Study on feasibility of new university in Timmins
If Timmins wants to move forward with the creation of a new English language university, it is going to take huge commitment, dedication and perseverance above all resistance.
That was part of the message this week from academic expert Dr. Ken Coates, a Canada Research chairman in Regional Innovation at the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.
He was speaking to Timmins city council as he is in the midst of preparing a report at the request of the Northern Policy Institute, which has offices in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Kenora.
Coates said he has been asked to undertake what he called “a fairly quick” two-month study into the feasibility of an English language university in Timmins.
“I am at the very early stages,” he said. “I am actually here on an information-gathering exercise. I am not here to tell you what my conclusions are. I am here to ask for your help and support.”
He said challenge he is facing in his mandate is to do an evidencebased study.
“So this is not a study or a sort of report to the world on what the mayor might want, what council might want, what city staff might want, but actually what makes sense.”
He said the idea would have to “make sense” economically, politically and educationally.
“So my job is not to advocate for any one position but to find out what works and what would not work in this particular environ- ment,” he added.
Coates said several options might be considered as part of the study, such as a free-standing group of buildings with labs and classrooms; it could be a satellite facility affiliated with an out-oftown school, or it could also be a “boutique university” focusing on a specific local opportunity.
Coates could not sure at this point what would be best, but he said it would certainly be more than a building.
“It’s more than a building. It’s a whole mix of programs and stu- dent services and supports, and connections to the local economy,” he said.
He added that Canadian universities cannot only look at the needs of today or the immediate future. Instead he said we have to consider the community’s needs in 2036 and 2046.
Coates also spoke about small town university success stories such as in Stratford Ont., the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George and Quest University Canada in B.C.
Coates also said that capitalizing on local resources is also important because there is never enough money to do what everyone wants to do in post secondary education.
“It’s about the mobilization of the community. When I tell you about the Stratfords, the UNBCS and the Quest Programs, these places succeeded because the communities threw their whole weight behind it,” said Coates.
“It wasn’t something that was done casually as a small thing. It was done over the resistance of government, over the resistance of the local population that wasn’t sure it was possible. You really need full on mobilization of the community to make something like this fly. And the timing has to be right. So those are questions I will try to answer as I go forward.
Coates said he would be finishing off his report by the end of the month and submitting it to the policy institute for further study and a peer evaluation process.
“I look forward to producing that report and having further conversations with the good people of Timmins and Northern Ontario as you consider you educational options going forward,” he said.
Mayor Steve Black thanked Coates for his presentation, and said each city councillor will be afforded the opportunity to speak with Coates and provide any input he seeks.
Dr. Ken Coates, an academic expert from the University of Saskatchewan, is currently in the midst of a feasibility study for a new English language university for Timmins. Coates spoke about the study Monday night telling city council that creating a new university in a smaller city is a major task.