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U of G closes two campuses due to ‘era of scarce resources’

The University of Guelph says at least 112 full-time positions as well as an unspecified number of part-time and casual jobs will be eliminated when it closes two Ottawa-area agricultural campuses that it runs.
The university announced Wednesday that it will close its Kemptville and Alfred campuses, which have been part of the U of G’s Ontario Agricultural College since 1997.
“We are operating in an era of scarce resources,” U of G president Alastair Summerlee said in a news release. “We must make difficult decisions together with changes that minimize duplication and preserve programs that are unique and central to our mission.”
Research projects at the two campuses will be completed or relocated to Guelph or to OAC’s Ridgetown campus near Chatham by the end of 2015. The U of G expects to continue to manage field-crop research facilities at Alfred and Kemptville.
The closures will eliminate upwards of 37 full-time positions at Alfred and another 75 at Kemptville, said the release. There will be a few opportunities for transfers to Guelph or Ridgetown, it said.
“We regret that valued employees will be affected by this decision,” Summerlee said. “This action is in no way a reflection on the importance of their past contributions. These are difficult decisions but ones that are necessary and unavoidable.”
Alfred is a French-language campus, while Kemptville’s website describes that campus as one of Ontario’s oldest colleges, established in 1917. The two campuses won’t take any new students this fall and will be shuttered by the end of 2015.
Despite efforts over the past several years to introduce new revenue-generating educational programs and attract new students, enrolment at both the Kemptville and Alfred campuses remains stagnant while operating costs have increased, the release said. It said costs per full-time-equivalent student are substantially higher at these campuses.
Kemptville has 51 students enrolled in the four-year bachelor of bio-resource management equine management degree who spend two years at Kemptville and two years at Guelph. “There are opportunities to strengthen the core of the program by centralizing it at Guelph,” Summerlee said. A similar Ridgetown program will also be moved to the Guelph campus.
Currently, it costs about $4.6 million a year to support teaching, research, operations and maintenance at Kemptville, and nearly $2.3 million at Alfred, the release said. There are also substantial indirect costs for things such as animal care, student support services and health and safety.
The U of G’s announcement drew criticism from Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner, a Guelph candidate in the next election. “This is a blow to local food and farmers in eastern Ontario, and to Francophone families seeking agriculture education in French,” he said in a news release.

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