Yukon College set to become Canada's first northern university
Yukon College in Whitehorse, Yukon, has a plan in place to make it the Canada’s first Arctic university by 2020.
The designation will make Yukon University-- as it will be called--the only place in Canada to study the North, from the North.
As part of the transition, the school will offer its first bachelor’s degree program under its own name in September with a degree program in Indigenous governance.
“This is incredibly important,” Jacqueline Bedard, executive director of external and government relations at Yukon College, told CTV News Channel. “Yukon First Nations walked hand-in-hand with us through the process of determining courses and learning outcomes for those courses.”
The school expects the Yukon University Act to pass through the legislature in 2019-2020, at this point Yukon College will officially be a university. On top of a $65-million fundraising campaign, the Yukon government has added $1.5 million to its annual Yukon College grant to help with the transition.
The school isn’t planning on leaving the college ranks completely. They hope to become a “hybrid university,” meaning the school would offer both college and university-level programs.
In the future, the school anticipates launching university degree programs in business administration, northern studies, climate change policy and sustainable resource development. All the programs will build off existing course offerings at the school.
Bedard said turning the school into a university opens more doors when it comes to attracting students not only from other parts of Canada, but internationally. She said they’ve already received interest from as far away as Australia for their Indigenous governance program.
Additionally, Bedard said the school expects to bring in more international students through partnership programs with universities around the globe.
The idea of bringing a higher education to the North has been around for decades.
Nearly 50 years ago, all 14 First Nations groups in the Yukon went to Ottawa with a document for then-Prime Minister Pierre Eilliott Trudeau about land claims that included a suggestion for a university in the area. In 2007, officials once again considered the idea when a survey of residents in all three territories indicated they wanted more control of scientific studies in the region.
In the 2009, the Yukon Government passed legislation permitting the school to offer degree programs, but the school needed an external quality assurance board to give them the final approval. In the fall of 2017, Campus Alberta Quality Council’s confirmed the school meets the requirements to offer degree programs, paving the way for the school’s Indigenous governance degree and ultimately, Yukon University.
In other parts of the north, schools also have plans to expand their education options.
In the Northwest Territories, legislators are expected to consider a report that recommends turning Aurora College in Yellowknife into Northern Canada Polytechnic University and Nunavut Arctic College plans to announce a partnership with a southern university in October.
With files from The Canadian Press