Declining revenue forces changes in Saskatchewan schools, says education expert

Aug 21, 2013 by

Source: Leader Post

REGINA: Ken Steele doesn’t see universities in Saskatchewan dying out, but says they will likely experience a blurring of the boundaries between themselves and trade and technical schools.

One of Canada’s foremost experts on tertiary education, Steele will be at the University of Regina today, giving his take on education trends in Canada and across the globe.

In an interview Monday, Steele said he won’t be suggesting an answer for the U of R, but will instead “put in front of people some interesting thoughts … and let them look at the possibilities, then go away and think about them.”

Taking somewhat of a big-picture approach, Steele will be highlighting data, best practices and some interesting approaches to higher education in other parts of the country when he speaks at the university this afternoon, but says each province has its own unique challenges.

In Saskatchewan, he said, that problem is geography.

“While geographically it’s close to the centre, it’s a long way away from the immigration centres of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, which can kind of coast along and still turn students away,” he explained.

“It’s a very different situation here, with that question of how can we bring students to Saskatchewan?” But there is one thing most tertiary institutions across Canada have in common – declining revenue. “(Universities) are struggling to control budgets which, in a best-case scenario, could remain stable, but will likely decline over the next decade or so,” he said.

That has led to more universities realizing they need to be more efficient and bringing in revenue in other ways, which plays a part in the morphing face of higher education.

More co-op programs, different ways of teaching, the integration of technology in higher learning – Steele said they will all contribute to what will likely be a different learning environment in the future.

“We’re definitely seeing a gravitation toward professional and practical programs.”

In Ontario, for instance, the economic downturn led to a “huge influx” of students to colleges.

“People want that practical education where they can see an outcome (and) that’s bad news for arts and liberal arts,” Steele said.

“Here in Saskatchewan, (students) are seeing a workplace that’s attractive to them but also receptive, and that’s not the case in other parts of Canada.”

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