Barriers to becoming a university can be overcome, says Yukon College president

Yukon College President Karen Barnes says she's confident the institution can transition into a university within the next five years, despite facing some daunting obstacles.

Yukon College President Karen Barnes says she’s confident the institution can transition into a university within the next five years, despite facing some daunting obstacles.

According to Universities Canada, the association that sets the criteria for colleges to become universities, the majority of the college’s programs would have to be degree-level in order to gain membership.

As it stands, only five of its 50 or so programs qualify.

Moreover, the college would need to have at least 500 full-time equivalent students (FTEs) for at least two years before joining.

A commentary recently published by Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, noted the college only had 253 FTEs in 2013-2014, about a third of its total 748 students in credit programming.

“One would need some really big increases in student numbers to change this,” he wrote.

From 2007-08 to 2014-15, Usher found the college enrollment numbers have never gone above 850.

But Barnes, who was in Ottawa this week to meet with officials from Universities Canada, said the college is giving itself a five-year timeline to get everything right.

Everyone recognizes that it’ll take a lot of work, she added.

“They told us we’re not atypical from other colleges when they began their journey,” she said.

“They made it very clear they’re not there to be gatekeepers, they’re there to help us.”

Barnes said the college is taking the next 18 months to two years to prepare for a visit from Universities Canada.

That includes expanding its resources at the library, writing new policy and hiring new staff.

But she expects the entire accreditation process can take up to five years.

“What we heard from their vice-president is that a number of steps are required, internally, to make us a member after they visit. That can sometimes take a while, anywhere up to 2020.”

Barnes pointed to increased enrollment at the college since 2008 as an encouraging factor towards meeting the association’s criteria.

The 200 or so extra students have all been in degree programs, she said.

“We believe there’s a market out there and we just haven’t had the programs to attract them (new students) before.”

Another idea raised in Usher’s commentary was to have all three territories join forces to create a “serious University of the North.”

That came close to happening, about five years ago. All three presidents from the territorial colleges met in Edmonton to discuss that possibility, Barnes said.

They looked at different models and there was some appetite to do it, she added, but the changes in governments caused the idea to disappear.

“I think the reality is that the three territories are in different places educationally,” Barnes said.

“Nunavut has a greater need for basic adult education. Yellowknife is closer for sure, but Whitehorse is really developed in one area and that’s research.

“I think that’ll be the difference that will take us along this road quicker.”

But she stopped short of saying a unified university can’t exist in the future.

All three presidents are meeting in January to discuss a variety of projects, Barnes said.

“Who knows? Down the road, that might be what happens.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. The Yukon government announced two new cases of COVID-19 in the territory with a press release on Oct. 19. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
Two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Yukon

Contact tracing is complete and YG says there is no increased risk to the public

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read