The BC Supreme Court recently confirmed the advisory role of education councils at colleges, university colleges and institutes under the College and Institute Act. The case dealt with a decision made by Vancouver Community College to shorten the length of the term in its English Language Skills program. VCC subsequently enacted a policy which purported to give the Vice President, Education authority to approve changes in the length or hours of courses and programs.
VCC’s Faculty Association sought an order from the Court setting aside the change and the policy, on the ground that VCC had failed to seek advice from its Education Council.
Under the Act, the Board of an institution must seek the advice of the Education Council before developing or amending an educational policy dealing with any of the matters listed in section 23(1) of the Act, including “changes in the length of or hours for courses or programs offered by the institution” (section 23(1)(e)). VCC conceded that it was obliged to obtain the advice of the Education Council with respect to the development of educational policies. However it characterized the change in term length as an administrative operational decision rather than an educational policy decision within the meaning of the Act.
The Court disagreed, and ruled that VCC had violated the Act by delegating educational policy decisions to the Vice President, Education or his/her delegate, thereby “eviscerating” the Education Council’s statutory role. The Court concluded that all education policy decisions encompassed by section 23 of the Act must be made by the Board after consultation with the Education Council.
It should be noted that this decision does not require an institution’s Board to obtain agreement from its Education Council before developing or amending educational policy. The obligation created by the Act is to seek advice from the Education Council before making such decisions.