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October 24, 2002 Turning n a dime: Continuing Education depends on market



by Barbara Black

Concordia’s Centre for Continuing Education continues to thrive despite a dip in several of its key areas of interest, reports director Murray Sang. The struggles of the high-tech and tourism industries have seen a roughly 50-per-cent drop in enrolment in computer and hospitality courses, but English as a second language (ESL) and business courses are flourishing.

Interest in ESL especially strong from Asia, Sang said in an interview. “It has tripled in three or four years. We have 150 ESL students at any time, and since we operate throughout the summer, that’s 400 to 500 ESL students a year.”

These students usually take more than one term, and at $1,900 for a 10-week term, that can add up. Sang said that the students usually come as individuals, pay their own way, and are highly motivated.

Other programs of the not-for-credit sector are also growing, including e-commerce, public relations, and graphics.

Sang added that human resources management is showing a lot of growth. “We get a lot of recent graduates in psychology, about 20 every summer, who want to polish off their academic degree with a specific course in human resources management.”

One of the most interesting partnerships has been with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The museum gives training to its volunteer guides, and the Centre provides the administrative infrastructure to deliver the courses. Often, the courses are specifically geared to the current show at the museum. This kind of responsiveness to the specific needs of outside institutions and businesses is key to Cont Ed’s success.

Daytime class space is completely full. The Centre has two classrooms and seven computer labs, along with its offices, on the first two floors of the Faubourg Tower on Ste. Catherine and Guy streets. Expanding in the Faubourg wasn’t an option, because the building, built as an office, would have needed more costly stairways to meet safety specifications for classrooms. One was built for the first two floors at a cost of $200,000.

However, when the new Jean Coutu building went up last year on the north-east corner of St. Mathieu and Ste. Catherine, 14 classrooms for about 40 students each were part of the plan. These rooms on the third floor of the building includes “smart” rooms, fully wired for high-tech teaching.

Some students don’t need classrooms at all. A modest but rapidly growing number, about 100 this year, are taking advantage of online delivery of business courses.

Of the 9,000 students in Continuing Education, Sang estimates that about 40 per cent already have Concordia experience, which he finds encouraging, because it’s a vote of confidence in the university. In turn, an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of the ESL students go on to enrol in Concordia’s academic programs.

“We’re riding a demographic wave, and we’re not the only ones,” Sang said. “It’s also very competitive — we’re competing with McGill, the colleges, even people teaching courses out of their basements.”

The Centre operates without any university or government subsidies. It is expected to generate a substantial annual surplus for the university. These funds are incorporated into the overall Concordia budget, and are used to pay down outstanding university loans.

To find out more about continuing education at Concordia, visit www.concordia.ca/conted.