A University of Alberta response to ‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational-ethical dilemma)’

Editors’ note: today’s guest entry has been kindly developed by Indira V. Samarasekera, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Alberta, Canada. Professor Samarasekera’s engaging entry is the eighth response to Nigel Thrift’s ‘A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational, ethical dilemma)‘, which was originally posted on 8 April 2010. The previous seven were provided by the people below and the entries can be linked to via their names:

Finally, please note that we will continue to welcome proposals for responses to Nigel Thrift’s ‘A question‘ through to the end of 2010.

Professor Samarasekera (pictured above) became Alberta’s 12th university president in 2005. Over a professional career spanning three decades, she has distinguished herself as one of Canada’s leading metallurgical engineers. As a Fulbright-Hays Scholar, she earned an MSc from the University of California in 1976, and, in 1980, she was granted a PhD in metallurgical engineering from the University of British Columbia.  She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2002 in recognition of outstanding contributions to steel process engineering. Professor Samarasekera is also Chair of the National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT), and sits on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) and the Public Policy Forum of Canada.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

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I have been following with interest the initial entry in this series by Nigel Thrift and the responses that followed.  The internationalization of large, public research universities leading to more rapid research advancements that address what he terms the “long emergency” is a topic I am passionate about and explored in my opinion piece in Nature (‘Universities need a new social contract,’ 12 November 2009).

I agree with Professor Thrift that universities—and university researchers—must be the “primary intellectual fire-fighters” in the emerging global crisis which is unprecedented in complexity, universality, and potential for comprehensive devastation.  It’s time universities and the “nation-states” that consider us their “national assets” recognize our mutual ethical obligation to focus on both the short and long-term emergencies we see gathering force, however uncomfortable that may make our political or academic colleagues who might prefer to respond with semantics exercises or further retreat into their cloistered halls.

Goal: Arming Future Generations with Advanced Solutions

International collaborative engagement of public research universities in global issues is now imperative if we are ever to arrest any of the threats to nearly every field that sustains life on our planet: water quality, air quality, food production, sanitation, climate and environment, health and nutrition, disaster prevention and relief, land and sea wildlife preservation, energy resources and consumption, economic stability, international security, and more.

The contributions we can make—that our nations are expecting us to make—touch every area of our mission:  teaching, research, and service.  As many of the thought-provoking responses to Professor Thrift’s question noted, our paramount responsibility is preparing students to serve in the quest for solutions, whether as future development practitioners, as researchers, or simply as ethical, informed global citizens who care and support those on the front lines of humanitarian and scientific efforts.

Student and faculty exchanges, study abroad, international student recruiting, rescuing oppressed and threatened scholars, and advancing current curriculum offerings with creative new interdisciplinary global studies programs and program components—the human knowledge side of this equation—is indeed very important, primarily for the long run.  It is the upcoming generation that will have to face the accelerating consequences of the threats attracting our attention now.  All universities’ first organizational-ethical dilemma is to organize optimally to prepare learners to lead optimally effective initiatives in every challenged field worldwide.  Their lives and the lives of generations ahead depend on it.

But what will they have in their arsenal to strengthen what Professor Thrift calls their “war footing” if we don’t envision, fund, and facilitate—not only research, but the often more expensive push into development and application of scientific and technological discoveries into practical, effective solutions.  These are what workers on the front lines in future generations will need to arrest damage, repair and prevent future damage, and improve and sustain universal quality of life on our planet.

Which returns me to the importance of creating a new social contract around research that recognizes that we face a universal imperative for cross border research collaboration that challenges all nation-states to step up with their public and private universities, not just in North America, but around the world.

We need to get creative and follow the lead of many of our individual academic researchers, who are now collaborating across geographic and discipline boundaries to concentrate the best minds, research facilities, and joint initiatives on the big issues threatening global survival.

As Dr. Peter Stearns fears in his response, creation of this new social contract and ways to fund research and development yet to be done will “entail substantial investment.” That’s why we and our nation-states must collaborate to fund large, complex research programs that address the most threatening problems, where the global community must find solutions fast, and use of those solutions must span all borders.

At the University of Alberta, our founding promise of “uplifting the whole people” guides us in our ethical commitment to forge ahead toward our vision of a world of expedited interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, international research.  We have lit a fire under our former structural inertia and, over the past few years, have been trying some new things I would like to share.

