OAC Dean Talks about Ag Campus Closures

Mar 18, 2014

By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

Guelph students are struggling to make sense of Kemptville and Alfred agricultural campus closures.

The University of Guelph announced March 12 that it planned to close two of its Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) satellite campuses located in Eastern Ontario by 2015, citing financial reasons.

Dr. Robert Gordon Dean of OAC says the closures was a “very difficult” decision. “We are doing our best to make sure that we continue to maintain the highest quality of programs,” he said in an interview.

Understanding the dynamics of a close-knit aggie community, Gordon plans to host an open discussion with OAC students this week. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions about the closure. “I know that I am not going to make everyone happy,” he said. This meeting is for students only and is not open to the public.

“It’s not anybody’s individual fault it’s just the changing landscape that we have to deal with in terms of postsecondary education,” Gordon explained. Mentioning that the university cannot deliver the same programs in the same way, especially with rising inflation costs and continued financial pressures determined by the provincial government.

He says that since he became Dean of OAC in 2008, there have been cuts made to the way programs and services have been delivered. “Because the way our funding is driven we had to look at a consolidation plan that resulted in the announcement,” he said. “Doing more with less is part of our culture in terms of how we deliver our ag and food education.”

“The province of Ontario is pushing for new ways that we can deliver education,” he said making note that the government expects post-secondary institutions to integrate more technology based and online courses into its curriculum delivery offerings.

Gordon admits that there have been pressures to close the campuses in the past. The university took control of the campuses in partnership with the provincial government in 1997. “It’s been a never ending challenge over the past 17 years,” he said.

The partnership that was formed in 1997 has been a sensitive topic among those involved in the agricultural community, who say they feel the university never fully accepted them as part of the OAC family.

About 78 per cent of the students in OAC attend the University of Guelph’s main campus.   “Our ability to maintain similar programs at multiple locations was not possible,” he said.

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