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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 2012

New Saskatchewan Legislation Permits Private Universities

Legislation introduced by the Saskatchewan Party government would allow private universities. (Johanna Goodyear /
Legislation introduced by the Saskatchewan Party government would allow private universities. (Johanna Goodyear /
Saskatchewan is the latest province to extend degree-granting status to public colleges as well as allow the recognition of private universities.
Similar to legislation in Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick, Saskatchewan’s Degree Authorization Act includes setting up a quality assurance oversight body to determine authorization and carry out periodic reviews and evaluations of education programs.
The legislation specifies conditions for the use of the term “university” and “varsity,” and stipulates that the educational institution must either have a physical presence in the pro­vince or be authorized to provide distance education.
“The key reason is to increase access for students,” Rob Norris, the minister of advanced education, told the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. “The balance (that) is there has to be a very solid and sustained quality assurance process — to make sure that the high quality of degrees people have come to expect in Saskatchewan over the course of the last century isn’t in any way compromised.”
The new legislation opens the door for colleges such as the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology to offer degree-granting programs, but it also paves the way for for-profit education.
Yet the record with for-profit universities in other provinces is marred by controversy and scandals, said CAUT executive director James Turk.
New Brunswick ordered Lansbridge University closed in 2010 after the school failed repeated reviews. This followed an earlier shutdown of Lansbridge University and Kingston College in British Columbia for improperly promising degrees, providing misleading information to the government, and leaving students exposed to financial risk.

Two other for-profit universities closed their doors last year. Meritus University, a subsidiary of U.S.-based education giant Apollo Group, cited low enrolment as a reason for closure of its courses offered through distance education in New Brunswick. Students at University Canada West were outraged when the Victoria-based for-profit school suddenly announced it was closing for “business reasons” after the deadline for tuition fees payment had passed in January 2011.
British Columbia student loan default rates at University Canada West were 20 per cent in 2010, more than six times higher than the University of British Columbia (3.2 per cent) and almost five times higher than the University of Victoria (4.2 per cent).
“There is now overwhelming evidence from a decade of experience with for-profit degree-granting institutions in Canada that they undermine the provision of affordable and high-quality post-secondary education,” Turk said.
“The best case for increasing access for students in Saskatchewan, as elsewhere in Canada, is to ensure adequate funding for public universities and colleges.”