By Nick Clark
The world of provincial politics is a constantly moving one, especially when it involves a new government and even more so when that government is committed to making sweeping changes, as is the case with Alberta’s UCP. Even with a federal election in progress, we still need to keep an eye on what’s developing close to home. As students, that goes double when the minister who presides over Alberta’s educational realm shows up at our front door.
Concordia received a visit from the Alberta Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, on September 4th. He came as part of a tour of Alberta post-secondary institutions, during which he’s been asking students and faculty about what they feel works and what doesn’t work about the current post-secondary system in Alberta.
According to the Alberta government’s website, “The government is focused on working with universities and colleges to get better labour market outcomes for students, helping them innovate and compete at an international level, and ensuring the post-secondary system is working for all Albertans.”
One of the questions the minister had for students was how difficult or easy applying to university is. The students in attendance said the process is tedious and, on a related subject, they would prefer if scholarship applications were all available through the Alberta Student Aid website.
An issue likely on the minds of most CUE students recently is the lack of space, both in traditional classrooms and in labs, for the increasing number of students. The UCP government is already familiar with the class size problems facing post-secondary students’ younger counterparts in primary and secondary schools, so it remains to be seen if they will make any efforts to address the subject at the university level.
Nicolaides listened to the concerns but ultimately did not elaborate on any potential plans he or the government has to address them, other than an offer to bring them up at the appropriate time.
He also did not address the recently released MacKinnon Report, which contains recommendations for the Alberta government on public spending, which includes its spending on post-secondary institutions. The Report recommends that post-secondary institutions increase their tuition in order to stop relying on government funding. The recommendations from the report have not been implemented yet and are not official government policy, but they do align closely with the new United Conservative government’s modus operandi.
The Minister said, “Post-secondary institutions are home to some of our province’s brightest thinkers and problem-solvers. Together, we will determine the best ways to build the workforce of the future and support a stronger and growing economy.” Time will tell what that comes to mean for students.