A new government faces serious issues

Here we are again at the beginning of a new educational year. I want to welcome new members of FPSE locals and to acknowledge those whose ongoing work makes our federation strong at the provincial and local levels.

It is fitting that we begin the year with a celebration of Labour Day. I know that many FPSE members participated in rallies and events in their communities. This year, we focused on workers who are locked out at CBC and Telus as well as striking workers at Tech Cominco. We will continue to support them in their struggles for fair collective agreements.

A year ago we were facing a provincial election, and we knew that post-secondary education would be an important issue. We worked hard to raise issues of access and affordability and I am proud of the work that FPSE did. The election is now over and we have a new and more balanced government and opposition in Victoria.

Despite the change in government, our institutions and our students continue to face some serious issues. Last year at this time I pointed out that many of our institutions were seeing declining enrolment. Preliminary information from the Ministry of Advanced Education for the 2004/05 year shows that the problem has increased. And for the first time we saw a significant decline in enrolment for the college, university college and institute system as a whole.

This is a disturbing trend and one that requires urgent attention. We know that demand for post-secondary education is high, so why the decline in enrolment at our institutions? Many factors have likely contributed, including dramatically rising costs for students and families; the inadequacy of government funding for institutions; the absence of system planning and mechanisms to support inter-institutional cooperation; and an emphasis on competition between public institutions.

The BC governments goal of increasing student spaces is a laudable one. But it can only really be described as increasing access if institutions can create the spaces and if students are able to fill them. The BC government is planning a budget update in mid-September and we will be watching closely to see if it includes increased funding for post-secondary education.

For FPSE member this will be a busy year. As the post-secondary education system in BC continues to evolve, we will be working to maintain a focus on quality education and positive working environments. Later in the fall, we will be seeking meetings with MLAs to discuss our common concerns around post-secondary education and, coming up very soon, we will begin our annual round of meetings and committee work.

I wish all members an invigorating and productive year and I look forward to having the opportunity to visit many FPSE locals during the coming year.

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.