2008 AGM endorses plan to deal with system-wide changes in post-secondary education

Since the middle of March, BC's public post-secondary education system has been buffeted by funding and policy changes that only add to a growing sense that the provincial government has no clear plan for post-secondary education. On March 12 came word from the Minister of Advanced Education that operating grants for post-secondary institutions would be cut by 2.6%. Several weeks later the government moved to create five new universities. For those expecting the university announcements to include additional funding to either offset the 2.6% cut or ensure that the newly-minted universities would have sufficient funding to fulfill their new mandates, the announcements came up short on both fronts.

The funding cut and the university announcements were yet another reminder that the provincial government has no real grasp of how to support post-secondary education. This in a province where numerous studies repeatedly point to the immediate value that post-secondary education provides to both students and the broader economy. The BC Business Council has noted that the vast majority (almost three-quarters) of new jobs requires some form of post-secondary education-a degree, diploma, certificate of completed apprenticeship-yet less than two-thirds of the current workforce has that credential.

It was against this backdrop that delegates at this year's FPSE Annual General Meeting debated and adopted an Action Plan that will guide our work over the next twelve months. The plan calls for concerted efforts in six priority areas. They include capacity building within our activist ranks, greater organizing within the ranks of private post-secondary institutions, advocacy on benefit and contract protections, increased public awareness on the importance of post-secondary education, continued work with allies and partners in our communities and renewed solidarity amongst member locals to strengthen public post-secondary education across the province.

The convention delegates also pressed for new initiatives to position FPSE for the next round of provincial bargaining which will take place in 2010. The delegates supported the call for a series of conferences to discuss not only how to prepare for bargaining, but also how that bargaining should be coordinated given the most recent changes in university status.

Part of that planning and coordination effort will begin in June at the Presidents' Council planning retreat. With the help of professional facilitators, the PC will begin to map out some of the key priorities that need to be the focus of bargaining efforts. The emphasis of this session will be to consider how to achieve those priorities not just in the next round of provincial bargaining, but well into the next decade.

The convention also recognized that our members will need to focus on another key priority: the May 2009 provincial election. Whether it's the current funding crunch imposed on our institutions or the lack of any coherent long-term plan for post secondary education, our members need to make post-secondary education a priority issue for voters in 2009. We need to hold the current government accountable for their actions-and in many cases their inaction-and ensure that the next government demonstrates a much greater level of support for post-secondary education.

We have a full agenda for the next 12 months. Our plans are ambitious, but necessarily so. Public post-secondary education deserves to be a much greater priority and our job over the next twelve months is to ensure that our members and their institutions are able to demonstrate how that renewed priority can work for everyone.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.