CBU eager to do its part to meet challenges in the university sector
T he Cape Breton Post is to be congratulated for the balanced and insightful way it has put the spotlight on a complex and compelling issue in Saturday's editorial, University Future Under Scrutiny.
It is absolutely correct to assert that institutions in Nova Scotia, including and perhaps especially the universities, must both engage with change and behave in a financially responsible manner.
This has, of course, been the recent history of Cape Breton University where the operating budget underwent a serious rationalization, a significant accumulated deficit has been retired, and the faculty recently negotiated a fair and effective settlement with no program disruption – all the while improving degree offerings and charting new pathways.
Witness the creation of the new Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment. The CSEE will be a major driver of commercialization in the green economy, important to this region and the province as a whole.
But, of course, more needs to be accomplished here and on the mainland.
The editorial rightly speaks about retention. We all must do better, though readers might like to be aware that students moving on is part of the overall picture. Our engineering students, for example, are required to complete their degrees in Halifax, not at home.
There are many aspects of the system of universities in Nova Scotia that demand serious attention. Tim O’Neill will play his part, and we intend to play ours. This is vital, and not just because CBU is critical to the future of this region.
I am the chair of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, and CBU vice-president Gordon MacInnis is chair of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, which the editorial refers to.
We know that the universities, which are vital to Nova Scotia and which attract people, cash and prestige to our province, are costly. We must act responsibly, give value for money, and, as we try to do at CBU, sustain meaningful, healthy, tradition while fostering ever more essential innovation.
It is probably correct to say that the spotlight will fall on the several universities in Halifax. We welcome some of that light falling on us, the only university in Cape Breton, because we believe in reviewing what we all do, wherever we are located, to ensure that the public is best served.
This philosophy drives our commitment to partnering with others, whether they be Nova Scotian or foreign universities, colleges from northern Alberta to nearby Marconi and elsewhere in Nova Scotia, and Canada's federal reality on the island, Enterprise Cape Breton Corp.
In fact, as we engage with O’Neill and others on the issues raised in the editorial, we will be partnering with ECBC to get the very best out of our new centre. This will, without a doubt, impact on the big challenge the editorial underscores – combining change with responsibility, driving economic development, giving people options.
Despondency is not an option, nor is dependency. We at CBU have no time for either, and we know that the clock is ticking. The months ahead will indeed be critical for the future of Nova Scotia, not just to our island region, and we will step up to the challenge.