already in place. Increasing the number of them and clearly marking them might help students in rural areas get started on degrees without having to move to Calgary or Edmonton. In the US, about 1 in 3 students transfers between institutions (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/college-admissions/new-study-1-in-3-college-stude.html). This report (http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ForgingPathwaysENG.pdf) indicates about 36% of students in Alberta transfer between institutions (page 3).

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    4. I agree we could do better with transfers too. One problem is overly complicated degree requirements at some institutions. At the same time, there has to be some recognition that standards are not the same across the system.

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    5. The comment that initiated this thread is a useful one, and I agree that we ought to take every opportunity to contribute to a discussion about reducing unnecessary duplication and smoothing out inefficiencies.

      To my mind, however, the comment overlooks a larger rhetorical problem with the mandate letter (and the ministerial pronouncements that have accompanied it): the fact that they tend to conflate language around this "Campus Alberta" initiative, with all of its good intentions and potential warts, with a set of very problematic claims about the sorts of research that are "desirable" in Alberta (good research = "innovation" and "commercialization").

      For all the reasons explored above, we have to be careful to disentangle these threads. We can't allow this discussion to keep straying, as it did in a recent CBC interview with the Minister, back to a narrow discussion about students losing out on transfer credits. That's certainly an important issue, and it deserves our full attention; but there's a lot more at stake in the debates around these mandate letters.

      As several contributors have said, we have to be diligent in pressing the government -- respectfully, sure, and pragmatically, but also insistently -- to understand, acknowledge and provide for the critically important basic research at which our faculty members excel.

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    6. I agree with the idea that we need to focus on the basic research aspect of our mission. It seems that perhaps this is an area that the U of A could set the lead for many areas of research in the province by initiating province-wide collaborative research groups. We've taken steps in this area by establishing the Campus Alberta Writing Studies group several years ago, and I heard Ken Moure, chair of History & Classics, mention the other day that a similar group exists for history research. Let's formalize these groups and ask for support from the minister to fund meetings and provide seed funding. The creation of Camus Alberta-focused research groups would give us stronger and more broadly based projects that could then go after larger grants from outside the province. The U of A is well-positioned to host many of these groups.

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  33. I think we can do better with transfers, but that kind of change must help lift all boats, rather than reducing our programs to the lowest common denominator. That's going to be very hard to do while subsequently cutting core functions and programs 20%.

    Why don't we have royalties and why don't we fix the flat tax?

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  34. I think that the entire university community should be greatly concerned with the implications of the government's mandate. Our very identity as a university is under attack with this whole "Campus Alberta" label, and the decades of tradition and reputation the University of Alberta has developed will be lost under the provincial "super-campus". I can't help but feel that it is unfair for the government to say that we need to share our resources and make ourselves more accessible to the other schools, because each and every one of us at the UofA earned our places, working hard to meet entrance standards so that we could attend the best school available. And we all know that as a result of going to the UofA instead of MacEwan, we pay for the higher quality of services available to us. If these changes go through, how can we justify paying higher tuition rates when people outside our community have the same access?

    I came to the UofA for the quality of our facilities and our world-class instructors, and also to be part of the pride and tradition that the University of Alberta possesses. When "Campus Alberta" takes effect, we will no longer be able to hold the same pride because we won't see our crest and logo across campus. Instead we will see the same logo as every other institution across Alberta. I don't know about the rest of you, but I for one feel like I'm being robbed of my identity as a student at the UofA, and like I'm having my opportunity and right to be part of that tradition taken away from me, all as a result of governmental mismanagement.

