CBU ea­ger to do its part to meet chal­lenges in the uni­ver­sity sec­tor

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT - BY JOHN HARKER H. John Harker, LL.D., is pres­i­dent and vice-chan­cel­lor, Cape Bre­ton Uni­ver­sity.

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.

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