Hi all. Today’s blog will be the last for 2014. Normal service will resume on Monday January 5th.
End of term is always a time for stick-taking. And so I’d like to offer a few thoughts on what’s happened in 2014.
First, the positive stuff. I think we should note an enormous and fairly positive shift in the tone of the discussion regarding education and the labour market. The fact that I was not able to offer a “worst back-to-school” article this year is in large measure a reflection of the decline in people talking absolute crap.
In 2013, it was all sociologists vs. welders, why weren’t universities producing the “right” kind of graduate, and why couldn’t we all be more like Germany? British Columbia, unfortunately, is still largely in the grip of this nonsense, but in the rest of the country this kind of talk has diminished substantially.
Jason Kenney himself seems to have understood that while Germany’s interesting, you can’t get there from here; moreover, the main reason you can’t get there from here isn’t because of recalcitrant institutions, it’s because Canadian employers are genuinely retrograde when it comes to training. That’s progress.
Second, I’m starting to see real evidence that institutions are getting serious about reining-in costs. More institutions, for instance, are introducing Responsibility-Centred Budgeting, which will gradually align incentives within the university towards fiscal balance. And at Windsor, we’ve seen the first example of a university really taking a hard line with extravagant salary demands. So there is some hope.
But there’s still more to be done. I don’t see much sign yet that most institutions are even trying come to grips with the Arts problem(s); on the contrary, in many places the strategy seems to consist of heroically ignoring the problem. That’s bad. So, too, is the continued impoverished state of our discussion on costs & affordability, and their relationship with access. This discourse remains in the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing stage largely because “progressive” groups like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the usual suspects in the student movement insist on pretending subsidies either don’t exist or have no effect.
We’re doing well recruiting international students, but I don’t think we’re doing all that well by them once they’re here. I’m convinced one institution somewhere is going to sleepwalk into some kind of reputation-shredding catastrophe soon for precisely that reason. And finally, there is still disappointingly few signs of a sustained, useful dialogue between higher education and employers.
Closer to home at HESA Towers, we’ve had an excellent year, and I’d like to thank my whole team here who have all worked incredibly hard. My particular thanks go to Jacqueline Lambert, who does an awful lot of the data work for this blog (what, you thought I did all the crunching myself?). It’s a privilege to work with a team this good, just as it’s a pleasure to be writing about a sector filled with so many hardworking, dedicated people.
But I’ll leave the last word to you, readers. How has the blog been this past year? Better than before? Worse? Anything I haven’t been writing about, but should? Anything I have been writing about, but shouldn’t? Please let me know in the comments below, or email me directly.
Happy holidays. Rest well, and come back strong in January. Na’zhdravie!