So I return to Professor Thrift’s original questions:  “Are universities optimally organized to address the fundamental ‘global challenges’ that exist, and at the pace these challenges deserve to be addressed?  If not, what should be done about this organizational-ethical dilemma?”

The answer is “no,” but here are some examples of what we believe is moving The University of Alberta in the right direction.

Helmholtz Alberta Initiative

In September 2009, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers and the University of Alberta established a five-year agreement creating the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative to combine their scientific research capabilities in tackling the environmental issues facing Alberta’s oilsands.

This initiative was the result of years of diplomatic and information sharing between University of Alberta leaders and academic researchers and their counterparts in Germany, the German government, German research universities, and German research centers.  From these years of conversations, common goals were identified, possibilities were defined, alignments were explored, and eventually graduate student and faculty exchanges, joint research projects, and collaborations with industry, both in Canada and Germany, were established and the initiative is well under way.

In fact, it is already expanding beyond the technological and environmental issues facing oilsands development—which  are also concerns for coal operations in both Alberta and Germany—to  include health sciences research initiatives.

As part of this partnership, in addition to the resources invested in the initiative by the University of Alberta and the Helmholtz Association, the Alberta government invested $25 million, which came from the Canadian federal government’s ecoTrust program.

This example demonstrates both the sophistication of effort, involving many levels of conversation from researchers to university leaders to heads of nation-states and the time required—years of delicate deliberations—to put together such a collaboration.  But it also demonstrates it can be done.

Li Ka Shing Institute for Virology

In addition to collaboration of nation-states, we have looked to international foundations and philanthropists to be partners in helping us fund research of international importance to our university, their mission, and the world.

In February 2010, the Li Ka Shing Canada Foundation gave us $28 million, the largest cash donation in our history, to establish the Li Ka Shing Institution of Virology. The power of this gift was amplified by $52.5 million in related funding from the Government of Alberta to help University of Alberta researchers in their quest to treat, cure, and prevent virus-based diseases worldwide.

Part of the foundation’s donation will extend the university’s connections to Shantou University Medical College, with the launch of the Sino-Canadian Exchange Program—a joint PhD program between the two medical schools.  With the creation of the institute, the University of Alberta joins the East West Alliance, a portal into a global network of medical research institutions including Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, Oxford and Cambridge universities in the United Kingdom, and the Institut Pasteur in France, among others.

Like the Helmholtz Alberta Initiative, the funding, partnerships, aligning of objectives and resources, and establishment of inter-organizational trust (another dimension of the organizational-ethical dilemma) took years, involving many levels of conversation.  But again, it demonstrates that interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, internationally organized and funded collaborations can be done when a university establishes its international vision, communicates it well, and dedicates the institution’s will to achieving it.

Eight Considerations toward “Optimally Organizing” for Results

I present these examples, not as a model or fait accompli but rather as an insight into a process the University of Alberta took to identify the infrastructure that we needed and put it to the test.  We began by defining a vision of what we thought might be done to build on decades of less formal relationships established between our nation-state, our administrative leaders, and our faculty leaders and credible representatives of the two countries:  Germany and China.

Once we were in agreement on our vision, we then asked: “ How will we get there?”  Like many large universities, our “international” emphasis to date had been primarily on recruiting students and faculty, both here and abroad, for undergraduate and graduate studies, research fellowships, faculty exchanges, and study abroad.

In all, we identified eight considerations that we had to address in order to move toward more optimal organization for reaching our goals.  Again, I don’t propose that University of Alberta has created the model.  However, I think it’s important for any university that wants to help shape the new social contract internationally to begin with these considerations, identify others that might apply  as well to its institution, and craft the specific vision and organization it needs for its international research collaborations to succeed.

