Providence University College and Theological Seminary has not been granted its wish to be recognized with full university status. President Dr. Kenton Anderson says they already act like a university but want official recognition in order to be able to take their place alongside their peers in the province.
Dr. Anderson says under section 9.0 of The Education Administrative Act, Providence is officially designated as a university college, which means they are treated as an "other school" in the provincial system. He notes they have asked to be listed under section 1.0 of the act in order to be fully acknowledged as a university.
"We want to be listed as a university within legislation," explains Dr. Anderson. "Currently there are certain things that we are not entitled to, certain meetings we don't get invited to."
He notes it is time they receive the recognition in order to be able to access some of the grants and other opportunities which today they are not able to be part of.
In order for this to happen, Dr. Anderson explains it needs to be approved by the Manitoba Legislature. He notes PC MLA Andrew Micklefield introduced it as a private member's bill. The bill passed the first and second reading before stalling at the third and final reading.
"(The NDP) wouldn't allow it to happen," says Dr. Anderson, who notes the vote was denied at the last minute. "It was essentially a technical procedural thing."
"Despite passing literally every other private member's bill, it is curious for the NDP to stop Providence from receiving the recognition it deserves," says Micklefield. "Providence is a premier post-secondary institute in Manitoba and our province has been enriched by their graduates, whose talents are evident in their dedicated service to communities across various fields, including healthcare, social work, outreach centres, businesses, humanitarian efforts and more."
The NDP critic for Advanced Education and Training has provided the following statement:
"We support Providence College in the important work they do. We've had good conversations with them about this process. It's important that all institutions seeking university status do this through a proper governance process to ensure corporate structure, bylaws and governance are enshrined in legislation. This is how other faith-based institutions like CMU have successfully achieved status in the past, which we were proud to support. We thank Providence College for their important work and look forward to continue working with them on this process in the future."
Dr. Anderson says this was their last opportunity before summer break for the bill to pass, requiring it to be reintroduced to begin its path through the legislature again at a future date. He anticipates they will bring forth this request again with whichever party forms government this fall.
Though he says they were warned that the bill might not receive third reading, Dr. Anderson admits it was still discouraging and frustrating. He says more than 30 Providence faculty and staff gathered inside the Manitoba Legislature to watch from the public gallery as an expression of support and concern that their institution be recognized for the quality education that Providence is known for. He says as the institution approaches its centennial anniversary in 2025, the long-awaited university status would be a significant milestone to achieve and would bolster Providence's reputation not only across the province but also on national and international levels.
Meanwhile, Dr. Anderson says when they do ultimately gain university status it will not take away from their core values or in any way impact their reputation as a Christian college. He notes there are other Christian colleges and universities in Manitoba that are already listed that way, including Canadian Mennonite University.
"We will continue to hold our values and to affirm all the things that we've always cared about," he notes. "We do not see this to be any threat to our values, our commitment in any way. This is simply recognition of the strengths of those values and the strength of our programs and offerings for the people of Manitoba and beyond."