The predominant colleges that serve the Northwest Territories and Nunavut continue their march toward degree-granting programs, although the pandemic has posed complications in delivering some courses.

Aurora College has moved into phase two of its transformation into a polytechnic university, a process that began in 2018.

Phase one, titled strengthening the foundation and planning for change, saw nearly 40 milestones completed. Among the accomplishments in the first phase were releasing an NWT post-secondary education strategic framework, forming internal working groups, delivering a transformation implementation plan, identifying initial areas of specialization for the polytechnic university, releasing a three-year strategic plan (2020-2023) and a three-year academic plan, and updating the Aurora College Act.

“Each phase helps to ensure work is done in the right order and at the right time of the multi-year transformation process,” said Andy Bevan, associate deputy minister of post- secondary education renewal.

Phase one official drew to a close with the passage of Bill 30 – An Act to Amend the Aurora College Act — in the Legislative Assembly in December 2021.

This will enable a governance structure that will be inclusive of a board of governors, an Indigenous knowledge holders council and an academic council.

The board of governors will comprise staff and students and 10 public members, five of whom must be Indigenous residents of the NWT.

“This approach will strengthen the institution and make Aurora College a national leader in the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in strategic and operational decision-making,” Bevan said.

The education minister will ensure that the board of governors “reflects the unique values, histories and people of the NWT,” according to Bevan.

The board, dissolved in 2017, is expected to be re-established in September, which will be preceded by a public call for interest this summer.

“The new approach will allow for board members from outside the NWT as this will bring new perspectives and experience to Aurora College as it continues to develop, expand and transform into a polytechnic university,” Bevan added.

The Indigenous Knowledge Holders will be chosen based on criteria developed with input from Indigenous governments, projected for fall, and the selection process is projected for early 2023, with consultation from Indigenous groups.

The academic council, consisting of Aurora College staff, will be formed in October. It will promote best practices in the development of academic and research programs like other post-secondary institutions.

Phase two, now underway, is known as “transformational change.” It entails nine critical milestones, such as changes to the organizational structure, the release of the facilities master plan and the establishment of the board of governors.

The facilities master plan, to be completed by this summer, will address regional needs, the expansion of facilities and how they will be used in the delivery of programming over the next 10 years, Bevan explained. This will be achieved in consultation with stakeholders, including Indigenous governments, industry and post-secondary education partners.

Another area where the pandemic has created a hurdle is in the restoration of the bachelor of education and the social work diploma program, suspended in 2018. However, external reviewers have completed their evaluation.

“Following best practice, the external review recommendations will be examined internally by Aurora College program staff and an institutional response that outlines next steps will be developed,” Bevan stated, without providing a timeline.

Find more stories on NWT students advancing their education in the Degrees of Success 2022, available online here: See more: Degrees of Success 2022

Nunavut Arctic College

To the east, Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) has formed a partnership with Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador that has resulted in a revised Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP)/bachelor of education degree since 2019-‘20. NTEP has been reoriented to focus on Inuit language and culture for the first two years and how those subjects should be taught in the classroom, according to Jackie Price, the college’s director of policy and strategic planning.

A certificate is awarded after one year, a languages specialist diploma after two years and a bachelor of education degree is granted to students who attain 150 credits by completing the remaining courses. Online course management and tutoring support are available.

A joint NAC/MUNL parchment written in Inuktut and English was issued to 2021 graduates for the first time.

NTEP was expanded to Iglulik, Naujaat, Baker Lake and Arviat for the 2021-‘22 academic year and there are plans to include eight additional communities in 2022-‘23.

Another degree program, the bachelor of social work, accepted its first cohort of students in 2021-‘22. It builds on NAC’s two-year social service worker program. The courses in the bachelor of social work program, offered jointly by NAC and MUNL, are the same in Nunavut and in Newfoundland.

The partnership between the two post-secondary institutions in Nunavut and Newfoundland/Labrador extends into marine training by involving the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium and the Marine Institute at MUNL. However, Covid-19 has disrupted course delivery.

NAC and MUNL have also secured funding to allow NAC to build its research capacity. Discussions are ongoing for MUNL researchers to collaborate with NAC and for NAC staff, faculty and students to access research support services and resources through the Newfoundland/Labrador institution.

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