City council voted unanimously to back a Notice of Motion introduced in July to support Red Deer College in landing polytechnic status.
The Notice of Motion was submitted by Councilor Paul Harris on July 6th and tabled on July 20th, as council wanted more information on the polytechnic university model from RDC officials.
“A polytechnic university is the vehicle that our board of governors has chosen to achieve degree granting status for our institution,” said Joel Ward, RDC president, adding it’s been something RDC officials have been eyeing for about 25 years.
“Your support, as outlined in Councilor Harris’s motion, will go a long way in supporting this aspiration.” He explained that a polytechnic university is a comprehensive university that offers professional, career-focused programs in the arts, social and behavioural-related sciences, health and wellness, education, engineering and trades and technology.
“We need to be able to offer trades and technology certificates and diplomas and bachelor degrees that make sense for Central Alberta.”
Ward added that it’s a designation that is recognized around the world. “It’s a progressive, forward-thinking model,” he said. “In simple terms, it’s all the things we currently do plus the ability to grant our own degrees.”
There is currently the granting of some degrees via partnerships with the Universities of Calgary and Edmonton for example, but these arrangements can be restrictive, he said. “Our partners sometimes make decisions that impact us that don’t benefit the learners we are trying to serve.”
Also, according the submitted notes from RDC, “We have no meaningful influence over the future direction of these programs or even that programs will continue to be offered.”
Ward also noted that achieving degree granting status would help reduce students leaving the Central Alberta area to not only complete their educations, but to ultimately settle in other cities to work and raise families.
He said, for example, that many Students’ Association presidents at RDC have left after they’ve completed their studies there to attend schools elsewhere to finish degrees. “I haven’t seen any of them come back,” he said. “We also did a survey across Central Alberta, and 95 per cent of those who responded are in favour of degree granting status for our institution.”
According to RDC information distributed at council, in order to begin the process of changing the status of the College to a polytechnic university, the College will be required to, “Submit a formal request to the minister of innovation and advanced education outlining how the new university would be governed, complete with the duties, responsibilities, and names of the governing bodies within the newly-designated institution.
“There may be some negotiation with government officials regarding some of the details but it is important that the provisions in the post-secondary learning act are fulfilled.”
Councilor Ken Johnston said that one of the strengths of Red Deer is, “Our ability to come together as a community around what’s best for the community, and leverage those particular relationships.
“Red Deer College is known for its abilities around research and development as well. This would leverage that particular area – it will keep our students at home and it will continue to provide incredible lifeblood to our businesses and our abilities for research and development.”
Mayor Tara Veer said she thought it was, “Important and essential that City council take a formal position and support Red Deer College in this critical initiative, recognizing that Red Deer College is one of our key community partners.
“If we’re to engage in one of the most strategic initiatives that we could in the community, this would certainly be one of them,” she said, adding while Red Deer is one of the youngest communities in Canada with tremendous potential and possibilities, the risk is also significant when it comes to losing students and citizens who have to finish their studies elsewhere.
“Ultimately, we would be losing not only potential students but also a skilled labour force.”
Council unanimously supported the Notice of Motion.