  1. Prioritize and focus: it’s the quality and purposefulness, not quantity of international partnerships that counts and yields results.  Your institution can’t be everywhere and everything to everybody, internally and externally, although it is tempting to try.
  2. Sharpen your in-house international expertise and align it to your vision and execution/cultivation objectives.  You rarely can reassign international student recruiters to be researchers, organizers, and ambassadors in establishing these relationships.  It takes international relationship pros with contacts and experience collaborating with your subject area specialists to advance substantive, productive initiatives.
  3. Demand top executive engagement and ambassadorship in the cultivation and formation of relationships.  The top people in international institutions want to meet, know, and negotiate with the top people from your institution.
  4. Develop your nation-state’s engagement and support. Without that, your ability to command attention and negotiate international funding is severely limited.
  5. Recognize that tapping into nation-state partnership funding or international philanthropic sources requires demonstrating mastery of diplomacy as much—perhaps even more—than demonstrating mastery of academic collaboration. Make sure your staff can prepare your ambassadors with statements of purpose, backgrounders, talking points, and protocols specific to every encounter.
  6. Develop or acquire skills in international negotiation for individual audiences, nation-states, and academic disciplines at all levels of discussion between your institution and your potential international partners.
  7. Organize internally to engage, communicate, and exchange information on your initiatives to your university community, focusing on communicating your leadership’s focus on few partnerships well done, so your international initiatives do not appear to be “gad flying” to academics, students, and others in your university and community.
  8. Persist in maintaining, advancing, and sustaining relationships with prospective international partners with whom you see potential for a mutually beneficial relationship.  Remember, international university partnerships and funding are sought by many institutions worldwide, large and small. Your institution, objectives, and investment in forming any relationship can easily fall off the table if you don’t persist in keeping it front and center until—and after—it delivers your desired result.

Indira V. Samarasekera

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A question (about universities, global challenges, and an organizational-ethical dilemma)

Editors’ note: this guest entry has been kindly contributed by Nigel Thrift (pictured to the right), Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, UK.

Professor Thrift, who has written one other guest entry for GlobalHigherEd (see ‘University viewpoint: the University of Warwick on ‘The challenge of global education and research’‘, 6 November 2007), has been very active in contributing to debates about the globalization of higher education and research. See for example, his role in the 2008-2009 UK-US Study Group that produced Higher Education and Collaboration in a Global Context (which GlobalHigherEd profiled in ‘Higher education and collaboration in a global context: a new UK/US (Atlantic) perspective‘, 29 July 2009). Also see his recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (‘The world needs global research cooperation urgently, and now‘, 14 February 2010), and his introduction (and Warwick’s role, with support from Canada’s Centre for International Governance Innovation) in the innovative and high impact Warwick Commission on International Financial Reform: In Praise of Unlevel Playing Fields (November 2009).

Nigel Thrift’s contribution is indeed ‘a question’; one that we encourage other ‘architects’ of higher education and research institutional reform to respond to (via <kolds@wisc.edu>).  Some have elsewhere – see for example, Indira V. Samarasekera‘s (President, University of Alberta) piece in Nature (‘Universities need a new social contract‘, 12 November 2009), or Aarhus University‘s convening role (with the support of Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen, Rector) in the Beyond Kyoto: Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change event held in March 2009. But we are seeking, via GlobalHigherEd, to ratchet up attention on this issue. We are accepting responses through to April 2011, one year from now.

To get the ball rolling Professor Peter N. Stearns, Provost, George Mason University, will respond this coming Monday.  Our thanks to both Nigel Thrift and Peter Stearns for grappling with this issue; one that generates no easy answers but is emerging as a key strategic development issue in universities, higher education associations, funding councils, ministries, etc., around the world.

Kris Olds & Susan Robertson

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A Question

I have a question and it goes like this. Just suppose we are in a period in which the future of human life on the planet is seriously threatened – by climate change and all the negative economic, social and cultural processes that attend it – then are the world’s universities really doing all they could to mitigate and even head off the risks? So far as I’m concerned, it’s a rhetorical question. The answer is – not really. Good, maybe, but not good enough.

Should we be bothered about our role will be in what is often called the long emergency? I think so, and for at least three reasons. First off, it could be argued that universities are the primary intellectual fire-fighters in the current situation, not least because that responsibility has increasingly been abrogated by so many other actors. Second, the vast majority of universities have always – quite rightly – taken their ethical responsibilities to the world seriously, though it would be difficult to argue that universities have always ensured that they have acted in alignment with their beliefs, or indeed adequately translated their knowledge base. Third, if the situation is really so serious, perhaps it could be argued that we are now on a kind of war footing and need to act accordingly.

