(SNN) - In the face of funding challenges that have beset most, if not all Canadian post-secondary institutions, one Dean is taking a practical approach despite the move courting controversy. According to a recent CBC report, the University of Alberta Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Lesley Cormack, is slashing programs that have such few students, the program consumes more resources than the discipline can justify.
Included among the 20 programs on the chopping block are studies in theatre, language, design and music. All of the affected programs reportedly had fewer than ten students participating per fall semester since 2005.
To beleaguered taxpayers, it was refreshing to hear from a bureaucrat who is dealing with looming shortages not by job action or public denunciations of politicians, but by offering a plan based on hard numbers, not hard feelings.
Of course there will be those that deplore this approach by the dean. Sweeping statements of the Importance of the Arts will attempt to vilify Cormack as if he is stifling all artistic expression available in the province. The reality is that not every institution has to feature every program. Grant MacEwan University has a range of vibrant theatrical programs for those seeking that pursuit. Other institutions that feature similar programs include University of Calgary, Red Deer College, and Mount Royal College in Calgary, The less-than-ten people who will not be able to learn their craft at the U of A still have a range of choices for earning the diploma or degree they seek.
With the skill gap in Canada, particularly in Alberta, of qualified engineers and scientists of every stripe, it is insane to exhaust limited resources where there are so few students to pay the freight. This is especially true for arts programs that offer less concrete hope for post-university employment than their engineering counterparts. The only unfortunate aspect is that they waited since 2005 to implement this measure. At least Cormack is addressing the problem now.
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