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Relocation dispute between Athabasca University and Alberta government faces twists and turns

The five-month dispute between Athabasca Universityand the Alberta government had its twists and turns.

"There was a difference of tone, but they recanted that difference of tone," said political scientist Duane Blatt of the Royal College of Mount He .

Last week, the state called for 500 of her university employees to be moved to Athabasca to strengthen the rural economy. Otherwise, the university would lose $3.4 million in state grants each month.

The university says it represents one-fourth of its total funding, without which the school would likely fail.

READ MORE: Higher Education Minister says Alberta will help relocate 500 Athabasca University school staff

Alberta's Minister of Higher Education said by June 30 that his department would be He said he had previously asked the university for a concrete plan.

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Both sides have debated the role and mission of Athabasca College for months. It is Canada's largest online university, hosting 40,000 students and virtually linking instructors across Canada and beyond.

Click to play video: 'Athabasca University president calls on-site staffing demand to the small Alberta town backward, ruinous' Athabasca University president calls small town in Alberta backtracking and ravaging demand for field staffing 53}
The president of Athabasca University is throwing back and undermining demand for onsite staff in small towns in Alberta.

Moved from Edmonton to Athabasca nearly 40 years ago to provide distance learning and support local economic growth.

There is friction.

Over time, schools' onsite staff decreased and more people began working remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that change and now he has only a quarter of his 1,200 staff working on the ground.

Local residents formed a lobby group a year before him to try to reverse this trend. In March, Prime Minister Jason Kenny promised to find ways to bring back more staff.

READ MORE: Athabasca University president claims demand for on-site staff in Alberta is declining and disastrous.

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Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said in a Globe and Mail article onThursday that the demands were in fact flexible.

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But in a statement to Global News calling for clarification , the Minister said:

The proposal has not changed and is still under consideration, but we are happy to hear alternatives.This is a common practice when negotiating the terms of investment management agreements. The important thing to note is that we initially entrusted the university to create a plan to strengthen our presence in the town. There was no clear timeline or plan for the town to have a senior administrative function.

"The Government of Alberta looks forward to working with and supporting the University in the ways necessary to achieve the goals we have set." September 30

Blatt said that nothing seemed to have changed.

"They were simply saying, 'No, this is part of the negotiations and we are waiting for a plan of action.' But the demands haven't changed,'" Bratt said.

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Bratt appears to be having internal debates within the Ministry about what to do, disrupting the university. said that

"Nothing has changed in their minds. The government is softening their stance, but the government's response is 'No, it's not,'" Blatt said.

Read more: University responds to policy battle with Alberta government, suggests not listening

Kristine Williamson, Deputy President of University Relations, said in a statement:

"I look forward to the opportunity to speak with the Minister and work with the Government to find mutually agreeable paths that will best serve the AU, learners and the Athabasca community."

Universities argue that requiring employees to work in towns of less than 3,000 people does not promote quality education mandates, but in practice it does not promote the highest quality candidates. It undermines education mandates by making it more difficult to recruit.

READ MORE: Alberta threatens funding cuts to Athabasca University in ongoing battle

For those affected, the community is the center of discussion.

Athabasca Mayor Robert Valley said, "We hope we can come to an amicable solution that will be a win-win for the university and a win-win for the community and the state."

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A victory that requires at least a few more twists and turns.

Athabasca University Faces State Over Staffing Places – Aug 3, 2022

— From Dean Bennett, with files from The Canadian Press

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