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Basics agreed to for NSAC merger into Dalhousie

Programming at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College is not expected to change for at least the next two years after it becomes Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, effective July 1.

Representatives of the two schools on Friday announced an agreement in principle for NSAC’s merger into Dalhousie, covering general details such as interim leadership, operating funding and transition costs.

The formal agreement won’t be finalized until all the fine details are settled and the legislation is approved by the Nova Scotia legislature, the two schools said Friday.

Truro-based NSAC, now operated and largely funded by the provincial agriculture department, will see Halifax-based Dalhousie receive the $17.1 million in ag department funding making up just over half of the ag college’s operating budget.

The provincial ag department will kick in an additional $1.5 million in the coming fiscal year to cover some merger-related costs, and a one-time allocation of $7.5 million over three years for transition costs, such as IT conversion and building maintenance.

The province “has also agreed to cover some specific budget pressures in the years ahead relating to items such as deferred maintenance and increasing resource costs,” the two schools said.

NSAC’s operating budget also includes $6.8 million, provided through a university memorandum of understanding with the provincial labour and advanced education department. Other revenues come from sources such as tuition and fees.

NSAC faculty and staff officially become employees of Dalhousie effective July 1, at which time the college becomes a faculty within Dalhousie on a “distinct campus.”

Harold Cook, Dalhousie’s former dean of medicine, will be the interim campus principal and dean for the new ag faculty effective May 1. A “national search” starts immediately for a full-term principal/dean, the two schools said.

NSAC employees’ previous collective agreements will move to Dalhousie and the staff will stay in the province’s Public Service Superannuation Plan. NSAC staff’s future collective agreements, when they expire, will be negotiated with Dalhousie.

“Opportunities ahead”

NSAC students formally become Dalhousie students this fall but won’t notice much difference in their academic experience right away, as NSAC’s course calendar has already been set for September and “there are no changes planned to NSAC’s programs for at least the next two academic years,” the two schools said.

All parties, however, “acknowledge that pairing Dal and NSAC presents some exciting opportunities for academic and research collaboration in the years ahead.”

Any future changes to the ag faculty’s programs will be made through the “existing academic change process,” which includes input from faculty and approval from Dalhousie’s senate.

The two schools announced in May 2011 that they would start talks toward a merger, aimed at building a “national centre of excellence” for ag research and innovation, offering both schools’ students a “broader choice of programs” and boosting the schools’ ability to compete for research funds and student recruitment.

The immediate next step is for the transition process to get underway, the two schools said. A leadership team will “soon begin working with department and offices to determine what elements of a transition need to happen in the next few months, and which can wait until after the July 1 merger date.”

While some aspects of the merger will take place quickly, it will likely take several years before all elements of a transition would be complete, the two schools said.

Long-time provincial civil servant Peter Underwood, who previously spearheaded the merger process, died Sunday at age 60. A memorial service for Underwood will be held Saturday (March 31) at 11 a.m. at St. Matthew’s United Church in Halifax.

Related stories:
Dalhousie/NSAC merger goes to formal negotiations, Jan. 23, 2012
N.S. Ag College in merger talks with Dalhousie, May 21, 2011

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