I am writing in response to your recent story "Fire CapU president, says letter" published Oct. 6. The author, a retired instructor at Capilano College, asserted that "[President] Bulcroft has enforced a 'philosophical shift' away from Cap being a place of comprehensive education for the North Shore, and that she has abandoned a policy of consulting with the Capilano community before making big changes."
The retired instructor got one thing right: there certainly has been a change at Capilano; it was previously a community college, and now it is a university. Change is not always welcome, and certainly Capilano University is changing - in my opinion to a higher level of excellence, in response to taxpayer preferences and in response to the ambitions of the majority of the Capilano community.
As a North Shore MLA, I have been heavily involved in Capilano for many years, and worked closely with Dr. Greg Lee, former president, and his successor Dr. Kris Bulcroft. My interest in Capilano was stimulated by years of engagement as student, advisor, fund raiser, and professor at institutions ranging from UBC to Quest, Queens, and Harvard, as well as my brief stint as Minister of Advanced Education in British Columbia.
In transitioning from community college to university - in response to years of campaigning by faculty, administration and students - Capilano University's Administration and Board of Governors chose (appropriately in my view) to phase out certain programs involving "diploma" as opposed to "degree" certification at the completion of the course of academic studies. While diplomas certainly have their place in advanced education - and Capilano still grants them in large numbers (about 250), it is understandable that when resource tradeoffs have to be made by a university, degree programming will now begin to receive academic resources previously devoted to diploma programming.
In similar vein, it is completely appropriate in my view for the administration and the board of governors of this university, to de-emphasize curriculum elements (including those in the commerce area) which serve a "feeder" function to such larger and more established universities such as UBC, as opposed to academic programming which leads to a degree within Capilano University itself. This university will not reach its full potential by devoting scarce resources to fulfilling a role as preparatory school for other institutions.
There is no question in my mind of what provincial higher education strategy should be: pour resources into centres of excellence, just as we have poured resources into film and media production at Capilano U. We are a small province of four million souls which boldly created seven new universities. It will take time for them to sort out their respective mandates. Clearly, not all B.C. universities can be all things to all students, even if individual faculty members might like that.
In the meantime, the North Shore and all of British Columbia should celebrate the success of Dr. Bulcroft in guiding the tricky transition of Capilano from being a great community college to being a great university.
Ralph Sultan, MLA West Vancouver-Capilano
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