North

No student left behind after Aurora College's transformation, says its president

The team leading Aurora College’s transformation into a polytechnic university says once completed, it will provide opportunities for Northwest Territories residents in every community to access post-secondary education.

Andy Bevan provided an update Wednesday to a standing committee on Aurora College’s transformation

Aurora College president Andy Bevan pledged to a government committee that as the college transforms into a polytechnic, it will improve access, have better quality programs and 'a clear commitment and understanding that we will leave no student behind.' (Submitted by Andy Bevan)

The team leading Aurora College's transformation into a polytechnic university says once completed, it will provide opportunities for Northwest Territories residents in every community to access post-secondary education.

Andy Bevan, the president of the college, who also serves as the associate deputy minister of post-secondary education renewal in the territory, along with Chris Joseph, the director of Aurora College Transformation, provided an update on the transformation to a Northwest Territories Standing Committee on Social Development Wednesday.

"Although this is becoming a polytechnic university, the institution is not going to leave behind Northerners," Joseph said.

"It's about ensuring pathways that meet students where they are. That means that all learners — whether they're leaving the high school system or they're looking for continuous opportunities for improvement, or they're looking for new opportunities to build their skills up to enter the labour market — will have an opportunity to learn."

Bevan said that includes more than just offering basic adult education classes in communities, but certificate and diploma-level programs as well in regional centres. He pledged improved access, better quality programs and "a clear commitment and understanding that we will leave no student behind."

Aurora College in Yellowknife in a file photo. The transformation into a polytechnic university is scheduled to be completed by May 2025. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Some MLAs were not convinced.

"Our schools are not graduating the students that are ready for polytechnic … especially in the regions and in the small communities," said MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes Lesa Semmler.

MLA for Monfwi Jane Weyallon Armstrong gave an impassioned speech about the challenges for many in small communities.

"Students in the small communities or in the regions, they're lacking lot of resources, so they are the ones that are left behind by the whole system," she said.

"We're always going to be behind if we don't have the resources to help our young people."

Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon says she does not believe no student will be left behind. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

Bevan reiterated providing more programming at the regional level is "absolutely" a commitment he could make.

"We would like more resources. We will work hard to get those. We also think we can do better with the resources we have," he said.

The federal government gave the college $8 million in July to help transform into a polytechnic university. 

MLA for Frame Lake Kevin O'Reilly noted was far less than the $26 million Yukon received for just one building on Yukon University's campus.

Bevan said they are in the process of rolling out a facilities plan that would be completed by July 2022. He said it would form the basis for engaging investment partners, including the federal government.

"I don't think we can wait til July 2022," O'Reilly replied.

"There's a new federal government, different cabinet ministers. We need a plan to take to them now."

Phase 2

The transformation process is on the cusp on entering phase two, once a bill is passed in the upcoming sitting of the legislative assembly to amend the Aurora College Act. The bill looks to create a new governance structure and allow Aurora College to operate at arm's length from the territorial government.

A significant part of phase two will involve a quality assurance review. Joseph said it will be led by the Campus Alberta Quality Council, a public body in Alberta that reviews all university and degree programs in that province. It completed a similar review for Yukon College when it transformed into Yukon University.

The review will examine all aspects of the institution to ensure it meets national standards.

It is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 2023.

The polytechnic university is expected to launch by May 2025.

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