Editorial – The Third Party’s the Charm

In case you missed the news, the government recently announced the people who would be conducting the long promised third-party review into the future of Athabasca University. If you’re a fairly new student to Athabasca, this may sound particularly concerning, but, sadly, this is nothing new, and really just a continuation of struggles that The Voice Magazine has been reporting on for some time now, including our look at the original report by the Presidential Task Force on Sustainability from back in June of 2015, as well as a more recent look at the response from AU in their mixed message of a comprehensive institutional plan. So you can see that this has been going on for a while.

Still, if this is your first encounter with the news, it sounds terribly worrying, but long story short, any current students needn’t be unduly worried. If you want the full story, you can check out my own take on the whole affair from back in July of last year.

More interesting to me about this announcement is exactly who’s going to be conducting the independent third party review. There were some worries that such a review would be carried out by someone with a pure business-case perspective, a fear that, had the former PC’s remained in power, would have been absolutely justified based on past actions. However, Dr. Ken Coates is a Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation and a professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Given that AU’s previous interim President, Peter MacKinnon also hailed from the University of Saskatchewan, it’s reasonable to think that there was some input from AU in the selection.

Dr. Coates, if you look at the books he has for sale on Amazon, has written several books on educational systems. From brief reviews of his books, it seems he holds the point of view that university has become to be regarded as too much of a necessity by the public, which has lead not only to many people becoming over-educated (and over indebted) for the careers they eventually work in, but also to universities becoming less valuable as they are forced to change their goals from pure education to that of institutions that are expected to prepare graduates for careers. How these views will affect his report on Athabasca University, with its stated goal of being an Open University, remains to be seen. At the same time, Dr. Coates primary research interest seems to be on issues concerning the far north and the Arctic, something which Athabasca University is uniquely suited to assist with, as the distance learning model is one of the few that can address the widespread population of that region.

But there’s more to university than what a third party might say about it. We’ve also got students, we’ve got writers in residence (who aren’t afraid to share their opinions), and The Voice Magazine has interviews with both this week as a double feature.

Then we have a lot of advice this week on ways to deal with the upcoming year, whether that’s making you better able to handle it, better able to handle when you can’t handle it, or simply remembering how good it was, you’ll find all of that and more in this week’s The Voice Magazine.

Enjoy the Read! 

P.S. If you didn’t already know, The Voice Magazine has a Facebook page and a twitter feed if You’re into that kind of thing!

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