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    1. I think the problem here is even more fundamental, since the options of every student and the freedom of every institution is being hurt. Imagine if the services of other corporations were regulated in this way: why would a gov. (if they had the power) restrict what services mobile carriers, for instance, were able to offer or to force these corporations to merge, instead of respecting their right to autonomy and trusting that they each base their decisions on what makes the most economic sense? In a free market, competition between corporations doesn't only ensure that each will excel at providing the services that they do but will also (duh) provide consumers with those options. The government does not treat corporations in general in this way, so why do they think it's a good idea when it comes to universities? What we'll see when a certain institution offers the only program of its kind in the province is less options for students, and, most likely, mediocrity in the program itself (though, since competition here becomes global, that may not necessarily happen). The bottom line is that this hurts NAIT, it hurts U of A, it hurts U of C, and so on in the same way it would hurt other coporations (e.g. Telus, Rogers, Bell if this happened to them). Regardless, although I'm no economist, it just doesn't make good business sense to reduce the autonomy and intellectual freedom of each institution and student and instead monopolize intellectual property when this is the most difficult and valuable "good" of all to produce.

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  35. Sadly, there is a very fundamental misunderstanding here: A university is not a corporate training centre and it should never strive to become one.
    There is intrinsic value in the betterment and refinement of the individual, the "uplifting of the people". An internationally respected institution of higher education, research, and service should be an aspiration of the people and a matter of pride. If we assess our value by short term financial return on investment we will all be the poorer for it. What happened to cultural, social, and moral development? Has our human existence already been reduced to how much money we make and how many toys we can afford?

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  36. I am curious to see what NASA's response will be after their disgraceful letter that was sent out to members after the initial budget release. I should hope our representatives within NASA do us proud instead of acting out against the University, Faculty & Administration.

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    Replies
    1. What was in this "disgraceful letter"? I am now curious.

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    2. What is most disgraceful about NASA is that they roll over before anyone even suggests that they should. They don't represent the support staff...they even bring upper management to NASA meetings so if you want to speak on any issue you must identify yourself to Carl and Phyllis, etc. first. Way to mute the members!!

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    3. Here's the content....

      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: Announcements for NASA Members
      Date: Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 10:21 AM
      Subject: [NASAList] Message from NASA - Provincial Budget
      To: NASAList


      MESSAGE FROM NASA

      The recent budget announced by the Provincial Government has left the post-secondary community stunned. From what we can gather at this point, the government will be issuing “mandate letters” to each university, college and technical school, to create “a more unified post-secondary system” and to align university research with the government’s “economic diversification agenda.” We're not really sure what that is going to look like – we’ll just have to wait and see.

      Clearly there is a lot of uncertainty hanging over all of us right now. We can assure you through this budget crisis that we will protect your rights under the terms and conditions of the Collective Agreement and we will not sacrifice your rights.

      In this crisis situation, we could adopt the "chicken little method" and run around yelling the sky is falling or we could sit back and do nothing and allow things to just happen around us. We do not intend to do either. As your representatives we are going to protect your rights. NASA is a strong and resilient organization - that is because our membership is composed of smart, strong and resilient people. In the face of adversity it is generally better to take a deep breath and try to develop a plan. We intend to do just that.

      NASA has maintained a cooperative and collaborative approach in its dealings with the University. If we need to step up to save jobs by looking for “novel” solutions, we will do that but this cannot be a one way street. We will not be doormats. If there are sacrifices, please be assured they will not be at the sole expense of the support staff. Our members are already cut to the bone and there is little left to cut.

      In this crisis situation, we also need to avoid the all too easy reaction of circling the wagons and shooting inwards. What we intend to do is to analyze the position that we are in and come up with ideas that will work for the members of our organization. If there are absolutely no constructive solutions to many of the issues that flow from this government announcement, we will advise you and we will seek your input as to our next steps.

      This isn't the first "University funding crisis" that NASA has faced and it will likely not be the last. We have come out of the crises of the past smarter and stronger. We will do so again.

      We understand Martin Ferguson-Pell, Acting Provost and Vice-President (Academic), along with Phyllis Clark, Vice-President (Finance & Administration), are holding a Campus Forum on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at Noon – 1:00 PM in L1-490 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (ECHA). At this meeting, they will be advising the community of the anticipated impacts to the University’s budget of the government’s budget cutback announcement. We would encourage you to attend this meeting to hear first-hand what the impacts are anticipated to be. NASA will provide a commentary following the meeting.
      Stay tuned!

