Post-sec schools ask, ‘Why can’t we be friends?’

The collective nature of Vancouver Island is as strong as ever. On March 5, five colleges and universities on Vancouver Island signed an agreement to re-affirm a commitment to work together. This agreement formed the Vancouver Island Post-Secondary Education Alliance (VIPSEA).

The five institutions involved are the University of Victoria (UVic), Camosun College, Vancouver Island University (VIU), North Island College (NIC), and Royal Roads University. Each institution offers something the others don’t, making VIPSEA an interesting opportunity for students.

Some of the main reasons for creating VIPSEA are to stimulate job creation, grow international education, organize more effective research, and share resources. UVic’s president, Jamie Cassels, commented in a press release that he sees Vancouver Island as “a healthy post-secondary ecosystem,” and that healthy relationships and collaboration are the backbone of that ecosystem.

The five presidents came together and wrote a short piece about VIPSEA which states this alliance’s goal is “to promote, support and enhance student success by improving students’ ability to access Vancouver Island’s full range of post-secondary education and training opportunities and to move seamlessly between our institutions as they discover the right educational pathway.”

VIU’s president, Dr. Ralph Nilson, elaborated on that during an interview by saying, “In B.C. we have a phenomenal transfer system, probably the best in North America, where we really honour students across the 25 public post-secondary institutions for sure, and it’s the B.C. Council on Admissions and Transfer that has really worked on that.” With around 3 000 students moving throughout the colleges and universities on the island, making this process easier would make those students’ lives a little more hassle-free.

The presidents of the schools met five years ago as well. Nilson said, “It was an agreement. We got together and got some things on paper, but there wasn’t a lot of action. There were conversations and good relationships, but there wasn’t a real action strategy.” Things changed this summer, when two new presidents took office: Jamie Cassels at UVic, and John Bowman at NIC. “Kathryn at Camosun, Allen Cahoon at Royal Roads, and myself are very close,” said Nilson. “We’ve worked together a lot. We thought, ‘lets get everybody and have a conversation.’ Well, we got everybody together, and we really had some positive things happen.”

During the signing of the agreement, two provincial ministers, Minister Amrik Virk and Minister Shirley Bond, came down to meet with the presidents. “The ministers recognized the importance of this,” said Nilson, “Minister Virk is responsible for AVED, which is the ministry of Advanced Education. Minister Bond is responsible for labour, essentially, and labour market development, and she has a real responsibility for all the skilled worker development.” With the ministers there, Nilson said they were able to talk about the agreement. “We could adjust some things and work together on some things to create pathways, so that the students are able to be successful, and so that the students are ready to meet that demand.”

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