News / Edmonton

Staff at NAIT asked to leave, vacant positions eliminated at MacEwan University

A day after Calgary’s Mount Royal University announced program and staff cuts and increased student fees, more details emerged about similar cuts at Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions.

At NAIT,  staff in certain programs are being asked to consider leaving the institution through voluntary redundancy, said Doug Short, president of the NAIT Academic Staff Association.

“Depending on how that works out, if we get enough people going, that will tide us over for this year,” Short said.

Moving forward, the institution may have to look at restructuring, cutting programs, and increasing class sizes, Short said.

“(Bigger classes) is difficult for us because NAIT has always been hands on,” he said. “I don’t know how that will transpire.”

David Atkinson, the president of MacEwan University, said the school will be increasing the number of students it lets into high demand programs including business and health sciences.

Meanwhile, approximately 36 vacant staff positions will not be filled and will “simply disappear.”  All departments are being given budget targets and staff layoffs could be coming, Atkinson said.

“When departments are given their targets for reducing budgets, they may in fact find that they can’t do it without staff reductions,” Atkinson said. “That’s a decision yet to be made.”

While Atkinson emphasized that “everything is on the table,” he said programs cuts are unlikely as certain programs have been phased out in recent years because of low demand or poor enrollment.

“We’ve got all of the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “All the rest of our programs are, in fact, full. I’m hesitant to do anything that would damage something that is already going successful.”

At the University of Alberta, Donna Wilson, president of the school’s academic staff association, said she’s been told the school will run a deficit for the 2013-2014 school year meaning “deep cuts and program closures” won’t happen immediately.

“That’s the good news, this year. The issue is next year,” she said.

Wilson said in the meantime, top students and staff could be lured away from the University of Alberta by schools outside of Alberta.

“This year at the U of A is going to be, if you want to call it anything, a slow bleed. There’s not going to be anything dramatic like at Mount Royal and Lakeland. Our concern is next year,” she said.

Last week, Lakeland College announced more than 40 permanent positions would be eliminated and several programs would stop accepting new students.

On Tuesday, officials at Mount Royal University said several programs, including all music performance and theatre arts programs, would be cancelled.

Portage College has eliminated 15 fulltime staff positions, closed its Vegreville campus and reduced its Bonnyville campus in size by more than one half.

The cuts to post-secondary institutions across the province come as schools struggle to balance their books after the government trimmed post-secondary grants by 7.3 per cent in its March budget.

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