Alberta College of Art and Design gains university status

The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) has been elevated to university status, the provincial minister of advanced education announced Thursday in Calgary.

'We're taking big new steps to diversify our economy ... and ACAD plays a big part in that'

Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt was at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) to announce that the school is now a university. (CBC)

The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) has been elevated to university status, the provincial minister of advanced education announced in Calgary on Thursday. 

Marlin Schmidt said the change recognizes the unique role ACAD has long played as the only fine arts-focused post-secondary institution in the province.

And he said ensuring that ACAD thrives will benefit the province as a whole as it continues to emerge from an economic downturn.

"We're doing things differently. We're taking big new steps to diversify our economy and create new jobs for our people, and ACAD plays a big part in that," he said.

"ACAD has been delivering exceptional undergraduate and masters' degrees for some time now, and it's well past time that we acknowledge how irreplaceable ACAD is to our province and recognize its role as the primary fine arts school in Alberta."

Schmidt said university status will enhance ACAD's reputation around the province as well as nationally and internationally.

'Arts play an important role'

"Our government knows that the arts play an important role in our society, not only from a cultural point of view but also from an economic one," he said. 

ACAD CEO Daniel Doz thanked the province for the change in status, saying it's about support, evolution, recognition and belief.

"It's support for our students in ensuring that the education they receive at our university is valued on parity throughout Alberta and Canada," he said.

Camille Porcheron, a director with the students' association, said the university designation will help people understand that an ACAD degree is a serious undertaking.

"Students here know how hard we're working. We know what we're working for. And now we can finally have that recognition of what we're doing," she said.

A report by an outside consultant that became public late last year concluded that ACAD was on the verge of financial instability. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

ACAD board of governors chair Carol Ryder said university status has been long-awaited.

"Although our name may change, our focus and commitment to educate and nurture the next generation of artists and designers in Alberta will always remain the same," she said.

A report prepared by Ronald B. Bond Consulting that became public late last year concluded that ACAD was on the verge of financial instability.

The report cited several reasons for the troubles faced by ACAD, including excessive "comings and goings" of people in senior leadership positions, a failure to update programs and curriculum to stay competitive, and insufficient integrated planning.

Doz said at the time that the institution was not in trouble, but that something had to be done soon because revenues were being outpaced by inflation.