Three NWT post-secondary institutions have joined forces to improve educational opportunities for students in the North.
Aurora College, Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, and Collège nordique francophone, signed an official memorandum of understanding (MOU) Tuesday to collaborate on increasing access to post-secondary programs for Northerners.
The three-way partnership aims to combine each institution’s specialty, in order to improve educational opportunities available to students without having to move south. The collaboration allows the facilities to continue offering that which makes them distinct, while leveraging the scale of the schools together.
“For francophones, we’re such a small population we wouldn’t be able to do it alone,” said Josée Clermont, executive director of Collège nordique. “We will leverage our individual strengths to collectively build on the complementary nature of our programming and offer the best possible choice and quality post-secondary education experiences,” she said.
The MOU comes as Aurora College is working to transition into a polytechnic university over the next six years.
While still in the first phase of that transformation, Aurora College spokesperson Jeff Turner said the partnership among NWT post-secondary institutions “is an important part of ensuring the future polytechnic university fulfills its mandate of serving NWT post-secondary needs.”
Turner said future polytechnic students could have the opportunity to transfer credits between the institutions, and that the MOU will allow them access “to the expertise of faculty with a wide range of skills and knowledge.”
As the collaboration remains in its early stages, other details of what the MOU will mean for future students has yet to be determined.
As it stands, “no idea is a bad idea,” said Aurora College president Andy Bevan.
The three schools have committed to continuing to meet regularly, sharing ideas, and hearing from staff, students and other interested members of the public.
Kelsey Wrightson, Dechinta executive director, said student involvement is key to directing how the MOU is “actually implemented,” and what that will look like for program decision-making.
She said the school consistently hears, through exit interviews and conversations with students, that students want to continue to learn, live and work in the North, close to their communities.
“Signing this MOU, it’s the first step to actually establishing this web, this network of opportunities that students can have, that will direct them to different institutions across the territory,” Wrightson said.
In a 2019 “strategic framework” document released by the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE), a need for increased collaboration among post-secondary institutions in the territory was highlighted as a means of creating more opportunity for student success.
The MOU is in response to that call.
“I’ve been really heartened by our conversations that we’ve already had, both as individuals between our institutions, and now the three of us being at the same table,” Wrightson said. “Everyone is really open and excited about the different opportunities, so I feel nothing but positive that that’s going to happen as we move forward.”