David Turpin, a seasoned postsecondary administrator with experience across the country, is the new president of the University of Alberta.
Dr. Turpin was president of the University of Victoria for more than a decade until 2013 and served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. He suceeds Indira Samarasekera, who led the institution through a decade in which the student population grew by 10,000. The new president takes the position at a challenging time, facing funding issues, academic transformation and global competition for students and faculty.
"This is a remarkable time for the university. We are located in the province that is driving the social, cultural and economic prosperity of Canada and there is a sense in this province that there is an opportunity to lead nationally and internationally. One of the most important things to achieve those goals is an outstanding internationally recognized university," Dr. Turpin said in an interview.
An international search was conducted for the new president and hundreds of applications were received, which the search committee whittled down over the past year, said Doug Goss, chair of the university's Board of Governors.
Externally and internally, the university faces pressures. In the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the University of Alberta dropped 15 spots to 124 from its position last year. "Rankings force us to be self-critical and self-reflective," Dr. Turpin said. "The most important thing for us to do is to hold ourselves to the highest standards of international excellence."
Internally, many departments are on a hunt for new sources and forms of revenue. Earlier this fall, the university submitted proposals to the province to increase tuition above the inflation cap imposed by the province in three programs, the maximum allowed by provincial legislation.
The faculties of law, pharmacy and business are asking the government to approve "market modifiers" that would bring their fees in line with the cost of these programs at other Canadian institutions and would increase bills for students by more than 50 per cent in some cases.
Don Scott, the minister responsible for postsecondary education, was expected to reveal which proposals had been approved on Monday, but the ministry extended that timeline this week.
Dr. Turpin said that regardless of how the market modifier debate is resolved, he will ensure that education remains accessible for students.
Dr. Turpin has a PhD in botany and oceanography from the University of British Columbia, where he also completed his bachelor of science in cell biology in 1977. He attended elementary school in Calgary and his great-grandfather was an Alberta rancher.