Image: Wikipedia

Rub a dub dub,
Three fools in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Turn them out, knaves all three.

The Alberta government yesterday escalated its war with Athabasca University over re-locating 500 staff to the small town of Athabasca, by firing four independent Board members and replacing them with largely Township members. 

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said:

“We haven’t to date received detailed strategies or concrete commitments that work is being undertaken to achieve those goals…And so we are electing to place some more individuals on the board who have strong, really deep connections to the town and the region to be able to offer more insight to help the executive team deliver on the government’s directives.”

The Alberta Government appears to be following Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Ukraine: escalate and appropriate. 

Among the Board members fired are Sir John Daniel, previously Vice-Chancellor at the UK Open University, and former President of the Commonwealth of Learning, and Andrew Ko, Chief Executive Officer of Kovexa, an advisory organization focused on improving education through technology. They have been replaced by butchers, bakers and candlestick makers from the Town of Athabasca.

This action by the Alberta government has just sunk any chance of a reasonable compromise with regard to staff being forcibly moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere. This is going to lead to legal action from AU’s employees as in Canada employers cannot dictate where workers must live.

This decision unfortunately merely reinforces all the stereotypes of Alberta. I suspect that in the short term, the future of Peter Scott, the current President of Athabasca University, is short-lived. Even more worrying in the long term is the future of the university itself. Who now would possibly want to work there, other than town- or government-appointed hacks? 


  1. You are right, Tony. This is such bleak news.

    Such bad timing, too. For the first time in decades we have a world-beating leadership team that really knows what it is doing, and that has the skills, passion, and vision to make it happen. If this plays out as we all fear it might, the online education job market will be flooded with some amazing talent.

    I still have hope: we have some imaginative and brilliant people on our team who may yet find a way of evading this ignorant, cynical, brutish attack. Alberta clearly doesn’t want us, so I wonder whether any other province (or country) wants a slightly battered but amazingly innovative little university that punches far above its weight? We are already in the cloud, we work almost entirely remotely, and we have no need of a big campus, so it wouldn’t be that expensive or onerous.


  2. And we’ll be back with more sports after this message from ‘Lost the Plot’ Leadership Institutes designed for government leaders who have lost their common sense and any sense of good judgment. Coming to a small town near you soon.


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