Now, universities face all kinds of difficulties in living up to these roles and responsibilities, of that I am sure. To begin with, they may be global public goods but they are still largely funded and regulated by nation states who, not surprisingly, tend to see them as national assets to be deployed according to national priorities. Equally, they are often in competition with one another: sometimes, it can seem as if their chief raison d’etre is position in the league tables. To complete the triptych of problems, it is still too often assumed that scientific discovery, which nearly always takes place as part of a network of actors distributed across the globe, is the province of an individual actor anchored in a particular place: think only of the system of prizes and awards.

But, if the problems are on the scale that is often now foreseen surely these difficulties do not constitute insuperable problems. What, then, is to be done? I think we should take our cue from the actions of our individual investigators who nowadays exist through a co-operative web of contacts which are automatically international in character. If they can cooperate so easily, surely universities can too. There are signs of progress, of course. National research councils are beginning to link up their research, and not just through the use of large facilities. Universities are fitfully internationalizing though, with the best will in the world, idealistic reasons have not always figured prominently. What I am suggesting is that this business of scientific cooperation now needs to go on apace and perhaps even as one of the conditions of the survival of the species. The stakes may be that high. To put it another way, nation states may not have been able to get their act together at Copenhagen but surely Universities – supposedly engines of reason – can.

Assuming you agree with the proposition, the question I raise is: are universities optimally organized to address the fundamental ‘global challenges’ that exist, and at the pace these challenges deserved to be addressed? If not, what should be done about this organizational-ethical dilemma?

Nigel Thrift

Canadian universities strive for differentiation and elite (global) standing

YVRI’ve just returned from Vancouver (pictured to the right), and my visit included a pleasant day at the University of British Columbia (UBC), my BA and MA alma mater.  UBC is perched on the edge of Canada, and the Pacific Ocean.  While it has always been a strong university, it is now striving to become a “world class” university, it seeks to position itself high within the two main global rankings, and it is currently fashioning a more strategic and effective approach for “international engagement and global influence”.

UBC’s ambition is to create a one of the world’s leading research universities; one “producing discoveries and innovations that advance human understanding and that make our world a better place” while acting as a “magnet for talent, helping to retain our most gifted students here in BC, and attracting bright and ambitious young people from across Canada and around the world”, while also functioning as a “connector — linking new ideas and best practices into our local communities, and bridging Vancouver and the Okanagan to global networks of innovation” (in the 2008 words of Stephen Toope, UBC’s President).

But how does one West Coast university, embedded in a provincially governed higher education system (national research funding, nonwithstanding), ramp up its game?  In the Canadian context, it comes down to convincing the state to enable universities to become more innovative, more competitive, yet while always receiving significant levels of state support, especially financial largesse.  Unlike the UK case (see ‘Privatise elite universities, says top VC‘, The Guardian, 1 June 2009), Canadian universities like UBC are seeking more state support, though in this case via an enhanced national presence in higher education.

Yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education captured this sentiment with considerable insight.  The article (‘Canada’s Elite Universities Propose a National Strategy for Higher Education‘, 17 August 2009) put it this way:

Canadians have long held an egalitarian view toward their universities, generally agreeing that none should be treated as more special than any other.

But now the presidents of five of the country’s largest research institutions—the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Montreal, and Toronto, and McGill University—are banding together to suggest that perhaps some Canadian universities should be, to use a famous phrase, more equal than others.

Canada needs not only to improve its higher-education system as a whole, they say, but also to pay special attention to institutions like theirs. Their argument, essentially, is that if the country hopes to raise the international standing of its universities, then their group must be allowed to focus on graduate education and high-quality research.

“The Canadian way has been to open the peanut-butter jar and spread thinly and evenly,” says David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto, the largest institution in Canada.

“We’re not talking about having a system of first- and second-class schools,” he adds. “We need more liberal-arts universities, we need more polytechnics, and, of course, smaller universities will continue to do the research they’re doing.”

The idea, he says, is to develop a focused strategy that plays to each university’s strengths: what the five call a “differentiation” model for higher education—a model, they say, that would be adequately financed as well. (my emphasis)

The Chronicle article is well worth a read, and it matches the tenor of speeches given by many of these “elite” university leaders over the last several years.  Yet, despite my UBC roots, I can’t but help flag a few noteworthy challenges.