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    4. Besides not seeing the letter's contents here, we need to think about the further implications of branding every post secondary education institution "Campus Alberta". Specifically, does this mean that "all" staff will eventually be represented by the AUPE and thus be forced to transfer or shuffle job positions between the various teaching and learning centres in order to satisfy this government's mandate?

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    5. To the incensed member who describes NASA's letter as "disgraceful" and as "rolling [over]before anyone even suggests that they should" : NASA's letter indicates, "we could sit back and do nothing and allow things to just happen around us. We do not intend to do [this]....In the face of adversity it is generally better to take a deep breath and try to develop a plan. We intend to do just that." I appreciate this clear-eyed willingness to face the likelihood, no matter how unpalatable,that non-academic staff will be impacted by the changes coming our way, and to get ahead of the curve to the greatest possible extent on what that might look like/how that change might be navigated.

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  37. Another commenter mentioned brain drain, and I think that's the inevitable outcome of these changes.

    The mandate letter is so completely focused on university as an economy booster, that we risk turning UofA and others into degree mills. Because more graduates means greater "measurable economic benefit" right? And that's what the government seems to want.

    I don't think acknowledged top schools like MIT, Harvard, Caltech, Oxford, etc. got there by aligning themselves with every other university or college around them. You can't build a reputation without distinguishing yourself.

    Of course, a strong reputation builds on itself: the best faculty and students want to be part of the best schools. NAIT is a strong technical institutes, while UofA is a strong research institution. Combining them into Campus Alberta loses both of these reputations: Campus Alberta is far less than the sum of its parts.

    These budget cuts reduce quality of education. Campus Alberta makes Alberta education generic. Nobody will want to come here. Innovation and diversity in industry will suffer as a side effect, and the government fails its original intention of boosting Alberta's economy.

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  38. There are so many excellent points here; it's going to be a shame if we lose so many bright people at this institution because of poor government planning.

    I agree that figuring out a better transfer system is a good idea, though I sometimes wonder what level of counselling students are getting from their high schools to help them make these decisions. ACAT has existed for a while, and there are many opportunities for students to start programs in colleges close to home and finish them at the U of A or even be able to complete the U of A degree in their local college. The student recruiters across Alberta work hard to inform schools, counsellors, and parents about options for their students by holding big education fairs in their schools year after year. Generally speaking, there is a great sense of collegiality as well, as I do find that most people at most of our institutions are concerned for the well-being and success of students, not about our numbers and the revenue these students might create for us, so recruiters will often suggest other institutions in Alberta that students can consider so that they can make an educated and informed decision when they decide where they want to study. Indeed, I agree with the one commenter that stated there is no acknowledgement of what has already been done in terms of building a Campus Alberta strategy.

    Secondly, I agree with the suggestion that a lot of money will need to be put forward to market the Campus Alberta brand, and I wonder if the government is planning to give us any money for that.

    Thirdly, to suggest that they care about education, according to their recent radio campaign, the Redford government clearly enjoys hypocrisy. To add to their hypocrisy, they mandate that we develop critical-thinking Albertans, but are we only going to allow critical thinking so long as Albertans support corporate values and interests? That seems to be what they're trying to tell us if inquiry-based research is to disappear.

    Universities did not originally exist to train people for the workforce, and I hope that is not what they become. But if that is what they MUST become, then let's not buy into this feel-good rhetoric when the government says they value education when they don't and that they want critical thinkers when they want yes-men.

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  39. The whole idea of Campus Alberta bothers me on every level. It concerns me that the history and tradition which exists because of our unique identity here at the UofA is in jeopardy, all because of a horrid and forceful mandate from the government in order to reduce "unnecessary spending".

    As a student in my first year I can tell you this:
    If courses which are offered at multiple institutions were cut, and the course was moved online, there would be a significant increase in the amount of students failing. It is ESSENTIAL for students to have some aspect of student interaction. The idea that large lectures do not allow for student-teacher interaction is a complete myth. By moving courses online students will lose the ability to stop their instructor in lecture and ask if they can clarify what they are teaching. Students will become disconnected from their lectures if they are not in the same room as their instructor.

