Students in the middle of classes at the troubled First Nations University of Canada are being told the University of Regina will help them finish their studies.
"The students that enrolled through First Nations University are students of the University of Regina," Vianne Timmons, president of the U of R said Thursday. "We will ensure with our partners that they complete their academic studies in the program they registered for. So we're committed to that."
How that will happen was not explained, although Timmons said the U of R was ready.
"We have had contingency plans in place for a while," Timmons said.
On Wednesday, the province of Saskatchewan pulled its funding from First Nations University, effective April 1, saying it had lost confidence in the leadership of the institution. The provincial contribution amounted to about one-fifth of FNUC's annual budget.
First Nations University has lurched from controversy to controversy in the last five years as administrators have been fired amid allegations of financial impropriety.
There have also been repeated calls for the institution to change its governance structure. The university is controlled by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which has drawn criticism for appointing reserve chiefs to the board.
Timmons said that the University of Regina and First Nations University are closely related, but FNUC is an independent school.
"We cannot, legally, step in and take any role in administration of our federated college," Timmons said. "They are administratively and financially independent of the University of Regina. We are academically integrated, but they are independent."
She said a consultant's report on First Nations University governance is expected Feb. 18 and she is hopeful it will provide a roadmap for the future of the school.
"I'm going to wait and see and give that report an opportunity to influence the decision as we move forward," Timmons said.
At the same time, Timmons advised prospective students to consider other options for the next academic year. She encouraged students to apply to First Nations but added: "They need to ensure that they've applied to a few places."
According to Timmons, enrolment has declined over time, and now stands at about 600. At its peak, First Nations University had more than 1,000 students.
The school was officially launched as an independent institution in 2003. Its roots, however, go back to 1976 when the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College was established.