Commission on Post-Secondary Education in New Brunswick

Commission recommends integrated post-secondary education system focused on students (07/09/14)

NB 1157

Sept. 14, 2007

FREDERICTON (CNB) - Creating the first completely integrated student-focused post-secondary education system in Canada is at the centre of the final recommendations released today by the Commission on Post-Secondary Education in New Brunswick.

(Multimedia)

The report Advantage New Brunswick: A Province Reaches To Fulfill Its Destiny provides several recommendations based on establishing a new structure for post-secondary education in the province that shifts the focus away from institutions and is instead student-oriented.

"New Brunswick has a unique opportunity to be the first province in Canada and perhaps the first jurisdiction in North America to establish such an integrated, student-focused, public-private system. This will be the province's strategic advantage," commissioner Rick Miner said. "We realize change is difficult, but it is necessary in order for New Brunswick to prosper and attain its self-sufficiency goals."

"Our vision for post-secondary education embodies several vital characteristics," commissioner Jacques L'Écuyer said. "The New Brunswick system must be accessible, relevant, responsive, comprehensive, efficient, accountable and of high quality. It must be equally accessible to both linguistic communities in all regions of the province and allow the further development of both communities."

In order to achieve this kind of post-secondary system, the governance of the whole system will have to be reviewed. The commission is proposing that the New Brunswick government clarify its own mission and move to a more policy-focused role. A Presidents' Council, comprising the heads of most public post-secondary institutions and representatives of private institutions and high schools, as well as a new arms-length co-ordinating agency, the New Brunswick Post-Secondary Education Commission, should be established.

The proposed commission would be responsible for ensuring the fulfillment of the vision through quality assurance, policy advice to government, review of institutional strategic plans, credit transfer and the establishment of an application and information portal among other items.

"The creation of the information portal is one of our most important recommendations," L'Écuyer said. "Students and their families need to be able to make informed decisions in the simplest and most convenient way possible, should they be looking for information on programs, tuition fees, application process or student aid."

New Brunswick Public Post-Secondary Institutions

The new post-secondary education system should be fully integrated, from colleges to universities, including the apprenticeship programs. It should be comprised of four universities, three polytechnics and one college with four campuses.

The Université de Moncton (U de M) and the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton would continue to be comprehensive universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, and more emphasis should be put on their research mandate. Fredericton's St. Thomas University and Sackville's Mount Allison University should remain focused on liberal arts undergraduate degrees.

A new kind of institution - the polytechnic - would emerge under the new system. "The authors of a recent report on the future of post-secondary education in Canada say that polytechnics are rapidly emerging as the third stream that blends applied skills with broad subject-matter expertise," Miner said. "They say that polytechnics are seen as a solid middle ground, capable of meeting many of the labour market demands for skilled professionals in today's society. As is a characteristic of polytechnics, they will offer a broad variety of credentials (certificates, diplomas, undergraduate degrees, some graduate degrees, and apprenticeship training) including, where appropriate, first and second year arts and science programs for transfer into other institutions. A particular focus on applied research and commercialization is another hallmark of the polytechnic philosophy and is included as part of the commission's recommendations."

The commission recommended the formation of three regional polytechnics: Saint John Polytechnic in Saint John with a campus in St. Andrews; Northeastern Polytechnic in Shippagan with campuses in Bathurst and Campbellton; and Northwestern Polytechnic in Edmundston.

Polytechnics involve the combination of university and college activities into something greater than the sum of the two parts in order to create a truly new culture. The type of polytechnic proposed in New Brunswick would be closely tied to their communities, responsive to their needs and take advantage of their combined university and college strengths.

"The idea is to build on the solid college and university programs New Brunswick currently offer to enrich program offerings to students by creating new opportunities with the addition of applied programs," L'Écuyer said. "The New Brunswick polytechnics will offer a variety of degree and diploma, all under one roof, ranging from the humanities and arts through science and technology. Polytechnics clearly represent a significant evolutionary force occurring across North America. In the United States some universities have recently changed to polytechnics and according to the Chronicle of Higher Education enrolment in Arizona State Polytechnic has taken off and a few other institutions with the name are experiencing notable surges in enrolment and attention. Clearly New Brunswick will be on the forefront of this transition in Canada."