    The budget cuts which are in place are affecting the wrong areas. Even as a Science student, I believe that the Arts/Humanities are crucial to every student's education, as they give us a real and intuitive perspective on the world around us. In order to accommodate the cuts, the first action taken should be to cut the salaries of the president and BOG by at least 15% each. There is no way to justify the administrators of the university making more than the head politicians across the country.

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  40. Can the moderator please let MatthewBarker know that the Board of Governors does not get paid. They all volunteer their time including the Board Chair.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, we can confirm that all members of the Board of Governors (along with the Chancellor, members of Senate and Alumni Council) are volunteers for the University of Alberta.

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  41. The just-published Ontario “sunshine list” discloses the following salaries (+ taxable benefits) for university presidents: UofT: $441K; York: $478K; Ryerson $463K; Ottawa $395K; Carleton $404K, Western $520K; Queen’s $382K.

    According to discoveryfinance.com, in 2011 our president earned (base salary + non-cash benefits ) $1,005K; the Provost $647K; the VPR $612K; VP Facilities and Operations $588K; VP Finance and Administration $571K; VP University Relations $398K. I assume these numbers have gone up, but even if they haven't, that's five administrative salaries at the U of A that are HIGHER than that of the highest-paid university president in Ontario.

    On March 20th, the U of C announced a salary freeze for its top 45 administrative officers.

    We’ve been asked by Colloquy for feedback to the government mandate letter. We should resist this unwarranted government interference, and say so. But in the interest of university self-management, our VPs and President should follow the lead of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and cut their own salaries by $25%. Such a cut would do no more than bring U of A executive salaries into alignment with what is paid to their administrative peers in Ontario.

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    Replies
    1. You're not adding up the numbers right. It includes pension contributions and health etc benefits. Do that to your salary and it will look outrageously high as well.

      Delete
    2. Lots of common errors in this blog comments and others and this is the latest. People pooling their ignorance and working each other into a frenzy isn't helpful. I expect more from educated people who supposedly know how to research and interpret data and are trained to criticize those who don't.

      You're not comparing apples to apples. You're adding in benefits and pension to be paid at a later date. See page 37: http://www.financial.ualberta.ca/~/media/University%20of%20Alberta/Administration/Finance%20and%20Administration/Financial%20Services/Documents/FS%20Office%20Site/Financial%20Statements/FinancialStatements2012.pdf

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    3. Anonymous, March 30, 2013 at 5.05 and 5.16 pm: I'd be interested in seeing the corrected numbers, then. But for the non-expert, the comparative numbers available on the usual websites do look troubling. Your link is broken, but here's a link to the Maclean's article of March 29th, explaining what Ontario presidents made in 2012. Is it your claim that our VPs and President are not making more than these presidents?

      http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2013/03/29/heres-what-ontario-university-presidents-made-in-2012/

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    4. The claim is the Ontario numbers and most others don't include in compensation what the U of A financial statements include (i.e. pension and benefits). So we aren't comparing the same things. Different reporting standards for different provinces. Alberta includes more information for total compensation and future liability such as pension. A more accurate way is to compare base salary to base salary.

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    5. The link is fine, just copy and paste it. http://www.financial.ualberta.ca/~/media/University%20of%20Alberta/Administration/Finance%20and%20Administration/Financial%20Services/Documents/FS%20Office%20Site/Financial%20Statements/FinancialStatements2012.pdf

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    6. fact: even if all our admin worked for nothing, we'd still be nowhere near making up for the millions in cuts. so why not try for some constructive or creative solutions for once.

      Delete
  42. One should note that the 'expectation letters' are not Alberta inventions, it is a trend that is spreading in Canada. For example, BC introduced them in 2008. However, it is instructive to compare them, for example the letter for UBC can be found at

    http://www.aved.gov.bc.ca/budget/

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  43. I couldn't agree more with "March 29, 2013 at 2:21 PM". How did the UofA get swindled to the point that we're paying twice as much to senior admin as the best Universities on Ontario. It must be added that several of these are more highly regarded than our fine institution. Clearly the process for determining these salaries has to be completely replaced. An immediate voluntary reduction in salary of 25% should be the first step taken by this administration.

