SFU integrates TechBC students

Feb 21, 2002, vol.23, no.4
By Howard Fluxgold

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SFU has moved quickly to integrate TechBC students into the university community after the province announced it was closing the Surrey university.

The government accepted a proposal by SFU that allows TechBC students to continue their studies, either in existing programs for senior students, or by transferring to SFU programs. As well, SFU will maintain a satellite campus in Surrey.

Over the next two years the university plans to increase the current enrollment of 400 students in Surrey to as many as 800.

Only a few days after the decision was announced in early February President Michael Stevenson and a startup team from SFU met officials, students and staff at TechBC.

The startup team, appointed by John Waterhouse, VP-academic, is led by Joanne Curry, CEO of TeleLearning Solutions Inc., and includes Ron Marteniuk, special adviser to the VP-academic, Tom Calvert, VP-research and external affairs at TechBC and K.C. Bell, assistant to the dean of student services. It is responsible for developing and implementing a plan to guide the startup of SFU's Surrey campus and to integrate the TechBC students.

Curry describes the startup as “a big, complex task” and says one of the challenges is the integration of administrative systems and student support services. SFU is committed to looking after all current TechBC students. The complexity of the project, and the need for all academic decisions to be approved by senate and the board of governors means details are still being worked out. Curry says she hopes to have recommendations on most of the issues as soon as possible.

Support services for students are already in place and both e-mail and telephone hotlines have been established. Students with questions about the transition to SFU can call 604.268.6731 or e-mail surrey@sfu.ca.

The province decided to shut down TechBC, which opened in the fall of 1999, because it says the university's operating and capital costs exceeded its budget, student enrolments had not met targets and private partnerships had failed to materialize.

The ministry of advanced education sought proposals on what to do with TechBC and chose SFU's from the seven it received (five from public post-secondary institutions and two from private institutions). Among other things, SFU promised to accommodate current TechBC students and maintain a presence in Surrey.

Waterhouse explains, “Our intent is to have an ongoing presence in Surrey. We don't know yet whether it will be at the current location. We'll have a better idea when we know about the lease arrangements and the cost of alternatives.”

He adds that SFU made the proposal to the government because it “has had a longstanding commitment in the Fraser Valley. In the past we have submitted a proposal to the government for a campus in the Fraser Valley. Currently, we have 1,800 students who live in Surrey and many more who reside south of the Fraser River.” He says that SFU's proposal focuses on the needs of students and praised TechBC for a curriciulum he describes as “quite innovative.”

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