President appears before provincial committee

- University of Victoria

University of Victoria President Jamie Cassels made a presentation before the BC Government Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on June 19, as part of the committee’s consultations on Budget 2021.

In Cassels’ appearance before the committee of MLAs he made recommendations supporting:

  • Investments to support students and equal access to online learning through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond;
  • Post-secondary education as the foundation to a better future for individuals and for our province;
  • The critical importance of graduate students and high-impact research to a healthy, more sustainable future.​

President Cassels appeared before the committee alongside presidents of other BC post-secondary institutions (Santa Ono, UBC; Andrew Petter, SFU and Alan Davis, Kwantlen Polytechnic).

Read Cassels’ full remarks below.

President Jamie Cassels’ remarks to
Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services

June 19, 2020

Good morning committee members.

I am speaking to you today from the University of Victoria campus, on the traditional territory of Lekwungen peoples—home of the Esquimalt, Songhees and WSÁNEĆ nations.

COVID-19 is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, and I would like to acknowledge the investments and efforts of government and the public service to support students and ensure their health, safety and well-being during the pandemic.

As my colleague from UBC noted students have borne the brunt of this disruption—and the main point I wish to leave you with is that with swift and bold action we can prevent it from setting back an entire generation.

Youth unemployment is at 29%. 115,000 jobs have been lost since the pandemic started. Many of those jobs will not return.

However, while we are looking into a canyon, I believe we can choose to build a strong bridge to the other side, and education and research are the foundations and girders of that bridge.

I say this as a university president, but also as a father of three kids who are all on different pathways through post-secondary education, whose lives have been turned upside down, and who are worried about an uncertain future.

UVic is doing all we can to support our students. Building on support from government, our alumni and donors we have provided almost two million dollars to students in emergency bursaries.

My first recommendation is that Government make targeted investments in emergency bursaries, work-integrated opportunities and technology grants to support students, to ensure access and affordability, especially for those who are in more precarious circumstances.
—UVic President Jamie Cassels

18,000 UVic students (about 75% of our students) will attend fall classes online from remote, rural and urban locations outside of Victoria.

To facilitate online learning, UVic has invested over five million dollars in new technologies to develop our Teach Anywhere and Learn Anywhere resources, and we are in the process of installing an entirely new learning management system to provide the very best learning experience for our students.

It is critical that students have the ability to take full advantage of this enhanced infrastructure and we recommend Government invest in rural connectivity and online learning to support equal access to distance education. This would be a legacy investment serving the province well into the future.
—UVic President Jamie Cassels

My third point looks forward, to the opportunity thrown up for us by our present circumstances. COVID-19 has shown the need for expertise, and innovation, and the significant role of research in dealing with the crisis.

As we emerge from this period, there will be tremendous opportunities presented by the restart to do things differently in a healthy and sustainable way. Universities play the role of producing talent, ideas and innovation and will be key partners in shaping what our world looks like in the future. At UVic we have launched a research accelerator program to bring a laser focus to how our research and training can contribute to the scientific, medical and socio-economic issues that we know we will be dealing with over the next years.

In particular, our next generation of graduate students are critical in advancing research and reinforcing the links between research, teaching and real-world challenges, and we recommend Government double down on partnerships with post-secondary, to advance high-impact research and provide ongoing funding to graduate student scholarships to keep BC competitive for top talent.
—UVic President Jamie Cassels

I’ll conclude by stating again that education is the bridge to a better future for individuals and for our province. Education is the great equalizer, and skills, talent and innovation are the fuel for a positive future.

75% of the job openings over the next decade will require a post-secondary degree.

Post-secondary will support and equip our disrupted workforce with necessary skills for a more equitable, inclusive and resilient society.

I join my colleagues in urging the province to keep our post-secondary system whole so that it emerges with the strength it needs to serve the province and its people. I want to remind committee members of the fact that because of its differentiated and integrated structure, BC has the best post-secondary system in the country, with research universities, teaching universities, colleges and institutes each playing different but important roles, and making up an integrated and seamless system.

So while I’m here as the president of a research university, I want to emphasize the importance of supporting the entire post-secondary system. I mentioned my three kids. One of them is in the middle of a doctoral program at a research university, the other is just graduating (albeit without a convocation ceremony) from a professional program, and the third is apprenticing as an electrician through Camosun College. Each of them is on exactly the right path for themselves. I am proud of them all and I know that because BC has a superb educational ecosystem, they and those who come after them will flourish as individuals, and contribute as citizens.


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Keywords: administrative

People: Jamie Cassels

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