In this Commentary, based on a talk delivered at Dalhousie University, AIMS President & CEO Charles Cirtwill argues for a fundamental rethinking of how we fund post-secondary education.

Cirtwill says: “¡_the system we currently have is focussed on the long-term sustainability of institutions. My argument is that, for the health of post-secondary education, and the health of Canadian society, we need to shift that focus to the needs and best interests of the individual students.” ¡¡

There is a very important question that Nova Scotia’s post-secondary administrators and students should be asking (indeed EVERY post-secondary stakeholder in every province in Canada should be asking it), both about themselves and the system: What do they want to be when they grow up?


In Post Secondary Education, Cirtwill explains we essentailly have four options to consider for our post-secondary system: we can educate Nova Scotians for the Nova Scotian workplace; we can educate Nova Scotians for the world marketplace; we can educate everyone – Nova Scotians, Canadians and beyond ¨C for the Nova Scotian workplace; or we can educate everyone for the global workplace. In other words, we can bring students here from other provinces and countries, train them and some will stay or go depending on opportunities.

There are those who assert that we should follow the example of New Brunswick and educate Nova Scotians for the Nova Scotian workplace. The simple fact is that there are far too few Nova Scotians for us to enact such a policy. Indications are that Dalhousie is nearing or has exceeded a threshold of 50 per cent of its students coming from outside the province. Clearly it could not exist if it only educated Nova Scotians. As for the second option, we cannot educate Nova Scotians for world markets because, firstly, there are not enough of us to fill the classrooms now and, secondly, there will certainly not be enough of us later if most of us leave after graduation (meaning our kids are born and raised somewhere else too).

What, then, would happen if we chose the third option ¨C to educate everyone for job opportunities here in Nova Scotia? Say, for example, that our province has all of the sociologists, psychologists, or ophthalmologists we need, so there is no need to educate people to fill those roles. This option does not make sense because what will happen when those programs are terminated and then we find ourselves a week later in need of even one of these professionals?

The choice, then, is clear: Nova Scotia must educate all students for the global workplace. This commentary explains how to do that without breaking the bank AND while ensuring that EVERY Nova Scotian who wants one can get a post-secondary education.

To read the complete Commentary, click here.