Listen closely. You will hear it.

The four horsemen of the vested interests. They are coming on strong around this issue of “post-secondary education reform”.

This is a great example of how things don’t get done in New Brunswick.

Anything remotely controversial like consolidating LSDs, reforming post secondary education, amalgamating urban areas, changing French Immersion, restructuring rural hospitals, on and on and on follows a similar pattern.

The vestest interests on each side roll out their ‘big guns’, government backs down, and you get ultimately very little ‘reform’.

Some of the posters to this blog will call this an excellent example of ‘democracy at work’. ‘The will of the people has prevailed’ they will say.

No, actually, it is the will of a few special interests who sow confusion among the populace and that results in the lack of political will to move forward.

Back to Post Secondary reform. Everyone says we need it. Everyone has a different vision of what it should be. And everyone has a ‘big gun’ or two to bolster their own vested interest.

Take Saint Thomas University. I was told confidently by someone closely affiliated to that school that no major changes will be made to impact STU (i.e. enfolding into UNB) because the Premier, Greg Byrne and I believe even old Kelly Lamrock are alumnus.

Take UNB. David Ganong is on the front page of the Telegraph Journal today shouting in the headline “DEATH KNELL TO R&D” if the province converts three of New Brunswick’s university campuses to polytechnic institutes. Letting UNBSJ stand on its own will, it would seem, piss off a lot of well placed folks. Someone should mention to Mr. Ganong that we are already at the bottom for R&D in New Brunswick so the use of “death knell” here is particularly interesting. What government is going to anger the business elite of New Brunswick?

Take Mount Allison. No worries there. I talked to some folks who should know.

Then, of course, there is the whole community college thing. The campuses in fast growing communities say they need more resources and more course offerings but the provincial system is designed to force folks from one city to go to school where the training is – not to bring the training to the people. This is particularly problematic for CCNB -Dieppe as they are watching Francophone students attend the NBCC in Moncton (in English) rather than move to Northern New Brunswick to take the French language version of the course.

So, in summary.

The universities will dig in and fight any changes that will reduce/threaten their mandate.
The north/south will make it a pride/political issue.
Consolidation will be highly unlikely at any level.
Conversion to a ‘polytechnic institute’ model will likely not happen.

So, in the end, I predict the ultimate changes will be minimal. Just like virtually every major initiative since McKenna.

Probably there will be a little more integration between the college and university system (but heaven help us we will not be able to sully the excellent reputation of our universities with that watered down, grunt college training).

Probably, there will be more focus on attracting international students (already happening).

Probably, there will be modest and superficial attempts to integrate more within New Brunswick (i.e. take two years at MTA and two at UNB).

I don’t expect any campus closures or amalgamations at any level (NBCC or university) and I certainly don’t expect UNB Saint John to get its autonomy although I think just about everyone in Saint John would like this (that I have talked with).