British Columbia's largest university may admit students based on Grade 11 marks, pointing to the lack of official report cards resulting from the months-long work-to-rule action by teachers.
The University of British Columbia’s senate will make the decision at an open meeting on Wednesday night, but the mere prospect is raising concern.
Some fear would-be UBC students will be unable to compete with students from private schools or outside B.C., who have not been affected by the teachers dispute. The concern is that the latter students would be admitted and take spaces ahead of those whose Grade 12 marks are not in.
The university, however, says it will evaluate all B.C. high school applicants twice this year, the second time in May, when Grade 12 marks are expected to be available. “We will not fill up before Grade 12 spring marks are considered,” the university said on its website. The school made no other comment on the issue.
Elizabeth McWilliam, whose daughter was hoping to attend UBC this fall, is still worried.
“There’s only a finite number of spots and when they are offering the original, first-round offers to the students in B.C. using Grade 11 marks, they are also going to be offering places to students in private schools and places to students in other provinces and countries,” she said in an interview. “So I guess my fear is how many spots are going to be left.”
The president of the B.C. Association of Institutes and Universities said she had not had a chance to consult member institution presidents to see if they would follow the UBC lead. But Ruth Wittenberg said they were all aware of the issue.
“It’s certainly on the radar. We will be talking about this in short order,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George said the UBC proposal, if adopted, might create a pool of students who would consider UNBC. “We’re not really scavenging for more students,” said Allison Gourley-Cramer, noting that UNBC is a unique, small campus far from the populous Lower Mainland.
That said, she noted the university would be open to qualified students displaced if UBC adopts the policy under review. “We would welcome them with open arms,” she said.
However, Simon Fraser University, with campuses in Burnaby and Vancouver, said it had limits on taking displaced students given a finite number of classrooms and other resources. Registrar Kate Ross said SFU is not looking at the UBC option, but rather sticking with its routines of allowing students to submit their preliminary marks.
Wendy Joyce, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Victoria, said it was “business as usual” for its processing of applications. “We don’t think that our applicants are going to feel very affected by the job action at this point,” she said. “Because it hasn’t affected how we’re doing our work here [at the registrar’s office] we really haven’t had conversations about it, to tell you the truth.”
Paul Cappon, chief executive officer of the Canadian Council on Learning and a former university vice-president, said the measures UBC are exploring are highly unusual. “It’s a very tough position that the university is in, especially one that has such high entry standards to begin with,” he said.
Considering Grade 11 marks would be problematic because it could disadvantage “late bloomers,” he said. Many parents would likely prefer to see the university hold off on offers of admission until May, when the ministry-verified marks will become available.
In Victoria, Education Minister George Abbott said the government is concerned about the situation, and is monitoring it to ensure no Grade 12 students are penalized by the labour dispute with the teachers.
For months, the government and teachers have been at odds over such issues as wages and services for special-needs students, leading the BC Liberal government to bring in a bill to impose a six-month cooling-off period and assign a government-appointed mediator bound by B.C.’s net-zero mandate, which requires the cost of new contracts to not exceed those they replace.
After a three-day teachers walkout last week, the Liberals are pushing Bill 22 through the legislature, and set a Thursday deadline for debates and votes on the legislation. Once passed, Bill 22 would make strike and lockout activity illegal, with major fines as punishment.
With reports from Chris Reynolds and Kate Hammer in Vancouver