Red Deer College will have to wait until fall to find out if it will be upgraded to polytechnic university status.
Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt said a review of the roles and mandates of each post-secondary institution in Alberta will be complete in the fall.
“Red Deer is one of a number of institutions that’s requested some changes to their roles and mandates that they currently fulfill. We’re looking at each of those requests, not just individually, but in conjunction with each other because we know the changing the role and mandate of one institution will have impacts on the delivery of higher education at other institutions in the province,” Schmidt said on Wednesday at RDC’s first annual State of the College Address where he welcomed Morris Flewwelling who officially stepped into the role of RDC board chair.
RDC president Joel Ward said getting an answer to the long-standing request is a major milestone.
“I think that’s probably the most positive step we’ve had since 1990 when we first came forward with an ask to be degree granting. Then in 2005 we had another ask before government. Neither of those two times was an answer given. So having an commitment from the government to give an answer, whether it’s yes or it’s no, at least let’s us know where we stand and where we need to go next,” Ward said.
He expects an answer either in the fall or next spring depending on how long the review takes.
Ward said he will meet with the ministry to discuss the polytechnic university model and will be getting help from Utah Valley University president Matthew Holland who is finishing a major research paper at Oxford University on the benefits of the model.
Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah, that has a population of about 90,000, made the switch in 2008.
“The future of post secondary in these types of communities like Red Deer, outside of major urban areas, is this polytechnic university model. It is something that is gathering steam across the world and it’s going to make a difference in this community that will be felt for generations. Not to get it is going to be sad day for this community.”
He said about 2,000 RDC students transfer to Edmonton or Calgary educational institutions each year.
“For them to stay and complete their education, and the ability to offer new degrees, is the only path to sustainable growth and increasing the participation rates in post secondary in Central Alberta which is some of the lowest in the country,” Ward said.
Flewwelling said it would benefit Red Deer students to get their degrees at RDC, as well as reduce costs for parents.
Right now RDC works in conjunction with Alberta universities to grant degrees, but polytechnic university would give RDC autonomy which is important, said the former Red Deer mayor.
“(Right now) we don’t control the curriculum. We don’t control course content. We don’t control the philosophy and the way of learning. Red Deer College has a very special devotion to applied learning.”