Red Deer College is moving towards becoming a Polytechnic University and is currently making presentations around Central Alberta in their effort to educate the community and to garner support for their bid.
“The board chair and I are visiting a number of community agencies. We are out talking about RDC’s future and our desire to become a Polytechnic University,” said Joel Ward, president of RDC.
Polytechnic Universities are not like traditional universities. They are comprehensive institutions which offer professional, career-focused programs for things like certificates, diplomas, trades and technology and apprenticeship and degrees.
“It would allow us degree granting status. We believe that in Central Alberta we need to be the institution that offers that wide range of programs,” he said.
Currently, RDC has the ability to grant collaborative degrees. This means nursing or education students can complete all years of their studies at RDC and receive a University of Alberta credential. RDC’s business degree is in collaboration and partnership with Mount Royal University.
“The problem with that though, by not having our own degrees, is that if the universities make changes or make different decisions because of budgets, we end up being impacted by their decisions. It puts at risk our ability to make decisions about what we offer that meet the needs of Central Alberta,” said Ward. “We want control over that so that we can make decisions as to what we offer here that make sense for the economy of Central Alberta, the culture of Central Alberta and the social aspects of Central Alberta.”
Ward added by gaining Polytechnic University status he believes RDC could see a student population increase of 10-20% almost immediately as students who are enrolled in the College’s university transfer programs, which sees them transfer after finishing two years at RDC, would be able to stay on the Red Deer campus.
“Students who don’t choose post secondary in Central Alberta because they can’t afford to take their programs somewhere else, we will see participation rates go up,” said Ward. “In Central Alberta participation rates are at 18 per cent. In communities that have universities, they are double that. I think more Central Albertans would participate in post-secondary education if we had the ability to grant our own degrees as well as offer new programs, certificates and diplomas and apprenticeships as well.”
Ward said RDC has presented their proposal to the Government of Alberta as legislation would have to be modified for the change to be approved.
“It is a ministry of advanced education decision in conjunction with the premier and government of course. We continue to try to help them understand what we’re looking for and we’re asking them to work with us to make this happen because our research has told us this is what is needed in this region and the people of Central Alberta have told us that this is what they want us to do,” said Ward. “Hopefully after the election takes place we’ll get some positive vibes from the government.”
Premier Jim Prentice said he understands the need for such a change in legislation.
“We have had discussions about that and we have had discussions with other institutions about the importance of making changes to how we function and how degrees are granted – the Polytechnic approach. I think there is merit to pursuing it. I think we need to have discussions about that,” said Prentice. “Clearly every university and college can’t do everything – but we have centres of excellence in this province, places like Red Deer College are incredibly good at the areas they focus on – and they need to have full range to grant degrees within those areas of excellence.”