YVR2First, is differentiation best scaled at the university (institutional) scale?  What is the logic for excluding or devalorizing the disciplinary/field scale, or the city-region scale, or the research network scale?  Universities like Waterloo, for example, have some units with considerably more research capacity than in any of the five self-identified elite universities. In short, more effort needs to be made to demonstrate that the university scale is the right scale for differentiation, assuming you believe this is indeed an objective worth supporting.

Second, and I speak here as an advocate of statecraft, is it realistic to expect a national Canadian higher education strategy to truly emerge.  There are multiple ironies (like Alberta – Canada’s Texas or Montana – advocating a stronger federal role in any sector!), and some blinkered thinking going on.  Look at the challenges of crafting a national higher education brand (‘Canada’s new branding effort: “Education in/au Canada”’, GlobalHigherEd, 3 October 2008).  In my biased view the aesthetically challenged branding effort expresses the problems of achieving action on a national scale in Canada in some sectors. Might not more effort be focused upon engendering new forms of provincial and local scale statecraft; statecraft associated with genuine innovations in policy-making, program development, and project framing/implementation? One could argue that the City of Edmonton, or the Province of Alberta, could do more for the University of Alberta than could Ottawa, for example.

Finally, what are the pros and cons of encouraging more dependence upon the national government?  Besides Madison in the USA, I’ve also been based in Singapore, France and the UK, and dependence upon a national government is a double-edged sword.  University missions would have to increasingly reflect national priorities, and university leaders (not to mention faculty) would have to accept reduced power, less autonomy, more hierarchy, all the while coping with temporal shifts in priorities come national electoral cycles.  Yet, as the Chronicle notes:

More broadly, the five are calling for a national higher-education strategy. While they have shied away from asking for the creation of an education ministry, they argue that without federal coordination of resources, along with a clear vision for the future of Canadian universities, the system will fail to raise its stature internationally.

Given what I know about my motherland, and what I have experienced in much stronger national systems, I seriously doubt that Canadian universities would be willing to accept what comes with greater “federal coordination of resources” and a “clear vision”.  I don’t doubt that university leaders like UBC’s Stephen Toope, or Alberta’s Indira Samarasekera have legitimate claims (and gripes), but they should be cautious regarding what they seek: their objectives might come to light, and enhanced dependence mixed with unhappiness with the direction of the national vision is not an ideal outcome. And what national government is going to craft a strategy, and hand over more monies, without a greater role in governing universities? This is a Pandora’s box if there ever was one.

This is a debate worth watching as all universities – including those in Canada – seek new ways to achieve and legitimize their increasingly “global” objectives. Canada’s elites seek more state action (and defacto dependence) while some of their equivalents in the UK seek to privatize to reduce dependence on the state, and all with the same end objective (elite global standing) in mind!

Kris Olds

The ripple effects of the global fossil fuel boom: a view from inside the University of Calgary

Editor’s note: the global boom in fossil fuel production is generating uneven development processes that are reverberating through higher education systems. For example, the boom has fueled the breathtaking expansion of indigenous and foreign university campuses in the Middle East (e.g., King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST), Qatar Education City, NYU Abu Dhabi). Canada, the US’ largest supplier of oil (a fact off the radar screen in the current geopolitical climate) is also witnessing a vast economic transformation as an “empire from a tub of goo” (the Alberta oil sands) emerges. The national Globe and Mail newspaper is current running a series of stories on this historically unprecedented development process. This transformation has been praised and criticized from a social and environmental perspective. It is, though, also interesting to see how economic development proceeds (esp., increased revenue) are impacting the Albertan higher education system. Today’s guest entry is by a professor of anthropology (Alan Smart) at the University of Calgary. Professor Smart is an economic anthropologist who mainly works in China. We’ve commissioned this piece after reading an interesting Globe and Mail article (“Will Alberta’s energy boom revolutionize higher education?” January 2, 2008). Given our knowledge of Professor Smart’s ethnographic skills we felt that he had the capacity to develop an informed and grounded commentary regarding the inevitably uneven impacts of this transformation in his own university and province. We also recommend that you look at this commentary by Martha Piper (a former senior university official in Alberta and British Columbia).

