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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A matter of degree : private higher education in British Columbia and Alberta Maher, Paul Claude


This study examines and compares two well-established private universities in their provincial environments: Trinity Western University (TWU) in British Columbia, and Augustana University College (AUC) in Alberta. Three questions were addressed. First, what were the conditions that enabled TWU and AUC to take root and flourish in their environments? Second, in what way and to what extent are TWU and AUC "private"? Third, how have TWU and AUC survived in their public environments on issues related to achieving degree-granting status, quality control, academic standards and public acceptance? The main finding to the first question is that both universities were established by the faith, perseverance and volunteer action of supporting memberships whose philosophy and beliefs were mainly incongruent with those of the public environment. Both universities were given recognition by politically conservative governments whose ideology extolled the virtues of private initiative. The main finding to the second question is that both universities were not "private" to nearly the same degree. While both universities are recognized for their academic quality by the postsecondary environment, TWU exhibits characteristics that are more distinctive and incongruent with the public environment in its faith-affirming beliefs, governance, financing, missions, academic frameworks, faculty, students and ethical standards. AUC, on the other hand, is far more "public-like" in these aspects, and is formally accountable to and part of the postsecondary education system of Alberta. The conclusion to the third finding is that TWU has depended on maintaining its distinctiveness and financial autonomy whilst maintaining recognition and acceptance by its environment in order to remain viable. AUC, by contrast, has depended on relinquishing much of its distinctiveness and autonomy in order to receive provincial support and recognition. These two cases illustrate that the idea of "private" as opposed to "public" universities should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than in absolute opposite terms.

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