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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2010

Nova Scotia: O’Neill Report Disappoints

A report into Nova Scotia’s post-secon­dary system is proposing sweeping changes and raising the ire of students. Citing government fiscal restraint and declining enrolment, the report prepared by former Bank of Montreal executive Tim O’Neill calls for cost-containment and deregulation of tuition fees.

O’Neill’s review also considered a number of merger options for Mount Saint Vincent University, NSCAD University and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

A proposal for Cape Breton University suggests it should scale back on the number of programs it offers.

Chris Ferns, president of the Association of Nova Scotia Univer­sity Teachers, called the report a disappointment.

“At a time when the number of jobs requiring a post-secondary education continues to increase, O’Neill’s proposals only serve to compromise access and reduce the range of education choices,” he said.

“Once again, it’s a lost opportunity to focus on the real inefficiencies — namely, looking at the amount that goes to administrative salaries compared to the amount of dollars that go into actual instruction at the front of the classroom This is what matters to students, and it ulti­mately serves the purpose of a high-quality, affordable post-secondary education system.”

Nova Scotia’s students reacted angrily to O’Neill’s recommendations to deregulate tuition fees.

Gabe Hoogers, Nova Scotia chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, said she expected the report to contain concrete recommendations about how to make post-secondary education affordable and how to reduce student debt.

But “according to Dr. O’Neill, the path to an equitable university system is through higher fees and higher debt,” she told the Globe and Mail. “It doesn’t take a PhD to understand the absurdity of such an approach.”

Average undergraduate tuition in Nova Sco­tia this year is $5,495 — the third highest in Canada and 7 per cent higher than the national average. Graduates from the pro­vince also have higher average debt loads than students from other provinces.