By Nazeefa Ahmed, September 19 2023—
On Sept. 16, the University of Calgary launched its seven-year strategic plan, Ahead of Tomorrow, at the Genesis Centre. The document lists four sub-goals that the U of C aims to achieve by the year 2030 with defined objectives and strategies such as community engagement, simplifying processes and increasing access to an impactful education. The event was hosted for students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members, with an array of games, performances and speeches.
Ahead of Tomorrow includes four main strategies: increase access to impactful and future-focused education, harness the power of research and innovation to tackle society’s biggest challenges, locate community at the center of all we do and make our processes clearer, simpler and better than any other university.
In a news release to the Gauntlet, the U of C describes the First-Generation Scholars Program — a part of strategy one — as a means of increasing accessibility for students through financial support. The $2,500 scholarship and mentorship program is granted to incoming full-time degree program students whose parents did not attend university.
“Stepping up to be the first in your family to go to university takes courage and involves overcoming significant barriers. The University of Calgary is making that step a little easier by opening the doors to financial support and wraparound services for students who are the first generation in their family to enroll in university starting in Fall 2024.”
First-generation student Micheal Barazza described how the mentorship that will be provided to recipients of the First-Generation Scholars program will help students ease into university expectations and take opportunities without having to struggle through the hurdles themselves.
“One of the barriers that first-generation students face is the fact that they don’t have this blueprint or roadmap to direct them where to go and how to navigate this massive structure like the University of Calgary,” said Barazza. “You are bombarded with so many courses, so many options that you can take and so having someone to be able to direct you and at least create a framework so you can fill in the gaps is very beneficial.”
Strategy one also aims to increase access to impactful and future-focused education. As a part of this goal, the University aims to increase total enrolment by 10,000 and graduate enrolment by 7,000. However, despite residence being at capacity for the 2023-24 academic year, the strategy does not mention increasing on-campus housing to accommodate the higher student population.
In a statement to Global News on Aug. 27, Director of Ancillary Services Shane Royal stated that 700 students applied to the residence waitlist for the 2023-24 academic year.
“We’ve seen a fairly significant increase in applications to live in residence at the university,” read the statement.
According to a Students’ Union (SU) Instagram post, there are also preliminary proposals for tuition hikes for the 2024-25 academic year, with a two per cent increase for domestic tuition and 10 per cent increase for international tuition. This increase would be on top of a 33 per cent increase since 2020 and 750 million in funding cuts from the provincial government.
Part of strategy two aims for the University of Calgary to join the top 50 start-up creators in the world. The U of C already holds first place among research institutions in Canada from the Association of University Technology Managers. The objective falls under the greater goal of increasing research opportunities and impact.
“Transdisciplinary research opportunities for scholars lead to new connections and unforeseen discoveries, and a change to tackle wicked challenges too big for one scholar or one discipline to solve on their own,” read a statement from the strategy.
The entrepreneurial tone of the strategy has received criticism from faculty. In an Op-ed to the Calgary Herald, U of C professors Kaela Jubas and Lindsay McLaren assert their disapproval.
“We understand that public institutions experience market pressures and face competition, whether for public dollars, donor support or students. Still, the public university is not a private enterprise. It is meant to fulfill a distinctly and distinctive public good. It is meant as a space where people can come together in teaching, learning and researching about the world we share, and in building thoughtful, informed, critically developed understandings that can help us collectively address the problems that confront us. That mission is a far cry from the plan’s objectives to ‘expand required programming focused on entrepreneurial thinking,’ and to become one of the world’s ‘top 50 startup creators in the world’,” read a statement from the article.
Ahead of Tomorrow also hopes to create more opportunities for first and second-year students to get involved with research as well as becoming the number one university among the 15 Canadian public research universities for research revenue per scholar.
To fund the many initiatives in the strategy, U of C President and Vice-Chancellor Ed McCauley calls for greater support.
“We are already at full capacity. We need support for infrastructure. We need support for programming. We need support to build the programs that will fuel prosperity as well as quality of life in Alberta,” said McCauley.
McCauley stated the importance of hosting the Ahead of Tomorrow launch at the Genesis Center, as it was in support of strategy three, community engagement and relevance.
“We couldn’t think of a better place to launch the strategy,” said McCauley. “We looked at a variety of different venues [and] this is one that provided the flexibility [and] access to resources, so we chose to be here.”
McCauley reminds current students that they are not left out of the strategy’s aims and that the execution of the seven-year plan begins immediately after its launch,
“Students at the University of Calgary will benefit directly as we build Ahead of Tomorrow,” said McCauley. “We already have great experiential learning. We already have great opportunities for students in terms of work-integrated learning. Ahead of Tomorrow is only going to accelerate that for existing students as well as building for future students.”
More information about Ahead of Tomorrow can be found on the U of C website.