Tuesday, September 03, 2013

#abpse

A number of postsecondary instructors – including myself -- will begin the new fall term by informing their students about the existence of a particular Twitter hashtag, #abpse. This blog entry provides some context for the conversation that is developing around the #abpse thread.

In the 2012 Alberta provincial election campaign, the Progressive Conservative party expressed strong support for post-secondary education.  Announcing a $650 million promise for infrastructure funding, Premier Redford said "There's no doubt that post-secondary institutions in this province, no matter where they are, are the key to our future success.”  Post-secondary institutions were expecting stable three year cycles of funding in provincial budgets, and were also expecting a 2% increase in funding in the March 2013 budget.

The March 2013 budget, however, did not fulfill these expectations.  Instead, post-secondary funding was cut by 7.3%.  Over the last few months, post-secondary institutions across the province have been suspending some programs, placing limits on student admissions, and making other difficult decisions in order to deal with this change in provincial funding.  Some predict that the situation is going to get worse.  For instance, not too many days ago the Faculties of Arts and Science at the University of Alberta indicated that they needed to achieve cuts that, when combined, totaled over $12 million, and needed to do so by April, 2014.

The #abpse thread in Twitter is an important source of information about this entire situation.  The figure below, taken today from a Topsy feed that I created, indicates that over the past month there has been an average of over 230 tweets per day that include the #abpse hashtag.  There is clearly a tremendous amount of interest in this issue on Twitter.  The sharp rise in the middle of the figure corresponds to the announcements from Arts and from Science at U of A later in August.

 
The #abpse thread is important for a number of reasons.  First, it is a constant source of links to news articles related to the impact of the government’s post-secondary funding decisions.  Second, it is monitored – and contributed to – by the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, Thomas Lukaszuk.  Third, it is contributed to by a wide variety of individuals – students, staff, and others – from across the province.

At times, the tone of these tweets is angry and combative, expressing (I think) the fact that these cuts are impacting individuals who are concerned about their livelihood, their program of study, or their view about the quality of post-secondary education in this province.  Many different opinions are expressed.  There are disagreements about how, and even whether, the cuts will affect students.  There are debates about the necessity of the cuts, as well as about how they should be implemented.  There are appeals to the government and to opposition parties about future policies and pleas to reverse the cuts.  There are questions about the relationship between enterprise and advanced education, as well as about the purpose of universities and university degrees. 

Students, explore Twitter’s #abpse hashtag.  Watch it, learn from it, become involved with it.

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