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Mergers and money problems at Nova Scotia schools

Photo: Art Starts Here poster, a pointed variation on Nova Scotia's Ships Start

Going to university is getting more expensive everywhere, and in Nova Scotia, government support is shrinking. It’s a small province with many institutions, so when cash is scarce, one obvious strategy is mergers. Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) and Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) have been on merger watch for a couple of years.

In 2010 an economist named Tim O’Neill released a report commissioned by the province about post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia. 

Nova Scotia has 11 post-secondary institutions. In his report, O’Neill suggested that a few consider mergers in light of money problems. NSCAD and NSAC were named, with NSCAD getting particular attention. He said the school’s financial problems couldn’t be solved with government intervention and that the school is also limited by the space it has in its historic downtown campus.

Two years later, NSCAD is still independent and NSAC is a department of Dalhousie University.

The agricultural college’s absorption seems almost complete; nsac.ca redirects to a page on Dalhousie’s website and a mascot sporting Dal black and gold was on campus for orientation week.

The merger will mean 80 per cent of research funding awarded in Nova Scotia will go to Dalhousie. Before, NSAC and Dal got 80 per cent combined. The schools were already quite connected. NSAC depended on Dal for administrative help.

About a year after O’Neill made his suggestions, NSCAD submitted a sustainability plan to the province, as requested. Soon after, an advisor, Howard Windsor, was appointed by the province to help NSCAD develop a better plan. According to him, NSCAD’s original plan was heavily dependent on getting more money from the province.

Windsor’s report recommends, along with other measures, that “NSCAD immediately investigate collaborative arrangements with other post-secondary institutions in relations to governance, curriculum, administration, shared services, facilities, and any other matter…”

NSCAD students and faculty resisted a possible merger. But the college doesn’t isolate itself, either. Students from any other Halifax university can take electives there.

Their new president says part of NSCAD’s plan for sustainability involves exploring partnerships with other universities. The college has applied for Department of Labour and Advanced Education money to hire consultants to evaluate the costs and benefits of a partnership. Meanwhile, NSCAD is cutting back on course offerings and replacing fewer vacated positions. 

Photo: Art Starts Here poster, a pointed variation on Nova Scotia's Ships Start Here posters by Nova Scotia Needs NSCAD

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