R.J. Simpson: Phase One: Strengthening the Foundation of Aurora College and Planning for Change

Yellowknife — March 5, 2020
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Check Against Delivery

Mr. Speaker, the transformation of Aurora College into a world class polytechnic university is well underway. As the Legislative Assembly is aware, the transformation will happen in three phases. We are currently in Phase One, which is what I want to talk about today. Phase One is focused on strengthening the foundation of the existing college, ensuring we understand the detailed steps ahead of us, and determining what we, as a territory, want the polytechnic university to be.

The first step in Phase One was the development of a vision for postsecondary education. This vision was developed with direct input from the public, Indigenous governments, and postsecondary institutions operating in the Northwest Territories. The vision is that quote “Every resident of the Northwest Territories has an equitable opportunity to reach their full potential by obtaining a postsecondary education from institutions that are student centered, accessible, high quality, relevant and accountable.” End quote.  To help realize this vision, five goals were developed:

  • prioritize students’ success,
  • increase access to postsecondary education opportunities,
  • remain responsive to labour demands in the Northwest Territories,
  • remain responsive to local and regional needs; and
  • support the growth of the knowledge economy.

The vision and goals will help guide us as we make decisions, as will the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The transformation is a collaborative effort between Aurora College and Education, Culture and Employment. The joint Executive Leadership Committee from the College and Education, Culture and Employment is responsible for leading the transformation within Aurora College, supported by working groups made up of Aurora College employees.

Much of the work that has already been completed, and is currently underway, is focused on strengthening the foundations of the College.

A comprehensive policy review is being undertaken, to ensure that the College’s policies and processes meet national standards. A highlight of this work is the recently developed and adopted Academic Program Review Framework, which conforms to the standards outlined in the Council of Ministers of Educations’ Ministerial Statement on Quality Assurance of Degree Education in Canada. This replaced a previous program review process which fell short in areas of quality assurance, and did not ensure reviews were conducted at arm’s length.

To support this type of work, as well as other aspects of the transformation, Phase One has also seen the creation of an Academic Advisory Council. This body, made up eight highly-regarded academic institutions with relevant experience, provides support and guidance on the technical aspects of the transformation.

We are also re-envisioning what it means to be learning centred, by identifying what we already do well and developing additional, innovative solutions to support students. This is being accomplished by setting service standards for all phases of a student’s life cycle, starting at the point that a student begins to consider applying to the College, and continuing through the application process, the transition to college life, the time spent as a student, program completion, and transitioning out of the college and into the job market.

To support the student experience, the College just launched a new Student Information System. This system gives students, for the first time, the ability to apply for programs, select classes, check marks, and access their information online. This is a major milestone for the College, and brings it in line with major academic institutions across the country.

On the back end, this system will also provide the College with up-to-date data that will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the College and the student experience.

Mr. Speaker, the student experience can vary greatly depending on what you are studying, and where you are studying it. In recognition of this, we will soon begin work on a Regional Needs Assessment. The goal of this work is to understand how residents currently access adult and postsecondary education, how they would like to access it, and the barriers to access that they face. The information gathered through the Regional Needs Assessment will be absolutely vital in ensuring that we are designing a polytechnic university that best serves our residents.

This year, we will also begin our Capital Planning Study. Aurora College has some beautiful facilities, and certain campuses and learning centres can likely accommodate significant growth, but we know there are improvements that we need to make in order to offer the world class experience students deserve. Before the end of Phase One, we will have a capital plan that will lay out the physical nature of the future polytechnic university. This work will go hand in hand with our work to determine Areas of Specialization. Each campus has natural advantages due to their locations and the facilities that currently exist. We want to build on those advantages, and ensure that as we move forward we are strengthening each campus and bolstering our community learning centres.

Mr. Speaker, the transformation is a monumental undertaking. That will soon come into clear view, when we release our Implementation Plan, which outlines the steps and timelines in the transformation over the next six years. To help keep us on track, ground decision-making, and guide the direction of the college as it continues through the transformation process we will be releasing a 3-year Strategic Plan for Aurora College later this year.

Mr. Speaker, as I have stated before, we cannot do this alone, and we are not going to try to. Members of the public, Indigenous governments, industry, and Members of this House, will all have opportunities to contribute to the transformation.

Mr. Speaker, Phase One: Strengthening the Foundation and Planning for Change is planned to be completed by the fall of 2021, at which point we move into Phase Two: Transformational Change. In Phase Two, we will start making the wide ranging changes to the structure of the College that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal. I will speak more about Phase Two in the coming weeks.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.