B.C. grants full university status to three university colleges, critics concerned lack of funding will hinder transformation
British Columbia’s three university colleges are in a jubilant mood this week as the provincial government announced that they would be granted full university status.
The move comes after a major review of the province’s post-secondary education system last spring, titled Campus 2020. The report, authored by former attorney general Geoff Plant, recommended that B.C.’s university colleges be renamed “Regional Universities” to better reflect the role they play in offering a range of certificate, diploma and degree programs.
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On Monday, University College of the Fraser Valley was renamed University of the Fraser Valley. Tuesday, it was announced that Kwantlen University College will now be known as Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and today it was announced that Malaspina University College will be called Vancouver Island University.
The university colleges have long coveted the designation of university, claiming that the inclusion of the word “college” has made it difficult for their degree programs to be fully recognized, which has hindered, they say, their ability to recruit abroad, and for their graduates to have their degrees accepted by both employers and graduate programs in other Canadian universities.
“University status will bring enormous benefits to our students and communities, while retaining our local focus and our emphasis, above all, on excellent teaching,” said Malaspina University College president Ralph Nilson.
The institutions began as colleges responsible for providing vocational and diploma programs along with two year associate degrees. The two year associate degrees have for the most part been fully transferable into full degree programs and have been a popular option for B.C. students.
Beginning in 1989 five of the province’s colleges were given degree granting status, first in association with other major universities, and then on their own. Okanagan University College has since split into two parts: Okanagan College and the University of British Columbia-Okanagan. University College of the Cariboo has since become Thompson Rivers University.
As of this week, the three remaining university colleges have become full fledged universities, simplifying to some extent what is often seen by outsiders as an overly convoluted system. Provincially recognized institutions will now be either a college or a university.
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