by Barbara Black
Claude Bˇdard will play host on April 16 to the leading administrators of graduate studies in Quebec.
Dean of Graduate Studies and Research Bˇdard is the head of ADESAQ, the association that brings together Quebec's deans of graduate studies, and they will meet at Concordia for a day-long workshop. Each of the eight deans will bring about half a dozen colleagues, and representatives have been invited from government, industry, the funding agencies and graduate students' groups, making up about 80 participants.
Their deliberations will be accompanied by similar sessions in Western Canada, Ontario and the Maritimes to make up the wide-ranging CAGS National Issues Project. (CAGS is the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies).
A discussion paper launching the project by current CAGS president Peter Ricketts, of Dalhousie University, set out the issues, and we asked Dean Bˇdard to comment on them.
The first is what Ricketts calls the challenge from government. As we turn the corner on national and provincial deficits, he wrote, "the need to lobby to ensure that graduate studies is identified as a strategic area within higher education policy is important."
Bˇdard emphatically agreed. He noted that in a recent, highly publicized booklet from the Ministry of Education called L'Universitˇ devant l'avenir, "graduate studies was not even mentioned -- not once." ADESAQ's invitation to the top ministry official to attend the April 16 meeting was turned down. Obviously, some new bonds need to be forged.
The second challenge is from society itself. "The value of the undergraduate degree is still high," Ricketts wrote, "but it has been devalued in the sense that the more it becomes a basic requirement for a good-paying job (not just a career, as used to be the case), the more people are looking at post-undergraduate credentials to make themselves distinct."
Bˇdard acknowledges that like many universities, Concordia is in the midst of a redefinition process. "Graduate studies is evolving," he said. "In the last decade or two, it has evolved from primarily training professional researchers to include other things as well, such as becoming a source of academic replenishment for our graduates throughout their professional lives."
He provided two examples here at Concordia of graduate diplomas tailor-made for a specific need, both highly popular.
"The Diploma in Accountancy is there for one single purpose: preparation for the UFE [the Uniform Final Examination to become a chartered accountant].Once they've passed the UFE, mission accomplished."
The Diploma in Computer Science is another case in point. It is a 30-credit graduate program designed to cover the fundamentals of a 90-credit Bachelor's of Computer Science. It is so successful that only one out of every six or seven applicants are accepted, and they are often wildly overqualified with PhDs, medical and legal degrees.
"The program has an apparently high drop-out rate," Bˇdard said. "Why? Because students are there for a job which the program helps them get."
That brings in the third challenge to the deans: increasing competition from non-traditional institutions. Some Canadian community colleges are offering "post-graduate" certificates that require an undergraduate degree; so are some private organizations. While CAGS encompasses all of Canada's universities, it has no authority to disallow such interlopers, and must examine and define its own definitions of excellence.
The final challenge may come from within universities themselves, where a school of graduate studies is sometimes looked on with uneasiness and suspicion.
Bˇdard acknowledges that the School of Graduate Studies is both an academic and a service unit. No teaching is done there, and Concordia's School directly administers two programs, the Special Individualized Program and the interdisciplinary PhD in the Humanities.
"Our mandate embraces all Faculties, by definition," Bˇdard said. "It's bound to create questions, such as, What are you bringing to the process? But interdisciplinarity is the way of the future, and there are walls between the disciplines. As these walls come down, we can act as facilitators. To the open mind, it's an opportunity, not a threat."
Concordia has just been awarded a grant over three years that will enable a quantum leap in technology transfer activities at Concordia.
The funding comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and attests to the growing awareness that the intellectual property developed by university members is a real value that must be identified, nurtured, protected, and ultimately transferred outside of academia in order to generate socio-economic benefits for all stakeholders.
This NSERC funding will make possible the hiring of a Technology Transfer Officer within the Office of Research Services. In collaboration with faculty members, the mandate of this officer will focus on the identification of potentially valuable intellectual property at an early stage, linkage with Univenture and other private sector partners, and promotion of sound intellectual property management to the University community.
A major objective will be the determination of the best commercialization and protection strategies for promising technologies, as well as timely follow-through.
- Erica Besso, Director, Office of