The proposed merger between Dalhousie and Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) is moving forward.
Today, following nine months of discussions and negotiations, the Department of Agriculture and Dalhousie announced an agreement in principle that will see NSAC formally become part of Dalhousie.
Effective July 1, 2012, NSAC will become Dalhousie’s new Faculty of Agriculture, but will also become distinct campus within Dal. It will be led by a principal/dean, a dual role that will oversee both academic programs and local campus services and supports.
“This is an exciting new step in a longstanding relationship,” said Dalhousie President Tom Traves, referencing the history of academic and research collaboration between the two universities.
“It’s an opportunity to combine strengths to build a national centre of excellence for research and innovation in agriculture, as well as enhance the vital role NSAC plays in Bible Hill and in the economic development of our province and our region.”
“We need to do things differently for long term agricultural growth,” added Agriculture Minister, John MacDonell.“This merger will ensure this. NSAC faculty, staff and students can look forward to a bright future as Dalhousie's Faculty of Agriculture.”
Students at NSAC, who will formally become Dal students this fall, won’t notice much difference in their academic experience right away: there are no changes planned to NSAC’s programs for at least the next two academic years. That said, all parties acknowledge that pairing Dal and NSAC presents some exciting opportunities for academic and research collaboration in the years ahead.
As for NSAC employees, they will retain their existing collective agreements until such point that they are due to be renegotiated with Dal, and will stay in their current pension plan. While there may be some new working relationships come July 1, most people’s jobs will be substantially the same since programs and services will continue as usual.
That continuity is important: not just to guide the transition, but to maintain the quality of NSAC’s teaching, research and student support.
“We’re not only gaining a new faculty at Dal – we’re adding more than 1,000 unique and innovative students, a dedicated and talented team of professors and employees, and 100 years of tradition,” said Dr. Traves. “NSAC is a special place for so many people, and as the Faculty of Agriculture, it will have a special and important place within Dalhousie.”
The formal agreement won’t be finalized until all the fine details are settled and the legislation is approved by the Nova Scotia Legislature. The tentative agreement indicates that Dal will receive NSAC’s operating funding as well as funding to account for other government resources that have been provided to NSAC, including IT, HR and Finance. The Provincial Government has also agreed to cover some specific budget pressures in the years ahead relating to items such as deferred maintenance and increasing resource costs, and there will be a one-time allocation for pure transition costs.
The immediate next step is for the transition process to get underway. A leadership team with representatives from both schools and led by Susan Spence Wach—Dal’s lead in the negotiation process—will soon begin working with department and offices to determine what elements of a transition need to happen in the next few months, and which can wait until after the July 1 merger date.
A search for the permanent principal/dean is underway, but in the interim the role will be filled by Harold Cook, NSAC alumnus and former dean of Dal’s Faculty of Medicine. He takes the post May 1.
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