Union calls for world boycott

September 5, 1997

CANADA's professor lobby has called for a worldwide boycott of a university due to open in 1999 in the Vancouver area.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers is trying to ensure that job applicants know that the Technical University of British Columbia's statutes neither protect academic freedom nor institutional autonomy.

Union president Bill Bruneau said: "This institution simply isn't a university."

His organisation wants the provincial government to change a law passed in June that allows it to forego the University Act's bi-cameral system of an academic senate and a board of governors.

Since early this century universities have typically been run by both a senate, made up mostly of elected and appointed professors, students and administrators, deciding on academic and research matters, and the board of governors, comprised of government-appointed and internally-elected representatives, which mainly decides financial policy.

The new university will simply have a government-appointed board of governors that has final authority over all matters concerning research and finances.

Paul Ramsey, state minister for education, skills and training, said new legislation was necessary for the university because of its "unique partnership with business."

He added that a section of the new law prohibits interference by his office in academic policies.

But union executive director Robert Clift said that the lack of senate meant there was no safeguard on academic standards. The plan perpetuated "credential inflation" being practised by industry seeking over-qualified entry-level workers. "Students with certificates are not as marketable as those with degrees," he said.

Education analyst David Cameron of Dalhousie University said the technical university, which can be compared to Britain's former polytechnics, has developed because of a very low participation rate in the universities in the Fraser Valley, where the university is to be located. He does not believe that not having a senate will necessarily hurt areas like basic research, one of the tenets of a free academia.

"I'm not sure we can draw the line in the sand anymore between basic and applied," he said.

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