Nova Scotia

Dalhousie, Agricultural College discuss merger

Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College have begun the process of merging the two institutions.
Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College have begun the process of merging the two institutions. (CBC)

Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College have begun the process of merging the two institutions.

Provincial politicians and officials from both schools announced the move Friday in Bible Hill, N.S.

"Today I am pleased to announce that the province is pursuing a partnership with Dalhousie," Agriculture Minister John MacDonell told a news conference at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

The 106-year-old institution is currently a provincial government operation with about 300 faculty and staff, 961 students and a $30-million annual budget.

Dalhousie University, on the other hand, has nearly 17,000 students. The Halifax university was founded in 1818.

MacDonell said a merger would ensure "NSAC can compete with similar institutions in larger centres and excel on the national and international stage." With such a merger, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College would become a faculty of Dalhousie University.

He insisted the merger is not about cutting costs.

"We want to ensure that this institution is all that it is now, plus more," MacDonell said.

"The point of the merger is really to have academic freedom, the ability to access funding that you may not be able to get as a part of a bureaucracy so I think the idea is that we would like to ensure that this institution — as an agricultural institution — stays that way."

The merger talks are expected to take 12 months and Dalhousie University proposes to take over the NSAC by September 2012.

"We are creating some new capacity at the university within one common institutional framework, one common university. Every province in this country has a major university," said Tom Traves, the president of Dalhousie University.

"I think on the research side, it will create opportunities for us to pursue, more fully than we do now, research activities that have a bearing on the world of agriculture."

Merger not surprising: students, faculty

It's not yet clear what the merger will mean for staff at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. All of them are government employees, including the institution's co-presidents.

"When you first hear of something like this there's automatically a little nudge of grief and then as you think about it for a few more minutes, you get excited about the possibilities," said Leslie MacLaren, a co-president of the college.

A merger between the two schools was one of the recommendations of a report into the future of Nova Scotia's struggling universities.

Some students and faculty at the NSAC said the merger is not a surprise given the already close links between the two institutions. Dalhousie University already grants degrees for NSAC and has representatives on its senate.

"There's already been a discussion as long as I've been here about whether this would happen because NSAC has such a close link with Dal already," said Nathan Boyd, an associate professor at the college.

"We already collaborate a lot, so it's not really a surprising announcement for those that work here."

Paul Manning, who will be in the first NSAC class to graduate as Dalhousie University students, said it's business as usual for now. Students have been told the merger will not mean higher tuition.

"We're not going to really see our culture change too much. We're really proud of who we are, we've got a really close-knit community here," he said.