Dalhousie-NSAC Merger

As a former Dalhousie Senator, I’m quite pleased to see that a long-time partner, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, is looking to merge with Dalhousie. The main reasons that I support this are that Nova Scotia has too many different universities, both Dal and NSAC benefit from increased collaboration and partnership, and alumni have reportedly been hesitant to donate to NSAC due to its close affiliation to government. I feel that this merger will improve the experience of all NSAC students, as well as many Dalhousie students, particularly those involved in biology and life sciences.

I should probably elaborate on the above statements about the merger:

1. Too many universities: Report after report has recommended mergers. When the original King’s College in Windsor burned down, a condition imposed by the Carnegie foundation to get funding for reconstruction was that it merge with Dal. That didn’t happen. This debate has been happening since the early 1800s. In short, the administrative costs per student will drop, as well as supply acquisition (bigger orders lower costs) and a few other yet-to-be-seen efficiency gains. They aren’t necessarily huge, but every dollar helps.

2. Dal and NSAC are already big partners. NSAC’s grad programs are actually Dal programs. The engineering students at NSAC move on to Dal for 3rd and 4th year. Many lecturers at Dal teach at NSAC too. When it comes to research, there is significant collaboration, particularly in engineering and life sciences. Presumably, the merger cuts down on red tape when moving things between the two.

3. Money: NSAC was a crown corporation until recently, which made donors hesitant to come to NSAC. That hasn’t really lifted. Dal has one of the largest per-capita endowments of any Canadian universities. Part of that has to do with plundering Maine during the war of 1812. Part of it has to do with a (relatively) strong bond with alumni. NSAC will benefit from Dal’s internationally recognized name, and Dal will benefit from the addition of several highly specialized programs to its offerings, and will expand its pool of alumni.

That being said, as an engineering student, I still feel the bad blood between TUNS and Dal over the forced merger of engineering and architecture. There is a definite feeling that money that is earmarked for Sexton (the old TUNS campus) goes up to the main Dal campus. A recent example is the Life Science Research Institute, which was reportedly moved forward at the expense of the IDEA building at Sexton. There has been no major development undertaken on Sexton since the merger in the late ’90s, and soon after the merger the Faculty of Computer Science was moved off campus. The infrastructure on Sexton is far worse than on Studley and Carleton. The only changes have been a makeover of the alumni lounge and, thanks to the generosity of a Bell executive, new equipment in the weight room.

On the whole, I still feel this will be a positive move for both parties, but I hope they learn from the mistakes of the TUNS/Dal merger.

For readers’ benefit, I’ve attached the letter sent out today by Dalhousie President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Tom Traves, who also oversaw the tail end of the Dal/TUNS merger.

TO: The Dalhousie University Community
FROM: Tom Traves, President
DATE: May 20, 2011
RE: Dalhousie/NSAC merger

 

I am pleased to announce that Dalhousie has entered into discussions towards a merger with Nova Scotia Agricultural College. A team will be appointed to work out the details of what this new relationship would look like, but at its heart this will mean a new working partnership and a significant opportunity for both institutions.

This is an exciting time for both Dalhousie and NSAC. There are so many new possibilities that exist for each of us to serve Nova Scotia – to grow, to enrich the learning experience for our students and to create an enhanced research community that will directly impact the fortunes of our region while creating new opportunities for innovation and interdisciplinary learning.

Students at both campuses will benefit from shared expertise and learning opportunities that will produce graduates who are ready to take on the agrifood challenges of our times. This will also present a new opportunity to enhance our study and research programs.

The relationship between our two schools is not new and the discussion we are about to have feels like a natural one. As you know, NSAC degree programs are approved by Dalhousie’s Senate and NSAC has offered Dalhousie degrees to its graduates for many years. We also boast a close working relationship through our Faculty of Graduate Studies. In addition, of course, there are longstanding research partnerships between NSAC and Dalhousie professors. For many years NSAC faculty have attracted the second highest amount of research funding, after Dalhousie, in the province. A merger under these circumstances seems like a logical next step.

The timing of this discussion is fortuitous. At a time when food prices are increasing precipitously around the world and populations continue to soar, the challenge of feeding the global population looms large. To confront this challenge while still being mindful of our responsibility as stewards of our shared environment, is going to require the disciplinary perspectives and contributions of many scholars, starting with agrifood specialists and extending into the many fields that Dalhousie incorporates. To draw upon the respective strengths of our two institutions will allow us to train generations of leaders who will be ready and able to face these challenges head-on.

Nova Scotia Agricultural College has served the people of Nova Scotia and particularly the people of Bible Hill, Truro, and Colchester County communities for many years. We look forward to working with NSAC to build something that does justice to that admirable track record and enhances it even further.

We will work toward having the merger completed in time for the incoming class of Fall, 2012. In the meantime, there is much work to do and many questions that need answering about a host of academic, organizational, personnel and financial issues. At this point we have as many questions as answers, but we will be working closely with our partners in the months ahead to build something new and very exciting.

Tom Traves

What are your thoughts on the merger? Let me know below.

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