One of things most studied at Aurora College is the college itself.

The Northwest Territories Government is about to award a contract for a broad review of Aurora College that seems a lot like one done four years ago.

The college is currently developing a 10-year strategic plan. It's hired Yellowknife firm Tait Communications to help at a cost of $134,000.

At the same time, the government is also developing an accountability framework for the college.

Two years ago, the education department paid a consultant $184,000 to develop its Skills for Success initiative, to gear education programming to meet labour market demands.

Department says 'foundational review' different from previous review

The foundational review comes four years after former education department deputy minister Mark Cleveland was paid $51,000 to do a review that he described as focusing on the purpose of the college; the respective roles of its board of governors, the department and the minister; the legislation governing it and it's (then) new organizational structure.

An assistant deputy minister with the department says this new foundational review is not at all similar.

Andy Bevan, N.W.T. Education Department

Andy Bevan of the N.W.T.'s Education Department says a broad review of Aurora College needs to be completed before the college can do its 10-year strategic plan. (CBC )

"It is quite fundamentally different in the sense that it's supposed to look at the reason for the college and how best it can position itself going forward," said Andy Bevan.

"What we're hoping to get out of the report, or foundational review, is what other options are out there, what other jurisdictions are doing. There's lots of of input that's required by post secondary institutions to make sure they're making the right programming decisions."

Bevan says the foundational review will guide the college's strategic plan.

"The foundational review needs to be done prior to the college embarking on a 10-year strategic plan — there's no doubt about that from a sequencing perspective."

Reviews and strategies

But the college began work on its strategic plan eight months ago. The board of governors which then oversaw Aurora College was not consulted about the foundational review, said one former board member.

Education Minister Alfred Moses fired vice-chair Mary Beckett and the rest of the board of governors in June, replacing them with a hand-picked administrator.

At the time, Moses said he fired the board to bring stability to the college while the foundational review was being done, an explanation that left many scratching their heads. But tension between the board and the department had been growing for months.

One board member had resigned to protest the cutting of the teachers' education program. Others had taken exception to the minister portraying the program and funding cuts as the college's idea.

Former vice-chair of the Aurora board, Mary Beckett, said the firing of the board is likely a foreshadowing of what the review will find.

"That sort of indicates to me that you've already made the decision and you're just doing the review to to produce a report to support a decision that's already been made," said Beckett.

Beckett says the college had already delayed developing its new strategic plan by a year, to allow the government to complete its Skills for Success study.

She says the dismissal of the board came at a hastily arranged conference call just before it was announced publicly.

"I didn't get the 8:30 in the morning email to tell me about the 9 a.m. conference call, so I missed it. So that's about how much knowledge we had of it in advance," said Beckett.