President’s campus update: a look into UVic’s future

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UVic President Jamie Cassels welcomed students, faculty, and other members of the university community to discuss the future of UVic on Oct. 7 in the SUB’s Michéle Pujol Room. Cassels began his Campus Update by outlining the challenges that University of Victoria currently faces in the wake of competitive research conditions and cuts in government funding.

Addressing a room of mostly faculty and staff, Cassels said that the University of Victoria is a learning destination of choice, in part because UVic is large enough to offer students a comprehensive education, but small enough to provide a sense of community and camaraderie between students, faculty, and the broader community. UVic’s faculty is amongst the best in the country, and even the world, in their chosen fields.

Cassels stressed that the UVic community must actively consider how to maintain the size and prestige of the university in the wake of financial cuts. Some of the current solutions to these cuts are to increase the number of incoming students and increasing international student enrolment, who pay higher tuitions fees; however, Cassels and other members of UVic’s faculty view these solutions as temporary.

There is a projected decline in B.C.’s youth population and, as a faculty member from the science department pointed out, international students often return to their home countries once they have completed their education. The university reserves the right to increase tuition by 2 per cent a year, but Cassels said this does little to fill the gap left by government cuts. During the question and answer period, he mentioned that philanthropy was becoming a more important part of the university’s budget, and that diversifying UVic’s sources of income would likely be an ongoing process.

Since job success is a topic of great importance and concern for the government, 25 per cent of the university’s government grant money must be aligned with this area of interest. For this reason, UVic has been forced to consider the job success of students and sharpen the university’s strategic focus. Cassels addressed the growing skepticism regarding the value of a university diploma.

“I think that this is our opportunity not to be defensive,” he said, “but to get in front of the curve, and to reaffirm our social mission and to continue to prove our social value.”

According to Cassels, and some impressive bar graphs, UVic has had incredible success in terms of job preparedness; however, for some of UVic’s programs, job success simply isn’t at the forefront. Cassels stressed that these degrees are equally valuable, though their results are harder to quantify.

For this reason, Cassels believes that the university must not only expand the definition of job preparedness, but also redefine the concept of making a difference. If making a difference is more than just job success, he said, UVic needs to formulate ways to quantify the university’s contribution to the community and the world outside of the parameters of job creation and acquisition.

Cassels acknowledged that there is a rising frustration among students and faculty as they struggle to be fully engaged in the increasingly complex nature of the university. For this reason, he said that communication and creating an open dialogue is incredibly important as the university moves forward with its strategic planning. For Cassels, projects such as the Strategic Research Plan and the Enhanced Planning Tools Initiative are meant to encourage open dialogue, while sharpening UVic’s strategic approach as it faces these challenges

—video footage courtesy of the University of Victoria

This video is also available on UVic’s official YouTube channel and through an article in The Ring.

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