Dalhousie/NSAC merger goes to formal negotiations

Merger talks to bring Nova Scotia Agricultural College into Dalhousie University have entered the formal negotiation phase. (NSAC.ca)

Plans to make Nova Scotia Agricultural College an arm of Halifax’s Dalhousie University have entered their formal negotiation phase.

Negotiations taking place this month and in February are to centre on “budget, governance, human resources, property and assets, and high-level operations,” the two schools said in a statement.

Lawyer Rod Burgar, CEO of Halifax business management firm Accelerator Inc., has been named as the chief negotiator for the province, which directly operates Truro-based NSAC. Susan Spence Wach, Dalhousie’s associate vice-president (academic), is the university’s lead negotiator.

Negotiators “remain focused on the goal of having NSAC students enter a merged institution by September 2012,” the schools said.

The merger will also need to be approved by the Nova Scotia provincial legislature, likely during this spring’s session, by way of legislation to replace the 2008 NSAC Act.

Once an agreement is reached, a full transition process will begin — the details of which would “begin to take shape once negotiations conclude,” the two schools said. “While some aspects of the merger would take place quickly, it will likely take several years before all elements of a transition would be complete.”

Several broader matters relating to the two schools’ governance have already been agreed upon. NSAC, for one, will become a faculty of agriculture within Dalhousie and will remain a campus in the Truro/Bible Hill area, through it will “maintain a local identity within the larger university identity.”

No decisions have yet been made on what the faculty or campus would be named within Dalhousie, the two schools said, noting the distance between the two campuses “makes for some unique considerations.”

Any name that’s adopted would need to reflect that NSAC’s programs and campus “would now be part of Dalhousie,” the two schools added.

The schools also noted many within NSAC and the industry feel the “Nova Scotia” part of NSAC’s name doesn’t reflect the school’s broader reach throughout the Maritimes, “nor its role as the only agriculturally-focused institution in the region,” while the “college” part of the moniker doesn’t really recognize NSAC’s bachelor and master’s degree offerings.

However, the schools added, “NSAC and its various informal names, such as ‘The AC,’ carry with them a great tradition,” noting the merger principles call for NSAC’s “reputation, identity, small campus culture and agricultural mandate” to be maintained, and those would also be reflected in the faculty’s and campus’ names.

“Strategic leadership”

The new faculty would be led by a campus principal/dean — “a single position with a dual role” — who would report to Dalhousie’s president, vice-president (academic) and provost, and would provide “strategic leadership to the campus.”

The principal/dean would also be responsible for “aligning the agricultural mandate to academic program development and delivery, research priorities and external partnerships.”

The planned faculty would also have an advisory body, with representation from government and the ag industry. A member of the advisory body would also sit on Dalhousie’s board of governors.

Both schools added they don’t yet know exactly how the merger will impact the cost of tuition, but said tuition for agriculture students in the merged institution “will be determined appropriately to reflect the cost of delivering the program.”

As for NSAC’s athletics program, the two schools say their representatives have been working to ensure NSAC varsity and club teams would continue to be eligible to participate in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association following a merger. Pending approval at its AGM, the ACAA has already indicated NSAC campus students would be eligible to take part in the ACAA following a merger, the schools said.

AgraPoint, the provincially-owned ag extension delivery agency, “will continue to work with any new NSAC entity to advance industry development,” the schools said. “Until the elements of this merger are sufficiently clear, we will hold off making any substantial changes to AgraPoint’s ownership and mandate.”

Dalhousie negotiator Spence Wach is also the co-host of a series of planned information events for the schools’ alumni on the merger process. The next such event is set for Kentville on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.

Related story:

N.S. Ag College in merger talks with Dalhousie, May 21, 2011

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