The Alberta government announced Wednesday night that it has entered into an agreement with Athabasca University that will see the post-secondary institution increase the number of employees who live in the town after which the mostly online university is named.
Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides noted in a news release that the new investment management agreement “provides that four of the university’s nine executive members must be based in the town of Athabasca within the next three years and that the university will increase the number of local employees from 252 to 277 within three years.”
The government said the university’s board of governors had unanimously approved the new investment management agreement.
Nicolaides’ press secretary confirmed the agreement meant the government had dropped its demand that the university have 500 employees in Athabasca. He also told Global News that with the new agreement, the university no longer runs the risk of having its monthly grant of $3.4 million withheld if it does not reach the threshold of 500 employees.
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In its news release, the government noted that the university was moved to Athabasca in the 1980s to create jobs and economic growth in and around the northern Alberta town.
“Until 2014, Athabasca University had approximately 500 employees based in Athabasca, but now only half of that number work in town,” the government said. “A 2017 report on the university’s future recommended that the university strengthen its physical presence in Athabasca.”
In his statement, Nicolaides said he believed the new targets were “very achievable”.
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“I am confident that the university will be able to achieve these goals,” he said. “How the university achieves these targets is entirely up to him and I have already heard some interesting and exciting ideas from the faculty association and others about how this can be achieved.
“Alberta is home to ingenuity and innovation and I am confident that the university can continue to excel in online learning while bringing more jobs to the region.”
The university previously resisted the government’s demand that 500 employees live in Athabasca, Alta. The university said requiring so many employees to live there would make it harder to recruit top talent and cost money and time to enforce.
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Last month, the university’s board of governors saw a significant change in its membership, when Nicolaides announced that four public members had been removed from the board via an order in council.
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Seven new public members were also added to the council, one of whom would succeed an incumbent councillor.
– With files from The Canadian Press and Adam Toy, Global News
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