Funding cuts from Ottawa prompt UArctic pull-out

UArctic plans to move undergraduate office from Saskatchewan to Yakutsk


Students at Nunavut Arctic College in Cambridge Bay have participated in UArctic's North2North student exchange program. (FILE PHOTO)

Students at Nunavut Arctic College in Cambridge Bay have participated in UArctic’s North2North student exchange program. (FILE PHOTO)

The federal government’s decision to “dramatically” cut the money it gives to the University of the Arctic affects students from Canada and around the circumpolar world, said UArctic in a Nov. 3 news release.

Since last year, the federal government has cut more than three-quarters of the money it gives to UArctic, a “university without walls,” founded in 2001.

The institution includes a network of more than 140 universities and colleges around the circumpolar world. Its courses are designed for delivery in existing classrooms, through intensive semesters of study or via distance-learning.

UArctic also organizes north-to-north exchange programs with its member institutions around the circumpolar world, which includes Nunavut Arctic College.

“The funding decision from Canada is regrettable, and means that at least two of UArctic’s signature programs — the circumpolar studies undergraduate program and the North2North student mobility program — now face significant challenges,” said UArctic president Lars Kullerud.

The funding cut — from a total of more than $700,000 to about $150,000 — means Canada will lose the UArctic office it hosted at the University of Saskatchewan, which was staffed by UArctic’s dean of undergraduate studies, and it spells a downsizing of its North2North exchange program.

UArctic’s undergraduate office at the University of Saskatchewan will move to the Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk, UArctic said.

Ottawa’s decision to cut funding to UArctic follows calls from people in the three territories to establish a university — with walls — in Canada’s North.

Canada sees support for UArctic as “disrupting agreement between the territorial and federal governments,” Kullerud said.

“Canada should pursue a physical university north of 60 – as exists in every other circumpolar country,” he said. “The experience in other Arctic countries has shown that the best way for northern universities to demonstrate their value and deliver quality and relevant education is through cooperation in the University of the Arctic network. The vast majority of UArctic activities are led by institutions north of 60.”

UArctic will “wait for a resolution of the funding impasse in Canada,” Kullerud said.

Canada supported much of the early work on UArctic’s circumpolar studies program, UArctic’s news release noted.

The value of the work done in Canada can be seen from Bodø, Norway to Yakutsk, Russia, where students who live and study in the North are taught the same circumpolar studies program, it said.

Every first-year student at the Northeastern Federal University in Yakutsk takes UArctic’s course, “Introduction to the Circumpolar World.” This means more than 3,000 students there have studied the same material as students in Canada, Alaska, and the Nordic countries, UArctic said.

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