Future of Surrey campus reviewed

Apr 19, 2003,
By Terry Lavender

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The Simon Fraser University community is getting the opportunity to have its say about the future of the university's new Surrey campus.

The chance for public input comes in a series of meetings that have been arranged by the SFU Surrey longterm planning committee, chaired by associate VP-academic Bill Krane. The committee was set up by SFU's senate last year, shortly after the provincial government gave responsibility for the programs and students of the Technical University of British Columbia to SFU.

The committee has released a draft report and is now seeking comment before presenting final recommendations at the May 3 senate meeting. Two forums were held for Surrey students and faculty and staff on Feb. 12 and a forum for the Burnaby campus is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. at the Diamond University Club. The committee has also set up a website, sfusurreyplanning where a complete meeting schedule, along with the draft report and other documents, can be found.

The committee is looking for input on five questions:

What size should the SFU Surrey campus be in relation to the Burnaby and Harbour Centre campuses?

Should the SFU Surrey campus have a particular theme or focus to its programs or should it become a comprehensive campus with a wide array of academic programs?

Are there any specific academic programs (undergraduate and/or graduate) that should be located at the SFU Surrey campus?

Should first-year cohort programs be developed at SFU Surrey?

Should SFU develop a strategic plan for pedagogical practices and technology tools?

Krane says he's pleased at how fast the committee has been able to complete its work. "It's only been a year since the announcement regarding TechBC. Usually this sort of thing would take years." The committee's task was made difficult both by the short time frame and by the fact that recommendations had to be developed for a program that was already in place.

"Most new programs begin with a plan. A curriculum is developed, faculty and support staff are hired, and students are recruited. But here the program was already in place. We've been doing long-term visioning while recognizing the unique aspect of the program in place. It's been a real challenge."

The committee's recommendations include maintaining SFU's presence in Surrey, but expanding the current technology-oriented program into a "broader spectrum of academic offerings that will serve the needs of local, provincial, national and international students." The committee also recommends that the program be converted into a school in the faculty of applied sciences, that joint programs be explored with other schools, departments and faculties and that the Surrey campus convert to a trimester system.

The report cautions that SFU will quickly have to address the issue of space. SFU Surrey operates out of a converted department store which will be fully occupied by next fall, and will be inadequate the following year. However, it will take a minimum of 12 months and probably 18 months to prepare facilities in a new campus.

Krane says he's surprised at the depth of feeling among SFU Surrey faculty regarding the information technology and interactive arts program, a legacy from TechBC. "There's a strong desire to remain as a single unit. It's a reflection of the dedication and investment people have made in their program. They are really committed, dedicated individuals who want to preserve the spark that originally attracted people to TechBC," he says.

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