MRU announces cuts to fine arts, nursing programs

Mount Royal University officials plan to suspend some diploma and certificate programs in wake of Alberta's funding cuts to post-secondary institutions.

Faculty member calls the decision to cut music and theatre diplomas 'lazy'

More than 300 students and faculty of Mount Royal University gathered last week to protest cuts to post-secondary education. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Mount Royal University officials plan to suspend some diploma and certificate programs in wake of Alberta's funding cuts to post-secondary institutions.

MRU officials announced the cuts during a town hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's the worst news I've seen in terms of program cuts," said Manuel Mertin, the acting vice-president of academics.

The programs that will eventually be suspended are:

  • Bachelor of engineering – university transfer
  • Theatre arts diploma – performance or technical stream
  • Diploma in music performance  – classical and jazz stream
  • Diploma in disability studies
  • Certificate in forensics
  • One-year certificate in journalism
  • Advanced studies in perinatal and neonatal nursing certificate

MRU is facing a $14-million shortfall, in part because the province didn't fulfill a promise to fund the cost of transitioning from a college to a university, Mertin said.

"In an institution like us, that kind of cut cannot be achieved by cutting a percentage across the board — nine per cent across the board. You endanger the quality of all the existing programs if you do that. There is just not enough fat there to cut around the edges, and so we had to be strategic and look at our programming offering altogether."

The first step will be no longer accepting new students into the programs and once existing students complete the programs, the programs will be suspended, he said.

'Lazy, sloppy administration'

Jim Brenan, chair of theatre, speech and music performance program, expects to lose his job.

"The stage is filled with our graduates. We are the biggest educational footprint in Calgary for the arts," he said.

"This is lazy, sloppy administration. You didn't do your homework, you didn't check things out enough. You didn't see that these things are important, the programs are programs that students want to be in."

Budget cuts across the province

Alberta's post-secondary institutions had been expecting a two per cent increase in operating grants before the provincial budget came down earlier this year. Instead, officials are looking at $147 million worth of budget cuts.

The cuts mean a 7.3 per cent decrease in operating grants for the Alberta institutions.

Officials had already announced the Internationally Educated Nurses Assessment program at MRU will also be discontinued.

Last week, Mount Royal University students and faculty marched in Calgary to protest provincial cuts to the school's operating budget.

Roughly 300 people were in attendance for the rally, which ended with them handing off a petition to Alberta Premier Alison Redford's constituency office located on Richard Way in southwest Calgary.