Yukon College is gearing up to grant degrees.
Legislative changes, tabled on Monday, would give the college degree-granting powers.
College President Terry Weninger hailed the changes as a “significant development” that “signals the expansion of the Yukon College mandate.”
But it will be another five years before the college is ready to grant degrees, he said.
During that time the college must build up its capacity.
And, most importantly, it must persuade universities to recognize the degrees it produces so that graduates would be able to pursue master’s programs.
Canada has no official accreditation body for degree-granting institutions, but one organization unofficially serves this purpose: the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
However the association’s membership criteria presents “a bit of problem,” said Weninger.
It requires colleges to have a cohort of 500 full-time students enrolled in degree programs. “And we’re not going to get there,” he said.
So the college will try another route. It wants to persuade universities it has already partnered with to recognize its degrees.
“That would signal across Canada that other universities could do it also,” said Weninger.
The college currently offers degrees in education and social work through the University of Regina. These programs are not expected to change, said Weninger.
What kind of degree programs would the college offer? Weninger offers one possibility, which he describes as “purely speculative.”
“We have something that we could teach the rest of Canada, and that’s in the area of First Nation governance.”
The college is currently working on developing an executive development program for First Nations. That program could start as a partnership with another university and later become a degree issued by the college, he said.
The college’s academic credibility has recently been bolstered through the addition of a scholar-in-residence program, as well as joint initiatives with big universities to conduct projects for International Polar Year, said Weninger.
But the college will need to offer “more variety” to further improve its academic credentials, said Weninger.
The college’s name is unlikely to change. It’s not uncommon for colleges in BC and Alberta to offer degrees, and “I don’t think we need to go through changing the name of the place. Yukon College can stay Yukon College,” said Weninger.
The new legislation also makes a slew of structural changes to the college, which provide the institutional backbone expected to be found in a degree-granting institution. This includes the formal creation of finance and audit committees and an academic council, and the appointment of student council representatives to the board of governors.
Aspirations to grant degrees in the Yukon date back to at least 1979, when a report was produced that recommended the creation of the college.
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