For the last three weeks, the Saint John Board of Trade has focused on gathering information and vigilantly reviewing and debating the contents of the PSE Report with its membership and community stakeholders. Reactions from members have ranged from outrage at the idea of dismantling UNBSJ in favour of a Polytechnic, to optimism regarding the overdue enhancement of the New Brunswick Community College in Saint John.
“With every challenge comes an opportunity. There is certainly agreement that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Now is the time for bold ideas, for Greater Saint John to be the author of a solution that will ensure the creation of a “Centre of Excellence”. We must take charge, and let our provincial government know what Greater Saint John is prepared to champion as a solution for post-secondary education,” said Nathalie Godbout.
The Board has determined through an ongoing consultation process that there are many areas where consensus has been reached:
- The existing post-secondary education framework in our region needs serious improvement.
- Saint John must have a university, including full access to a four-year business and liberal arts education. Our university will not be replaced by a polytechnic. Instead, we should be building capacity.
- There are significant advantages to co-locating NBCC-Saint John and UNBSJ in a common area. Specifically, those benefits include the sharing of infrastructure such as libraries, student residences, student-life facilities, and the ability of faculty to teach at both institutions.
- We need better access to programs, credit transferability and advanced training in related disciplines from both institutions.
- Saint John must create a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in areas critical to the growth of the community, namely Energy/Advanced Manufacturing, IT and Health Sciences.
- More investment in post-secondary education is crucial.
After careful consideration and tremendous feedback from Board of Trade members and the community at large, the Board of Trade supports a post-secondary solution based on a model that meets the needs of our students and the strengths of both NBCC-Saint John and UNBSJ. This would involve:
- Co-location of both institutions in a common area, which could certainly be Tucker Park;
- Both institutions would maintain their existing identities reporting to an appropriate management body, which would receive direct funding from the provincial government;
- A full range of degree and diploma programs, including Masters and Doctorate studies, with emphasis on Energy/Advanced Manufacturing, IT and Health Sciences;
- The importance of the UNB brand and its recognition as a nationally accredited university would be maintained with the new Saint John campus.
The result is a Centre of Excellence, comprised of at least two high-quality, accessible institutions with direct provincial funding in a common area offering a full range of degree and diploma programs, while maintaining the UNB brand. This is a modernization of an existing model in Saint John, designed to improve access to post-secondary education and meet our existing need for a well-trained workforce. The Board urges all community stakeholders to continue the dialogue and craft a response that meets the needs of the Greater Saint John community as a whole.
“Education is our future. It speaks to workforce, to health, to literacy, to community, to family. The growth of this region is dependent on education. The uncertainty around this issue cannot be permitted to continue. Our students, our faculty, and families in this region deserve a strong voice and a timely solution. Let’s go to our government with one voice and one solution.”