AU President on Recent Rumours

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Dear students,

I’m sure many of you are aware of recent social and media coverage about the financial challenges we are facing as a university. Some of that coverage has gone as far as to suggest that Athabasca University is in danger of closing down, or being taken over by another institution.

Athabasca University President Peter McKinnonI want to reassure every one of you that, while the financial challenges we face are very real, there is no substance to the notion that we are either on the verge of closing, or being taken over by another institution. These rumours have been around for a couple of years now, and they will continue to surface from time to time.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that the university faces financial challenges that have become acute. We are unique among Alberta universities in that we receive only 30% of our operating budget from the province, the lowest of any PSE in Alberta, including two private universities. We are limited by government in how much we can increase tuition, our most important source of revenue. And we face, like all institutions, a decline in the rate of enrolment growth.

So the problem we face is fairly clear. What we, as a university leadership team, are now working on is options, ones which will point to solutions. And while I do not yet know what those solutions may look like, I can say with certainty that closure or amalgamation are not among them.


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  1. says

    i would suggest you guys look at internals. Your rate is falling, why? could it be the quality of education you offer? imo, the quality has declined, with tutors sending MAYBE one email to their whole class, then forgetting about you. i believe an internal production audit on your staff will tell some clues… Good luck tho!

  2. Andy Blanchard says

    The solution is simpler than you might think. If you have the time contact me, and I will provide a solution that is out of the box. I considered this question a few years back and although not novel it is when applied to this problem. Like most solutions it is simple and will likely result in a change in the way you do business going forward.

    Andy Blanchard AUMBA

  3. says

    While I can say that I very much appreciate the help I have received from some of my course tutors and other staff and the outlines of some courses, I think that the above commentator (iisevan) is not incorrect in reference to others. I think that AU needs to make some savvy changes to its programs to adapt to a changing financial climate in our province. As well, I feel that there is room for the audit of some courses that seem overly dense and convoluted with a lack of clarification or assistance – with inconsistent assistance from educational advisers, it is imperative that courses are on point so that students will have the opportunity to thrive despite cutbacks.

  4. Tallor Der says

    Tutors won’t be a problem for much longer because they’re being phased out. As soon as the rest of the courses are moved over to the call center, students will be able to get help by contacting the call center, and the call center people will let someone know if they need help. You might hear back from someone who used to be a tutor, but you won’t actually have a tutor anymore.

  5. Sam says

    I believe as a student, that offering more attractive or lucrative bonuses would help enrollments. We understand the need to go online but things such as textbooks being only available thru a website versus a hard copy are what is turning me away from the university myself. I had no textbook for my Stats course because it was not downloadable on my computer. My computer was not compatible for the software it required to run, even though I was told that all materials would be accessible whether you had internet access or not. I ended up failing that course and it upset me to have invested in a course I was unable to complete because of the lack of materials I should have access to. I believe giving some options such as having a text or etext are the kind of simple changes that the university can make that would be beneficial. If the university is wanting to go paperless, then offering students an e-reader with their enrollment packages. I also agree with the above that an audit of some of your courses is a must. I had difficulty with a tutor who was proven to be giving me failing grades and refused to communicate with me, once I was able to switch tutors, I had seen a remarkable difference in my grade and I passed the course. The first tutor would have been enough for me to leave Athabasca University as I did not pay to be completely ignored and paid to be TAUGHT. I think many tutors just leave students alone and students don’t feel the education part of university is present. It is highly frustrating and a source of students avoiding that experience.

  6. Heather says

    I have a great appreciation for Athabasca University and in particular the MDDE program. All of the courses I have taken and the associated professors have been fantastic. Solutions are out there, best wishes keeping a good thing going.

  7. Wade says

    I hope you find a way to ameliorate this problem. I often wonder why universities in Canada do not have large endowments like in the United States, which they can use to draw funds from when needed. Sometimes I think it might be beneficial to find a philanthropic individual(s) to assist our institution. Maybe the alumni can get together and make a contribution to your continued success? I am not sure what the solution is, but one must be found!

  8. Ravi says

    I have also have grown to appreciate the current model Athabasca University has. As long as you keep in mind the 2-3 business day wait time it takes for an instructor to answer in your mind for the next time you run into a problem within your course, I have found this new method quite efficient.

    As to an earlier comment that Sam has posted about his first instructor not being available, I also cannot stand professors/instructors like that, and I have also ran into a bad apple like that during my first few courses at AU. But honestly, that’s every University/College of every platform. From my experience from the different post grad schools I have been involved in usually 60% of the professors/instructors are decent enough, 25% are just awful and 15% are inspiring elite level teachers. But hey, that’s my experience.

    I am confident AU will figure out a long sustaining model for the future, even if it is similar to the current one in place. A lot of students are banking on AU so they will be able to finish their undergrad or post grad degrees that they have spent countless hours on, usually while working a full time job or having other personal commitments.

    We knew AU was different going in. We knew there is a major self reliance that is to be taught to one self in order to be successful. Why change that thought in the middle of it?


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