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UNB Saint John in the TJ again

December 15, 2008

There is an editorial in response to the Bi-Campus report released last week.   Have a gander at “Make UNBSJ Stronger” (15 dec 2008).  The editorial has the good, the bad and the ugly — just like real life in “the Park.”

The paper continues its attack on program “duplication” — although it is unclear exactly which programs are being targeted.

Engineering?  Only the first two years are available at UNBSJ.

Computer Science?  Surely not, as the TJ is over the top in its appraisal of the new IT chair which will be housed in CS at UNBSJ.

Nursing?  A program that is driven  by government determined needs and professional accreditation.

Education?   There is only a bare-bones concurrent program offered in SJ — which is no longer offered at UNBF.  Moreover, many of the UNBF students actually come to Saint John to fulfill their practice teaching requirements since we are the largest English-language city in the province and those in English-language programs have to go somewhere!

Arts and Science?  That is like saying KVHS is duplicating programs offered at Rothesay High.  According to that idea, we should be sending all SJ area students to Fredericton High so as to avoid duplicating programs in the high schools.

The editorial also refers to an appropriate mandate — leaving that comment open-ended except to suggest that the campuses should be complementary rather than competitive.  This view seems at odds with the TJ’s view that UNBSJ should be funded fairly.  After all, is that not the main area of competition.   The rest of the debate revolves around how the inequitable funding is spent.  I’m not sure why the editors blame the problem of deferred maintenance on “years of poor planning,” since deferred mainetance is a problem confronted by all Canadian universities as well as by provincial institutions such as schools.  I believe the problem rests with inadequate funding rather than poor planning–unless the editors are suggesting the department of finance has a planning problem.  How ironic.

As to the other questions raised in the editorial…

Students would be served by maintaining programs that allow them to finish their degree in their community because that is the most cost-effective way for them to attain a university education.   They should also be able to access education that is affordable.  In other words, tuition needs to be reduced, and other than degrees in highly specialized  (and expensive) programs where enrolments are limited such as veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy,  medicine and any number of other esoteric but important areas (see MIT calendar!) they should not have to relocate to obtain a quality education.

In regards to the question about how to improve the calibre of post-secondary education, the TJ (or even better, the government) need look no further than better funded institutions in Canada and the US.  Those with money are able to offer better quality programs.  And before the inevitable reply comes: that money can’t fix everything and we have to look at affordability, I refer to the NB-Dalhousie initiative to offer medical education in Saint John.  This program is hardly more cost-effective than having the government of NB fund a small number of seats in the Dal Med program.  The issue of affordability seems to be raised selectively.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that while an emphasis on “logic and reasoning” is a good start, professional schools, career prep and graduate research/development (say what?) need more.  As the recent debate over the principles and practices of the parliamentary system of government  has shown, Canadian citizens need to study politics and history too.   Otherwise they may adopt a perfectly logical argument that is simply wrong.  (More on the importance of other disciplines to come…)

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3 Comments
  1. December 15, 2008 4:56 pm

    With the recent cracks in Irving Media’s influence (see St. John elections), perhaps the views of a tax-dodging Bermudan company will be of less and less significance going forward?

    Firing the kleptocrats they’ve sponsored and promoted into office would be a great next step.

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