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UNB Town Hall Review – Part I

January 14, 2009

Warning: What follows is the first in a (brief) series of UNB-centric postings.

For those unable to attend the Town Hall event, I thought I’d share my take on “the state of the bi-campus uni” in the wake of the Report of the UNB Commission on Inter-Campus Relations, Funding, and Governance. I’m touching on three areas only (funding, governance, and “separation”), so I hope others will add comments to fill in the gaps in what follows and offer additional/alternative “takes.”


First, funding: Okay, I haven’t wrapped my mind around all the figures in all the tables in the report, but the main message appears to be this: Over the years, the Board of Governors has tried to come up with a fair and reasonable internal solution to an unfair and unreasonable external problem, namely the inadequacy of provincial funding and the failure of provincial governments to heed previous recommendations to provide separate grants to the two campuses. Attempts at an internal solution have caused internal tensions which are unlikely to be completely resolved until the root problem is addressed. To that end, the Commissioners recommend, with some force, and apparently in the hope that we’ll be “third time lucky,” that UNB and its Board impress upon the provincial government the critical necessity of introducing separate grants to the two campuses. That said, the Commissioners also highlight the new uncertainties that the provincial government has introduced around grant policy in its recent “Action Plan” (as I recall, something along the lines of “modernizing” funding formulae so that post-secondary institutions will be disciplined to respond in goose-step fashion to somebody’s flavour-of-the-month perception of labour market requirements). As the Commissioners point out, suggested measures within the Action Plan, while still vague and uncertain, “could affect the current independence of university decision-making and academic freedom in important ways” (p. 40). So I’m thinking that’s the crucial funding fiasco we need to focus on at this point.

Your thoughts?

(Stay tuned… next time:  Governance)

  1. Linda Hansen permalink
    January 15, 2009 2:28 pm

    It might be worth reading this article in the NY Times

    The study, upon which it reports, found:

    *the share of higher education budgets [based on data that colleges and universities report to the US federal government] that goes to instruction has declined, while the portion spent on administrative costs has increased.*

    I found the quote below particularly noteworthy:

    *The institutions whose primary mission is teaching — the masters and community colleges and bachelors colleges, are slowly disinvesting in the teaching function,* Ms. Wellman said.

    and I learned a new buzzword: disinvesting.

  2. lchalmers permalink
    January 15, 2009 3:35 pm

    Disinvesting in teaching to invest in administration and support. Hmmm. Doesn’t that point to a sort of apocalyptic world where “managing the brand” has triumphed over creating a tangible good, a world rooted in the belief that, as long as we have pretty packaging with lots of busy bows, no one is apt to notice that the packages are empty?

  3. Debra Lindsay permalink
    January 15, 2009 8:45 pm

    Regarding the funding issue…
    There seemed to be consensus among those at the front of the room that discrepancies in how the two campuses are funded rests with how the formula is calculated using WFTE’s but I got no sense from the comments made that a more equitable benchmark might be used in future. In other words, if the two campuses obtain separate funding but the formula for calculating those funds remains unchanges, so too will our current underfunded state.
    What is needed is more imagination in coming up with a new formula–so to ensure parity between the campuses. As it now stands, we have governance based on rep by pop and a funding formula along the same principle.

  4. lchalmers permalink
    January 18, 2009 8:53 am

    Yes, one might have hoped that this Commission would have pushed the process along a bit further, even if only to recommend that a bi-campus dialogue be initiated to draft some new funding formula suggestions for input to the provincial government. Still, it’s not too late….

  5. January 18, 2009 9:54 pm

    I hope indeed that it is not too late, but it would appear that at some point early in the process our administration lost any stomach they may have had to seriously address the funding formula. You may recall our president’s (formerly) oft-repeated statement that if the govt. wouldn’t address the funding formula, he would. I say “formerly” because I, at least, have not heard it for some time. You may also recall that when this bi-campus commission was set up, both UNB senates were assured that its mandate was limited to examining the funding formula. But here we are, many months later, with suggestions about everything from governance to secession. Everything except, that is, an institutional response to the funding inequities.

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