Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Three weeks ago ACIFA hosted our annual conference at Jasper Park Lodge. With 280 attendees from 15 Colleges and Institutes across Alberta, it was the biggest conference hosted by ACIFA yet. It was at this conference where I was elected as ACIFA’s next President – taking over the reins from Doug Short, whose term expired this year. In that capacity, I would like to share what I see as the biggest challenges and opportunities ahead for the post-secondary education sector (PSE) over the next two years.

The way I see it, there are three major changes ahead of us:

1. Changes to the legal landscape. Currently, we reside under the Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA). The PSLA defines rights and responsibilities and sets out conflict resolution mechanisms. For instance, under the PSLA Colleges and Institutes do not have the right to strike; binding arbitration is the prescribed conflict resolution mechanism. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the right to strike as a constitutional right and gave the Alberta government directives to remove “that offensive language” from the PSLA. Starting this fall, the government plans a consultation with all PSE stakeholders, including Faculty Associations (FA) and individual faculty members. We are likely to be asked if we prefer to stay under the PSLA, after the required changes have been made, or moved to the labour code, or a combination. The Alberta government is working on a discussion paper consisting of numerous questions to frame this consultation. In order to help members make an informed decision, ACIFA will provide background information and context to each question in the discussion paper as soon as it becomes available.

2. ACIFA has flagged political patronage and corporate influence in board of governors’ appointments as an urgent concern. We have been arguing for more transparency and wider consultation in the recruitment and appointment of BoG members. The Notley government promised a review of Alberta’s Agencies, Boards and Commissions (ABC review). The timeline for this review is not clear yet, but ACIFA is in the process of preparing a discussion document to influence the outcome of this review and the first draft will be ready in the fall. All ACIFA members will have an opportunity to give feedback and input so that we will be prepared when the call comes from the Alberta government.

3. A comprehensive review of all aspects of the adult learning system was announced last year. This review will focus on three main areas: (1) a vision for the system (i.e. the intended outcomes); (2) who does what within the system (the six-sector model and institutional mandates); and (3) who pays? (tuition fees and funding formula reviews). The timelines for this review have not yet been set, but ACIFA will stay on top of developments and proactively develop briefs that assert our interest in these areas.

In conclusion, I am honored to serve as ACIFA’s President and I am committed to take good care of the interest of our members. Have a good summer and remember I am always just an email away. ( )

#schoolyear #backtoschool