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When I read Elizabeth Church’s glowing account in the Globe and Mail (“Will Alberta’s energy boom revolutionize higher education?” January 2, 2008) of the post-secondary sector in Alberta and its prospects, I immediately thought, “that’s exciting, I wish I was there instead of in a university where we continue to suffer from budget cuts and lack of direction”. But then I realized that I was there, the University of Calgary to be specific, in the heart of Alberta’s economic boom, but the experience of the liberal arts faculties bears no resemblance to the gushing prose such as “People will look back at this time and marvel” (Dr. Samarasekera, President, University of Alberta). Many of us at U of Calgary are already marvelling: at how there can be such disarray, budgetary crisis, and abysmal morale in a place where so much money is sloshing around. To be fair, the reports from U of Alberta sound much better than at U of Calgary: Dr. Samarasekera apparently recognizes the importance of liberal arts in the university.

uc2.jpgThe shocking thing is that in almost twenty years at the U of Calgary, I do not recall a period when morale among faculty was lower than it is at present, and that includes during the 23% cuts over 4 years in the early 1990s. The only faculties that seem to be benefiting from our President’s vision are Medicine and Engineering. Some might argue that this is a sign of the corporatization of the university. It might indeed be, but only in the sense that the university concentrates on things that the dominant business community would like to see done, not in the sense that the university is acting like a profit-seeking enterprise. If it were, we might expect to see investment in profit centres at the expense of other units, but it tends to operate the other way around. The Faculty of Social Sciences, with the largest number of students on campus, has a budget that is basically equal to the tuitions paid by its students, even though Alberta policy is that tuitions should not be higher than 25% of the operating budget. Obviously, given this, Social Sciences (and the other core arts and sciences to a somewhat lesser extent) are being treated as a cash cow for Faculties that cannot cover their own costs. One could point to the substantial research funds brought in by Medicine in particular, but this has little positive effect on the university’s financial situation since grant overhead payments are very low in Canada, unlike the situation in the United States. In any case, the usual pattern when a medical researcher has a breakthrough or receives a major grant is that they get offers from other institutions and turn to the administration to say that they couldn’t justify staying without a new lab, additional colleagues, postdocs, graduate students, etc. This doesn’t produce any real advantage to the administration’s budget, unlike the large number of bums on seats in the arts and sciences faculties. Especially when those bums on seats are being taught by sessionals. A sessional being paid $5,250 for a one-semester course with 400 students paying $500 each for that course generates a profit of $194,750, or a return on investment of 37 times. What profit-oriented business would turn down returns like that? Yet, because tuition goes to the central administration without any direct return to the department or faculty offering the course, such courses provide no benefit to the unit offering the course, despite intense student demand. If this is a corporate model, it would seem to be a very dysfunctional corporate model. But I think that it follows a different logic, one based on status. Presidents like to brag about their neurology or cancer treatment or energy research centres, and transferring resources into sexy high profile fields makes it possible for them to swagger when they get together with other Presidents or potential donors, and hopefully step up to a better job before the house of cards collapses around them.

The Province of Alberta must bear its share of blame. Funding per student in Alberta compares quite well with other provinces, apparently. But the lack of understanding and mistrust of universities by the Conservative Party has been so great that most new funds have been tied to particular new programs, projects and buildings that the Provincial Conservatives and their supporting interest groups see as useful. The proportion of university grants that don’t have strings attached dropped precipitously after the election of Ralph Klein. And the problem is that these grants bribe us to do expensive and unsustainable things. There is never quite enough money to do them, so subsequently money has to be channelled from sustainable things to finish off the shiny new building or keep the sexy new program afloat. If we could simply allocate all the money we get from the province and tuitions to the most sustainable and sensible things, we would be in pretty good shape. The amazing thing is that most of these are the things that universities (at least those without massive endowments) should be doing, providing a well-rounded education in the liberal arts and sciences, with a smaller set of appendages in the professions doing the far more expensive but ‘sexier’ things. Instead of being seen as essential, the body of the U of Calgary is being gutted to support a host of showcase programs and projects much larger than the modest financial reality can support. Thus, the ‘fiscal conservatives’ in the ruling Conservative Party of Alberta and the downtown business community (who dominate our Board of Governors) have seduced and bribed us into a fiscally disastrous route. And the answer? Ever more of the same. Marvellous, indeed.

Alan Smart