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University must Consult Senate before Discontinuing Courses and Programs for Budgetary ReasonsApril 30, 2014 | Authored by: Colin G. M. Gibson

The BC Supreme Court issued an important decision earlier this week on a special purpose teaching university's obligations under Section 35.2(6) of the University Act. In Capilano University Faculty Association v. Capilano University, the Faculty Association sought a declaration that the University had acted contrary to of the University Act by failing to seek and obtain advice from the University’s senate on the development of educational policy for the discontinuance of courses and programs before making a decision to discontinue courses and programs in order to balance the budget.

The Faculty Association relied on an earlier decision of the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver Community College Faculty Association v. Vancouver Community College which dealt with similar language in s. 23(1) of the College and Institute Act. In that decision, the Court held that if the board of a college wishes to establish educational policy regarding a matter listed in s. 23(1) of the College and Institute Act, it must seek and obtain advice from the college's education council before doing so.

In the Capilano University decision, the Court similarly ruled that under the University Act, the board of a special purpose teaching university must seek advice from the senate, and the senate must advise the board, before educational policy is developed on the matters listed in s. 35.2(6). These matters include "the establishment, revision or discontinuance of courses and programs at the special purpose, teaching university".

In the result, the Court granted the Faculty Association's petition, and declared that the University had failed to comply with s.35.2(6) of the University Act  by making a decision to discontinue various courses and programs without first seeking and obtaining advice from the senate. The Court declared that, before the University could proceed to discontinue any courses or programs, the board would need to seek advice from the senate (and the senate would need to advise the board) on the development of educational policy for such discontinuance.

Both the Capilano University and Vancouver Community College decisions are important for all special purpose teaching universities and colleges, as they underscore the importance of ensuring that advice is sought and obtained from the institution’s senate or education council before a decision is made regarding matters listed in s. 35.2(6) of the University Actor s. 23(1) of the College and Institute Act.

Questions relating to the content in this article may be directed to Colin G. M. Gibson, Partner.

Capilano University Faculty Association v. Capilano University, 2014 BCSC 712

Vancouver Community College Faculty Association v. Vancouver Community College, 2005 BCSC 119




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