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Smack dab in the middle of exam season, the future of some UBC Okanagan students is left hanging in the balance.
On Friday, December 4th, third year arts student Christy Nettleton received an email from the University’s education department informing her that the program she had applied to for the coming academic year has been suspended.
According to the letter, the Elementary Teacher Education (ETE) program will be suspended for the 2016 year in order to implement a number of program improvements.
Nettleton and her fellow colleagues are disappointed and disheartened with the University’s decision to suspend the program, as most of the UBCO program applicants find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
After years of studying and planning, the program overhaul has thrown a serious wrench into the future lives of some students.
Positioned with the arduous task of finding a solution at the last minute, students are weighing their options to switch programs, spend more money on a filler year of education, take a year off of school, or apply to another school.
“It was quite a surprise and it’s really stressful. I’m still trying to decide what to do next year now. I’m really disappointed and really frustrated as well,” said Nettleton. “Right now I’m just trying to weigh my options. The other elementary education programs in the province are all a little bit different, so they have different prerequisites to get in, which I’m not qualified for yet.”
Nettleton, who has been working toward the ETE program for the last three years, said that many students received confirmation from the University over the last semester that their applications would be accepted for the 2016 intake.
“The faculty has given us very little information to work with, other than that they are suspending the program and that it will be different when they bring it back, which they hope will be the following year,” said Nettleton. “They’ve said that they’re going to make some changes, and they’ve thrown out some ideas as to what those changes will be, but they haven’t told us what the requirement changes will be, so we don’t know what we’ll need to get in to the program and we don’t know how long for sure the program will be afterwards.”
KelownaNow reached out to UBC Okanagan, at which time a representative suggested that the institution has done their due diligence in terms of informing students of the potential upcoming program improvements.
In 2014, notice of proposed changes were provided on the faculty website and the information was added to the academic calendar. Interested students were invited to contact the faculty with any questions, according to the University.
“In this case, as soon as they’ve applied, we sent them a letter informing them of what their options would be and that the new program would be starting in 2017,” said Gordon Binsted, acting Dean for the Faculty of Education. “The goal for us is to provide the best education we can for our students.”
In terms of outlining any program details, Binsted said the institution is awaiting Senate approval in order to communicate the future requirements and structure. Binsted added that the issue will likely go before Senate in the New Year, which is around the same time program applications are due.
In 2014, UBCO admitted approximately 50 students to the ETE program. The exact number of applications received to date is not known.
Binsted stated that the Faculty of Education would be happy to work with students in terms of navigating a new plan. However, the future of those students who have been studying and working towards an academic career specifically in the ETE program remains rather bleak.
“There’s a potential that they would have to wait a year if they are dedicated to just the Elementary Teacher Education program and aren’t interested in any other program,” said Binsted.
Nettleton added that she has contacted her faculty on two separate occasions this year and they advised her to check the website for updates. She also said that she has attempted to scheduled an appointment with a guidance counsellor, but has been unable to do so. At this point, Nettleton is hoping she can attend her counsellor's drop-in hours, but nothing is for certain.
“I tried to prepare for what changes were going to be made and I wasn’t able to,” added Nettleton.
In order to be approved, this issue will require Senate approval. Nettleton said students are hoping the Senate will veto the suspension.
“We feel we have not been given the consideration that is owed to us after at least three years that we have already dedicated the time, effort and money in anticipation of this program. At the very least, we should have received more notice and concrete information as to the future requirements. We feel that the faculty should go ahead, as we were led to believe they would, with the program in September 2016, and inform the public of what changes are to be made for the following year.”
Back in April, 2014, UBCO also made a number of changes to the institution's accounting program.