Troubled Athabasca University to undergo third-party review

The review, announced Thursday by the Alberta government and the university’s board of governors, will be undertaken by Ken Coates, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Internal report written in 2015 found the online university the risk of insolvency

Financially troubled Athabasca University will undergo an independent third-party review to determine its future.

The review, announced Thursday by the Alberta government and the university's board of governors, will be conducted by Ken Coates.

Coates, a professor and Canada Research Chair in regional innovation at the University of Saskatchewan, will submit a report by April 30.

"We are committed to working together to determine a long-term plan that ensures AU continues to deliver high-quality, relevant learning opportunities for Alberta students," Marlin Schmidt, minister of advanced education, said in a news release.

Athabasca University has been in financial trouble for years. As more universities offer online courses, Athabasca has faced increased competition for students.

An internal report prepared in 2015 found that the online university would be insolvent within two years, due to union contracts, changes in provincial funding, and the relatively remote location of its headquarters.

In an effort to secure more funding, the university spent $125,000 to lobby the provincial government between 2006 and 2008.

The university donated more than $10,000 to the governing Progressive Conservatives over that same period. Such institutions are prohibited by law from using public money for political donations.