Landing : Athabascau University

We need help: Athabasca University is facing an existential threat from the government of Alberta

By Jon Dron 5 August 2022 @ 4:26pm Comments (1)

This video from Peter Scott, president of Athabasca University, is a clear, eloquent, and passionate plea to save our university and the education of its students from imminent destruction at the hands of a brutal, self-serving, short-sighted government. Please watch it. Please act on it, in any way you can, if only to share it on your preferred social media. If we don't stop this, Athabasca University as we know it will be no more.

If you don't have time to watch the 12 minute video, in brief, this is the gist of it...  

The Albertan government has unilaterally, without consultation with any stakeholders, demanded that:

  • we move about 500 of our staff (nearly half of the workforce), including the entire executive team, to the town of Athabasca by 2024-2025, to work there in-person;
  • we focus our efforts solely on Albertan students;
  • we drop the near-virtual working policy on which we have worked and invested for many years and on which our future depends.

They have demanded that we agree to this, and to have a plan in place, by the end of next month, otherwise they will withdraw our funding. This would bankrupt us.

Right now, we are a world leader in online and distance education. The majority of our students live outside Alberta, so we are the nearest thing to a national university that Canada has. As the only fully open and distance university in Canada, we provide opportunities for many across the country who would otherwise be unable to get a decent education - people in rural or remote areas, those serving abroad, indigenous people, prisoners, and many more who would find it difficult or impossible to enrol in a conventional university, are welcome here. Over a third of our graduates are the first in their families to have achieved a degree. We have a remarkably high percentage of the finest distance and online researchers in the world, that is only possible because they are allowed to live and work where they choose. And we are half-way through the process of reinventing ourselves, with a visionary plan, and a sustainable business model that will allow us to serve better, and to serve many more, which relies entirely on being near-virtual. Over half of our staff - including virtually all faculty and tutors - have lived and worked at a distance for about 20 years. Most of the rest now happily do so. Less than 10% currently work in-person. We walk the talk. We know the struggles that our students face working online, intimately, first-hand.

Athabasca University logo

I love this university and what it stands for. I love its open mission, its kick-ass research that punches far above its weight, its wonderful staff, its radical, caring vision, and its amazing, awesome students. We are something unique and precious, at least in Canada and perhaps in the world. If we let this happen, all of that will go. If we accept the directive, then at least half the faculty and most of our exceptional executive team will resign, the quality of whatever staff remain will fall through the floor, the few students that are left will suffer, and the costs of moving will send us deep into the red. Our open mission itself - the thing that most defines us - is under threat. If we reject it, we will lose a quarter of our budget and go bust. Either way, if the Albertan government persists with this insane, brutish plan, we are doomed. If anything survived at the end of it - which would only be half possible if the hostile government provided very large amounts of funding that I am fairly sure it is unwilling to provide - it would be a shrunken, irrelevant, sub-standard shadow of what it is now. The first order of business should therefore be to do all that we can to stop the government from forcing this absurd, devastating harmful mandate upon us.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, please help Athabasca University fight this threat to its survival.  If you live in Alberta, please vote this atrocious, oil-addled, self-serving government out of office. Wherever you live, please make your views known by contacting the Minister, Demetrios Nicolaides, at, or comment on social media, by tagging @demetriosnAB on Twitter, #abpse, #abpoli. Blog about it, write to the press about it, lobby outside the gates of the Albertan legislature, make a fuss.

And, if you happen to be politician with sway in your province or in federal government, or maybe someone who runs another university that is seeking to expand significantly further into online learning, we have a beautiful, already near-virtual, thriving, forward-looking university with a highly talented workforce (no re-housing needed, limited need for physical space, business processes and digital infrastructure already established) that would love to find some better custodians for its crucial mission.


  • Ashton Ali October 23, 2022 - 9:59pm

    Have the Alberta Government not understand that the future trend of Learning is remote, globally. What kind of back-asswards government is in power currently on this day of October 23rd, 2022?

    Do they have no intellect about the future trends and are they not with the current times? Is seems that the youths are not sharing information with the decision makers or the decision makers are not keeping up to speed with technology and modern times. Sounds like the Alberta government needs an upliftment from back in times to more modern times. Have Covid not teach them any lesson? 

    Athabasca University have put Alberta on the world map, with students worldwide participating in programs at all levels. and all over the world. Had it not been for this Athabasca University, II would not have even thought about Alberta as a province of Canada. Are they looking for help to bring people to live there by enforcing in-class studies and removing or lessoning remote studies, well good luck with that. There are so much world class universities that are hungry for us as students. 

    When leaders fail to accomplish their goals the tend to force situations that would help them remain in power and this move to bolster and boldly enforce an action shows lack of leadership. Some people have brains to get into power and when they do get into power, they lose all their brains and become puppets to others. Whatever it takes to remain in power they will do it, even if it means going against their own manifesto and promises to the people who voted them into power, they will do it. They will forsake anything, everything and everyone in their quest for power and remain employed.

    It's a joke that politicians are game players, who don't care about the benefits but only focuses on the power struggle. The Alberta government seems to be thinking inside a black box, similar to the fish in an aquarium, where they cannot think outside the box. It is time to bring in more youths into government or other folks who can identify weaknesses and be more flexible to change. In this ever changing world of technology, losers and people who cannot or who deos not have the ability to change should be removed and replaced with stronger minded and people with a more futuristic mindset than those of older ones. Times have changed and will continue to change but it is our responsibility to put people who are qualified to lead us into the future, than to remain with the ones having the mindset of still riding donkeys for commuting.