Next month will mark the second anniversary of the release of Campus 2020: Thinking Ahead - an ambitious plan that was supposed to "help shape the future of post-secondary education" in British Columbia. But many of the 52 recommendation in that plan, which was authored by former attorney general Geoff Plant, are languishing. And, yesterday, in an interview on Public Eye, we spoke to Advanced Education and Labour Development Minister Murray Coell about some of them.
* Mr. Plant recommended the government "initiate a comprehensive review of BC's student financial assistance program, including all fiscal programs intended to provide assistance to meet the cost of post-secondary education." But, according to Minister Coell, government will be taking a look at those programs in a more piecemeal fashion.
"No," he said when asked in government was going to launch a comprehensive review. "It's been done in pieces, as I would say - looking at areas where we needed to move quickly. I think with aboriginal students that was one of the ones that we needed to move on and people with disabilities as well. We're going to make some more changes as we go forward - and do that probably, as I say, one issue at a time."
But why not look at the issue of student financial assistance in a comprehensive way? "Well, when we looked at (the plan), we looked at the entire recommendations out of Campus 2020. Many of them were done immediately - the creation of the five new universities - those sorts of things. With the review, we felt it would be better to do as needed."
* Mr. Plant recommended the creation of a Higher Education Presidents' Council to "provide a forum to bring together post-secondary institutions across the province." And he further recommended the creation of a Higher Education Board to "facilitate collaboration and planning with respect to post-secondary education from the perspective of the provincial public interest."
But Minister Coell told Public Eye Radio he doesn't see either recommendation "happening in the near future." Explained the legislator, "We talked to our partners - the universities and colleges about that. There wasn't real a keen interest in doing that. We were afraid it would become another level of bureaucracy, I guess, is one of the issues. I think it was a good idea. I don't think, at this point, it's going to come into place."
So the government isn't going to establish either body because post-secondary institutions don't want them? "We didn't get an overwhelming rush - 'Gee this is a great idea, let's do it.' I don't think our staff felt it was doable either. So there wasn't an impetus there to move on it," responded Minister Coell.
* Mr. Plant recommended the establishment of a Pacific Centre of Excellence in Learning Innovation by 2009 to "research and study innovations in learning." Minister Coell says the government has "started to work on that. The technical part of it is ready. The paperwork is done. What we were hoping for is some private sector involvement. We haven't got that as yet. It's still not an issue we've walked away from - but not one we're acting on right now."
Despite government inaction on those and other recommendations, Minister Coell said "I believe so" when asked if the Campbell administration would still be able to meet Campus 2020's targets for the province's post-secondary education system. "I think that all of the signs right now - even in this economy - is that we're having more and more people go to college, go to university, higher levels of apprenticeship then we've ever had before," he added.
But won't that effort be hampered by the fact his ministry's funding for educational institutions and organization is set to increase by just 1.3 percent between fiscal 2009/10 and 2011/12? Not all said Minister Coell thanks to past investments by his government in post-secondary education.
"It's sort of like a bus route. You have to build the bus, buy the bus, hire the driver. The first time you drive down, you might not have it all full. But eventually you will. And it's the same with education. You have to build the buildings, hire the staff and get the programs in place. They'll fill up over a couple years."
The following is a complete copy of those targets.
Campus 2020 Targets for BC's Post-Secondary System
Participation and attainment
By 2015, BC will:
* achieve the highest level of participation in post-secondary education
per capita in Canada
* confer more post-secondary credentials per capita than any other province
* grant more degrees per capita than any other province
* certify more completed career and vocational training and apprenticeships
per capita than any other province
* enroll more graduate students per capita than any other province
* achieve the highest levels of literacy in Canada according to recognized
(and emerging) national and international standards for literacy
Opportunity and equity
By 2020, BC will:
* equalize public post-secondary participation and attainment rates across income quartiles
* equalize public post-secondary participation and attainment rates across the province's regions
* ensure rates of Aboriginal post-secondary participation and attainment are equal to the rates for the general population
* reduce by 50 per cent the proportion of adults in BC not achieving high school equivalency by age 30.
By 2015, BC's post-secondary institutions will rank at the top in Canada in quality measures that focus appropriately on student achievement.
By 2010, BC will consistently be one of the three highest spending provinces in terms of provincial support for basic and applied research.