During the Spring sitting of the Alberta Legislature, MLA Rachel Notley gave an interesting statement in support of Dave Taylor's amendment to Bill 7, which would oppose the introduction of the phrase "for the economic prosperity of Alberta" into Alberta's Post-Secondary Learning Act.
MS. NOTLEY: We acknowledge that within the system of post secondary education delivery is a process which relies on partnerships. It relies on partnerships historically between students, between education providers, between the community as a whole, between, in my view, business — and when I say business, I include the labour movement in that, you know, the economy as a whole — and then, of course, as I say, our community. So there is a balance that needs to be struck in the delivery of our post secondary education system and the education within the province.(h/t Alberta Views Blog)
My concern is that the amendment that’s being proposed here in essence unstrikes the balance and that it rather puts in place a priority system. The first priority is, in fact, the economic interests of the province and the economic prosperity — as defined by who I’m not exactly sure, but nonetheless the economic prosperity — of the province. I have to say that I think if you were to look historically at all of the most venerable post secondary education institutions in the world, they did not premise their reputation or their service on how well they were able to contribute ultimately to the economic prosperity of the given government of a given day. Rather, they were more focused on providing a true academic opportunity and education outside of the day-to-day influences that might be brought to bear by any particular political government of the day.
A big concern that we have relates to what the impact of this change would have on research and research initiatives in the future. Sponsored research is a type of research that occurs within the post-secondary institution that, frankly, we have some very significant concerns with. Sponsored research fundamentally compromises academic integrity in a number of cases. It can result in a skewing of the research choices, the topic choices, and the outcomes that are widely reported with respect to the research that is undertaken. [...]
We know that the roles and mandate framework actually identifies as an objective the goal of making Alberta have the highest level of sponsored research in the country. I would suggest that that is a direction that we should not pursue and that we should change direction. I am all for, you know, considered economic development and integration in certain cases with respect to the post secondary education system where it works. I have concerns about a legislated direction that economic prosperity be the priority consideration for boards of post secondary institutions when they are considering how and where to allocate their resources.