New Brunswick

Northern New Brunswick needs own university, says James Risdon

A bilingual university in northern New Brunswick to serve the post-secondary educational needs of students is something the region needs, says one of the men behind the idea.

University would not compete with programs in other parts of the province

James Risdon says having a university in northern New Brunswick would benefit the region. (Gary Solilak/CBC)
A bilingual university in northern New Brunswick to serve the post-secondary educational needs of students is something the region needs, says one of the men behind the idea.

James Risdon presented the concept for the University of Northern New Brunswick to Bathurst city council to get the conversation about the idea of it started and to garner support for the idea.

Risdon said having a university in the northern part of the province would be beneficial in many ways.

"The idea is to have a full degree-granting bilingual university in the north to allow our students to be able to stay in the north to study and to provide people that are working here an opportunity to upgrade their skills."

Risdon said the university could help develop the stagnant economy of the north.

"What we are trying to do now is build a committee to get a public consensus to let people know what we are thinking about."

While there are a few programs offered from the the University of Moncton and University of New Brunswick in the north, Risdon said there is no full university course for students to take.

The only options available are what he describes as scattered and isolated programs in various locations in northern New Brunswick.

"For a student who wants to go in and get a bachelor of arts, bachelor of commerce, bachelor of science, they end up moving to the southern part of the province where they incur costs for residence, for food.

Risdon added many end up dropping out for various reasons and return home.

Stay in region

"The idea is the students could continue to live at home, they could get their education, get it an affordable cost, graduate and then find themselves jobs or create jobs here."

Risdon said the belief is if students can study in the northern part of the province, they will remain in the region with their skills.

"They may set up entirely new businesses to grow the economy in that way."

Risdon and Gilbert Sewell, an elder at the Pabineau First Nation, developed the idea for the university with a focus on Aboriginal studies and emerging technologies.

James Risdon says he is making presentations about the creation of the University of Northern New Brunswick to councils in northern New Brunswick. (Twitter)

Risdon said they would like to partner with other universities and even offer long-distance education courses.

"We don't want to compete with what is being offered now."

But if and what will be determined by a committee Risdon hopes will be formed as he continues to make presentations to city councils and other groups in northern New Brunswick.

From there, he said public consultations will be held to see if the northern part of the province would want its own university and if it should be publicly or privately funded.

The Department of Post Secondary Education, Training and Labour said in an e-mail any individual, group or organization that wishes to offer university programs in the province are required to be designated under the Degree Granting Act.

Meanwhile, Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie said council will discuss Risdon's request for a resolution of support at its next meeting adding he thinks its an interesting concept.

"Obviously, there's a need for some post-secondary education in English in the north. This is something that our citizens not only from our municipality but from the greater region of the north are asking for for multiple years."