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  44. Dear Provost, President and the governing board,

    The letter of expectations in the way it is must not be signed. As it was suggested here, in several very nice idea-posts, it must be fully rewritten.

    Even a little university (Athabasca) is brave enough to state clearly

    "The Letter, ultimately, is best understood as an attempt to justify the unjustifiable cut to the province’s postsecondary budget, a cut so deep – and made in one of the world’s richest jurisdictions – that it must be understood primarily as political, not financial."

    I hope that UofA response will be at least as honest and brave as this one, not a cowardly silent one.

    And dear president, for god sake, we need a true leader, like UofT president, not like cardinal Mazarin. The people's moral is below the ground, and you keeping doping only quiet diplomacy does not help. For god sake, do start to talk in all the available media, do start to explain clearly with numbers what the cuts will do (so show people how it will affect students), do start to explain why only applied research would fail the University (at least use as cheating sheet the speech by UofT president).

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    1. Agreed!
      Buddying up to the new premier and minister staff hires for cocktails and chit-chat is not going to cut it. We need a visible and vocal President and Provost. We need each Dean and senior administrator speaking their mind in the media and at events, aggressively defending the post-secondary strengths in this province and at the UofA. Invisible back-room diplomacy got the UofA nowhere in terms of being spared huge budget cuts, so why do we still keep following that tired government strategy, thinking that maybe, just maybe, the government throws us a bone?

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    2. I completely agree that the letter needs to be rewritten. I'm not convinced that the Athabasca approach is going to be successful: just saying "no" won't be effective. The letters are coming in some form or another, and we don't want the government to be able to say we're just rejecting things.

      Instead, let's focus on inserting the sort of language into the letter that defends what we do best. We can even keep the government's own language there - so long as we add in plenty of things that dilute the focus on "business" (e.g. engage with community groups, not just industry), and make a statement on the importance of academic freedom. If the government keeps it in, we can fall back on that to protect us in future; if the government removes it, we can state very publicly that they are obviously opposed to us engaging with Alberta communities etc. Turn their own letter against them.

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  45. We need to know about the good and bad business because it is very important to us :)
    Thanks for sharing your post :)

    Guerrilla University

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  46. Here's a question for the government: What, in your view, is the value of educating our young about politics, society, culture, economics, or policy issues?
    The government has stated a strong preference for funding applied and commercializable research in technological areas. For good government, intelligent policy-making, and informed, engaged citizenship, however, we need another kind of education: education about politics, law, society, culture, economics. To take advantage of opportunities in a globalized world of education and work, citizens benefit from learning multiple languages. To enjoy life, we need physical and mental well-being, art, music, literature, theatre, and other forms of culture that deepen meaning and understanding. Only a comprehensive university can offer every student the opportunities to complement technical, scientific, mathematical forms of knowledge with the kinds of knowledge that guide and make sense of it all. Our institution is called “universal” for a reason; at our heart is the development of the whole human being and the society and natural environment that nurture human well-being. If we have failed anywhere, it is in letting private interests drive us in the direction of hyper-specialisation and the privileging of technological knowledge, rather than pursuing interdisciplinary education. Citizens need scientific knowledge, but they also need social, cultural, ecological, and psychological knowledge to weigh in effectively on the critical problems of our times. This is the fundamental mission of the university that we must defend.

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    1. This is entirely true - we do need this broader, more holistic, civic education. The government should certainly be called on to explain what it thinks about this. But the University leadership needs to make this case too, and to say these things explicitly, publicly, and forcefully. At the moment, it seems to have been left to the rest of us to say such things on places like this. Why is Indira not out there saying these sorts of things, and explaining this bigger vision of what we do?

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  47. Much attention recently has been focused on the mental health issues faced by students at the U of A. Well, get ready to switch that focus to staff, because the current terrible morale and lack of leadership are killing us. People are getting pretty angry.

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