The proposed system would see UNB Saint John merge with the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) Saint John Campus and NBCC St. Andrews Campus to form Saint John Polytechnic. The U de M campus in Shippagan would merge with Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) campuses in the Acadian Peninsula, Bathurst and Campbellton to form the Northeastern New Brunswick Polytechnic. The Northwestern New Brunswick Polytechnic would be the result of a merger between the U de M campus in Edmundston and CCNB Campus d'Edmundston.

The commission also proposes that NBCC-CCNB operate outside the provincial government, with one head office overseeing four campuses in Dieppe, Moncton, Miramichi and Fredericton. The Fredericton Campus would include the NBCC Woodstock Campus, the Maritime College of Forest Technology and the College of Craft and Design. Should a new college be established in Fredericton, it should become part of the Fredericton campus.

The NBCC would continue to offer college programs, including trades. They could also offer the first and second year of university programs in Moncton, Miramichi and Woodstock where needs and numbers are justified. There would be no university programs in Dieppe and Fredericton because of the proximity of a university campus in the same communities.

The proposal also suggests that apprenticeship and occupational certification, currently administered by Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, become a separate operating agency with the flexibility of a self-governing post-secondary institution.

Finally, education in both languages should be improved in all regions of the province. CCNB Dieppe would be assigned special responsibility for instruction in French in Anglophone regions, and NBCC Moncton would be assigned special responsibility for instruction in English in francophone regions.

The report also emphasizes the importance of international student recruitment, recommending that a recruitment strategy be developed for international students to eventually become a component of New Brunswick's broader provincial immigration policy. It also suggests that actions be taken to increase access to post-secondary education for First Nations people, students with disabilities, and programs that experience significant gender imbalances.

The commission provided a number of other recommendations pertaining to the reduction of student debt, the funding to institutions and the field of research and development in post-secondary education:

Improving student aid

· New Brunswick should adopt a three-pronged student aid program consisting of
a) a loan reduction component by which no student would acquire an annual student debt in excess of $7,000;
b) a supplement to the Canada Access Grant which would reduce tuition for low income students by providing relief beyond the first year of study; and
c) a program which assists students who encounter difficulty managing their student debt obligations.

· The tuition tax back credit and the $2,000 grant for first-year university students would be transitioned, with the funds re-allocated to the proposed three-pronged student aid program.

· Post-secondary institutions should be free to set their own tuition fees, but a portion of any increase should be allocated in the form of student aid.

· New Brunswick should seek to improve coordination of the provincial and federal student aid programs.

Improving funding to post-secondary education

· Over and above its annual inflationary increases, New Brunswick should increase spending on post-secondary education by $50 million over the next three years, with $20 million to increase institutional operating budgets and $30 million allocated for a special purpose fund.

· The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) formula for allocating grants to universities should be modernized and replaced by a new approach that applies to universities, colleges and polytechnics.

· A government commitment to an ongoing three-year (multiyear) funding plan should be reciprocated by the public institutions providing multiyear tuition commitments.

Research and Development

· New Brunswick must expand its capacity for graduate study and research, especially in areas of particular importance to the province. These efforts should be focussed on UNB and U de M.

· New Brunswick should develop a research strategy which identifies and supports areas of current and potential importance to the province.

· New Brunswick should adopt a policy of "matching" research grants in areas of high priority for the province and provide support for the indirect costs of research.

The commission developed their recommendations following a consultation tour attended by hundreds of New Brunswickers, featuring dozens of presentations by individuals and groups. The commission also attended over 50 stakeholder meetings and examined over 100 submitted briefs.

"As we stated in the report, we firmly believe New Brunswickers need and want to move in this direction," Miner said. "And for their precious collaboration, we want to thank everyone who was involved in the development of our final report and the work of the commission, from the support staff to our advisory panel to the many stakeholders who offered their perspective on the future of New Brunswick's post-secondary system, especially the students of New Brunswick, who provided us with invaluable insight. We now highly encourage everyone to read the whole report. It is a complex document with many interrelationships involved. It is important to spend time understanding the dynamics and relevance of the issues raised."

The report can be found online by visiting the commission's website at http://www.gnb.ca/CPSE-CEPS/EN/index.html, or at http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/promos/cpse/index-e.asp.

07/09/14

MEDIA CONTACT: Diane Gauthier, communications, Commission on Post-Secondary Education in New Brunswick, 506-440-8120 (cell) or 506-444-2088.

07/09/14