In your recent story on the demise of the Council on Post-Secondary Education (COPSE) as reported in the recent provincial budget document, I have to disagree with Deborah Poff’s opinion and concur with Dr. Saunders position.
COPSE was “the government agency responsible for planning and co-ordinating the development of a post-secondary education system that promotes excellence and accessibility, facilitates the co-ordination and integration of services and facilities, and promotes fiscal responsibility and accountability.” It was created by an act in November 1996 and commenced operations in April 1997.
The Roblin Report of The University Education Review Committee (December 1993) “Doing Things Differently” was the last comprehensive review of post-secondary education in Manitoba. The report acknowledged the importance of the three major responsibilities of Universities — teaching, research and community service, and their significance to society and the economy, and proposed the creation of the council.
The report also acknowledged the importance and unique contributions of the University of Winnipeg, Brandon University and St. Boniface College, and the very powerful lobby and influence of the University of Manitoba:
“We recommend that the proposed COPSE take into consideration the smaller institutions and their separate individual financial requirements when advising government.”
In my view, BU has been treated very fairly by COPSE during its years of operation. It was also very accessible (as were ministers) to the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA), individual associations, students and administrations.
The most important role identified for COPSE and its predecessor, the Universities Grants Commission, was to act at arms length from government and protect university autonomy from direct government interference. On the whole, COPSE performed this function well with the sad exception of the unilateral demise of the successful, award-winning BUNTEP program and the transfer of the mandate for northern teaching education to the University College of the North.
The legislation required that COPSE be reviewed every five years. The first very thorough review was carried out by Dr. John Mallea, former BU president. Mallea received input from all stakeholders and identified some failure to follow its mandate to address accountability of the institutions etc.
A second review, five years later, endorsed many of Mallea’s conclusions. Neither suggested the replacement of COPSE. So the question remains why did the government decide to cut it without any discussion with stakeholders? Are there perhaps some significant financial accountability issues that COPSE and others have been pressing the government to deal with?
Dr. Bill Paton
Past-president of MOFA
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 5, 2014