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U of Guelph to shut Kemptville, Alfred campuses

The University of Guelph plans to consolidate its agricultural academic and research operations by shutting its Kemptville and Alfred campuses by the end of next year.

The university, which operates Ontario Agricultural College and Ontario Veterinary College, announced Wednesday it would wind down operations at the two satellite campuses and lay off over 110 full-time staff, “in order to improve efficiency, ensure quality and best serve the agri-food sector.”

Intake to academic programs at Alfred and Kemptville will be suspended for the fall 2014 semester. Guelph’s Ridgetown campus will remain open, the university said.

Students now registered at both campuses will be able to complete their programs, but delivery of academic programs at the two campuses is to halt by the end of 2015. Research projects at Alfred and Kemptville will either be completed or relocated to Guelph or Ridgetown, also by the end of 2015, the university said.

Decisions about programs that may be transferred to Guelph or Ridgetown, or continued in another format, will also be made “in the near future,” the university said.

The university said it expects to continue to manage crop research facilities at both Alfred and Kemptville. Programs delivered through the New Liskeard Agricultural Research Station will remain “unaffected for the immediate future.”

The Guelph-based Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the province’s biggest voluntary farm organization, took to Twitter Wednesday to describe the university’s plan as “disappointing and inconsistent with its mission of serving society and recognizing agriculture as a social responsibility.”

Knowledge and farm management skills “are critical for farming to grow the Ontario economy,” the OFA said, adding it would work with the university and provincial agriculture ministry to “find ways to keep agricultural academics in Eastern Ontario.”

Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, the deputy house leader for the provincial opposition Tories, wrote Premier/Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne on Wednesday describing the university’s plan as a “devastating blow” for the agri-food industry, leaving eastern Ontario with no post-secondary ag schools east of Guelph.

“I want to know when (Wynne) knew this plan was on the table and what she’s done to prevent it from happening,” Clark said in a release Wednesday.

“We have 97 years of excellence in agricultural education, research and innovation on the chopping block in Kemptville alone. Allowing this tradition to be sacrificed for the short-term budgetary needs of the University of Guelph is unforgivable.”

“Not sustainable”

Kemptville, one of Ontario’s oldest agricultural colleges, about 40 km south of Ottawa, was set up in 1917 to “support and strengthen” farming practices in Eastern Ontario. It operates research stations at Winchester, New Liskeard, Verner and Emo.

The Alfred campus, formally known as Université de Guelph-Campus d’Alfred or UGCA, about 60 km east of Ottawa, has offered French-language study in the agriculture and agri-food sectors since 1981.

The Alfred, Kemptville and Ridgetown campuses became part of the University of Guelph in 1997, and received the “campus” designation in 2006.

“Despite efforts over the past several years to introduce new revenue-generating educational programs and attract new students, enrolment at both campuses remains stagnant while operating costs have increased,” the university said in a release.

Costs per full-time equivalent student are “substantially higher” at the two campuses, university president Alastair Summerlee said. 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 university said.

There are also “substantial indirect costs” for supporting operations such as animal care, student support services and health and safety, the university said. “Clearly, this is not sustainable,” Summerlee said.

At Kemptville, 128 students are enrolled in mandated two-year associate diploma programs. Kemptville’s largest program is the associate diploma in agriculture — a program also offered at Ridgetown, the university noted.

Another 51 students are enrolled at Kemptville in the four-year bachelor of bio-resource management (BBRM) equine management degree, for which they spend two years at Kemptville and two at Guelph. The university announced Feb. 26 it would consolidate the equine management major program at Guelph.

“There are opportunities to strengthen the core of the program” by centralizing it, Summerlee said, noting a similar Ridgetown BBRM program will also be moved to the Guelph campus. The university last month also announced it would consolidate the BBRM’s environmental management major program in Guelph, where its first two years were previously taught at Ridgetown.

The Alfred campus today has 61 students registered, about half of whom come from outside Ontario, the university said.

In Alfred’s case, the university said it will work with other francophone institutions in the area and related provincial ministries to “explore opportunities to offer similar programs for Ontario students who have applied for fall admission in Eastern Ontario.”

In all, consolidating the regional campuses will eliminate “upwards of 37 full-time positions” at Alfred and another 75 at Kemptville, plus “a number of part-time and casual workers,” though the school expects “a few opportunities” for transfers to work at Guelph or Ridgetown. — AGCanada.com Network

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