Northern colleges pressure feds for Arctic university

Three schools seek financial commitment from Harper gov’t; GG already on board

In an attempt to pressure the federal government towards creating an Arctic-based university, three northern Canadian colleges are joining forces.

According to the CBC, this week Yukon College, Nunavut Arctic College and N.W.T.-based Aurora College agreed to establish the legal foundation necessary for an Arctic university.

The schools are currently seeking a financial commitment from the feds, says Yukon College president Terry Weninger.

“We have been waffling around with this concept for a number of years,” he says. “We need to have the knowledge — the security, if you want — that this thing can move forward with some sort of secure base funding. Otherwise, it’s going to flounder.”

Canada is currently the other circumpolar nation without a northern university.

The push from the colleges comes after Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean threw her weight behind the idea during her Nunavut tour last month. She says it would help Inuit and other northerners earn a post-secondary education without having to move far from home.

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Jean said a northern Canadian university could be modelled on the world’s current northernmost university, which is Tromso, Norway.

The colleges’ proposal for a university would cost $2.5 million, according to Weninger’s estimates. He says the institution would be anchored by the existing colleges and their programs.

“Like, we already spend millions. Our government and the governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut already spend millions on university-level education,” he says. “So it’s not that we’re not investing in post-secondary education. But this would give us, if you want, a university presence that’s pan-northern.”

Weninger says he’s expecting an official response from Ottawa in the next few weeks.