Continuing Education escapes extinction

By Вen Li

The Faculty of Continuing Education avoided dissolution on Thu., Feb. 27.

General Faculties Council narrowly defeated a proposal to consolidate delivery of several programs including those currently provided by the Faculty of Continuing Education, Learning Commons and French Centre; as well as professional development programs, spring and summer sessions, and Weekend University.

“The role of continuing education at a university is clearly an important one,” said U of C Vice-President Academic Ron Bond when he brought the proposal. “There’s no question at all that the mandate of any university must include continuing education activities. It is an expectation imposed by the Universities Act and by the public at large.”

Bond proposed that “the General Faculties Council, on the recommendation of the University Planning Committee, dissolve the Faculty of continuing Education, effective June 30, 2003 as the organizational entity responsible for continuing education and related activities at the University of Calgary; and distribute the functions, programs and activities of the current Faculty of Continuing Education…” The proposal would have consolidated both internal and external continuing education functions into one unit responsible for overall co-ordination, while individual units would provide instructors and course content.

Tom Keenan, Dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education, opposed the proposal, suggesting the changes would come too quickly. He also said it lacked details such as a proposed budget or definite actions to follow.

“We have an opportunity to follow a successful model like that [of University Technologies Inc.] instead of what is proposed here,” said Keenan. “This self-imposed deadline gives the patina and illusion of change rather than being a fundamental restructuring. This proposal does violence to the Academic Plan and to adult learners.”

According to the proposal, restructuring the continuing education offerings to increase efficiencies would recover the cost of restructuring within two years are consistent with the university’s Academic Plan.

“The importance and influence of the Academic Plan in guiding our decisions, especially in times of fiscal constraint and budgetary challenges, cannot be overemphasized: academic considerations will prompt financial and other decisions taken at the University of Calgary,” the proposal stated.

The proposal also sought greater spring and summer enrolment to increase use of the university physical plant, and increased student throughput from academic departments.

Graduate Students’ Association President Michelle McCann said the proposal might result in fewer spring/summer instructors because those courses would be offered by a business unit and not by academic departments.

“There’s a lot of spring/summer courses taught by PhD students,” she said. “[Under the proposal] they can’t put on their resumes that the courses they taught were in a university faculty. You’ll have PhD students less willing to do that.”

U of C Faculty Association President Dr. John Baker was concerned that faculty would be displaced under the proposal.

“If academic staff and faculty members in the Faculty of Continuing Education are moved to a new centre, it would be important that we have some confirmation that such academic staff members being so moved, doing the same kind of work, would remain designated as academic staff,” he said. “A lot of work is being done by the same people in different locations at the university. We’re concerned about the workload on academic staff.”

Dr. Brian Kooyman from Department of Archaeology felt that academic staff input prior to considering the proposal was lacking.

“Members of the academic community have divergent views on this proposal and were not sufficiently consulted,” he said. “I feel really unready to vote for this, I’m not willing to vote on it since a great deal of other opinions were not brought to us.”

Keenan also criticized Bond for moving too quickly on the proposal. In response, Bond stated the urgency was requested by the faculty.

“Why are we moving this proposal in such an aggressive way?” asked Bond. “The Faculty of Continuing Education asked us for a commitment to move this forward in an aggressive way. They wanted it in front of GFC now so the effects would be known by July 2003.”

Keenan emphasized that the university’s current research and financial focus should not be the only determinants of what continuing education options should be offered.

“What need would there be for a research university to offer continuing education? Both the University of Toronto and Waterloo offer community courses,” he said. “If we were to strike courses, we would be in the vanguard of that movement. No one else in Canada feels that way.”

Last year, the Faculty of Continuing Education had 16,138 “customers” enrolled in 24,042 courses.

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