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Faculty members at Vancouver’s Capilano University are considering legal action in the wake of the administration’s decision to cut programs.


Capilano University faculty, outraged at budget cuts that have eliminated entire programs for next year, are looking at legal options to save courses in arts and technology.

"We take the view that the decision was illegal, and we will go forward seeking an injunction against the program cuts," said Mark Battersby, president of the Capilano University Faculty Association. Mr. Battersby said the process behind the decision violated the provincial University Act's requirements for deliberation and consultation.

"I talked to our lawyer about how soon we can be in court … at latest, probably about six weeks from now."

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The budget, which has sparked heated controversy on campus for months, was approved by the university's board of governors on Tuesday night. It suspends programs in fields such as studio art, textile art, computer science and interactive design.

Provincial regulation requires universities to create balanced budgets. Capilano initially faced a budget shortfall of $3.5-million for next year, according to a report from the university's senate. After postponing various projects, it still had a $1.2-million deficit, which is when it turned to cutting programs.

Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft said she is aware the faculty association is planning legal action, but is confident the budget was adopted properly.

"I know the University Act quite well," she said.

Dr. Bulcroft said she understands the backlash. "The decisions were hard decisions to make … but as president, I have to do what I believe is the right thing for the long-term sustainability of the university."

Most of the programs cut were being heavily subsidized by Capilano, Dr. Bulcroft said, and some, such as studio art and textile art, had low enrolment rates.

"There's a lot that goes into the equation," Dr. Bulcroft said. "Some of the programs don't break even; we don't get enough tuition or subsidy from the government in order to make them self-sustaining."

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The senate report noted that, historically, a provincial operating grant covered 80 per cent of Capilano's budget.

Today, the grant covers only 42 per cent, yet the number of programs offered had been increasing.

In the 2012 provincial budget, finance minister Kevin Falcon announced a $70-million reduction in advanced education spending over three years, and challenged universities to cut their administrative spending by 1 per cent by 2015.

"The province will work with universities, colleges and other institutions to help ensure that frontline programs are not affected," Mr. Falcon said in the budget speech.

The B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education was not able to respond by late Thursday to questions.

Mr. Battersby said the faculty association is worried the cuts are a consequence of Capilano changing from a college to a university in 2008. Only non-degree programs were cut.

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"There seems to be a perception that because we're a university, all our programs should lead to degrees," he said.

But Dr. Bulcroft said the budget cuts are part of a bigger picture of how universities in B.C. are changing.

"There's an increasing emphasis on labour market and skills training," she said. "It's less about the credential, and more about making sure that our graduates are job ready. For Cap, our attention and focus is increasingly turning on measuring outcome."

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