UBCO's Dean of Management has broken his silence.
As documented by Castanet News, Dr. Roger Sugden walked out on a meeting with students at the campus Monday - a meeting designed to explain why three courses, which would allow students to obtain the pre-requisites to enroll in the CPA program, had been cut.
The initial story received over 61,000 views and almost one hundred scathing comments. Now Dr. Roger Sugden is opening up to the media and explaining why the decision was made.
He tells Castanet there was nothing to hide and he has no problem talking to the media noting Monday's meeting was the wrong time and place to talk.
“I have no problem talking about these changes and proposals and so on with media, none at all. I just think there is a channel and a time and a place,” said Sugden.
Students had asked media and parents to attend the meeting, but Sugden says that was not their decision to make.
“The students may have asked (Castanet) to be there but that is not the point. Actually the students were there because I convened the meeting to be between students and faculty only.”
The students Castanet spoke with were furious over four main issues: the lack of definitive information, the timing of when they were told, the additional costs associated with the change and the additional time they may need to attain their degree.
Sugden responded to all of their concerns.
He claims the timing of their announcement was to benefit the students, saying they could have waited another month (when they had more information) to tell students, but felt it was better to tell them face-to-face before the summer break.
“We reached a point where we actually had to decide whether we get all the details in place before telling students all at once, which would have been at the end of April or early May, or do we actually tell the students face-to-face when we have the opportunity to discuss it with them face-to-face to talk about what is going on and why,” explained Sugden.
“I took the view that face-to-face conversation was appropriate because otherwise a month down the road students would have essentially dispersed for the summer, so they would not be on campus.”
Angry students commented that having to take these courses at a different institution will cost them additional time and money, but Sugden doesn't agree.
“On the cost front there will be some differences, but if they are not taking those three subjects at UBC they wont have to pay the UBC tuition. They will pay the tuition at another institution which should be reasonably the same.”
When questioned about the additional cost of fees and registration of joining another institution he claimed it is not a big additional cost.
“Yes there are other fees, but fees tend to be lower than UBC – so I feel that it will come out at a more or less even place,” he said.
Students also mentioned their fear of no longer being able to finish their degree in April 2015 as they have planned, which Sugden again says if not warranted.
“Length of time should not be an issue. These courses on the curriculum defined by CPA are offered at a number of institutions both face-to-face and online, so those students who still want to graduate with a UBC degree in Summer of 2015 should still be in a position to do that and it should not be an issue.”
We also heard from students who do not want to take online classes and would prefer human interaction with a teacher, but Sugden says the online classes will prepare them for the real world outside of UBCO.
“Yes they may need to do some things online and I know some students were uncomfortable with that, but in fact if they are interested in professional accountants, which is of course what we are talking about here, once they finish their degree and continue to pursue the CPA designation they will in fact find themselves doing online courses all the time.
So actually, there is an argument that doing online courses next year would actually be something they could get a head start on, especially if they are getting tutor support at the same time,” debated Sugden.
He says his faculty is committed to providing on-campus tutors to assist students with these courses, even though they'll be offered by competing institutions.
“They will take the class elsewhere and get the materials elsewhere. They will do the readings and engagement with the other institutions but we will be providing support here on campus for them,” said Sugden.
Sugden says the final decision was made by his faculty as a way to focus more on the Leadership and Management options of the program, which he says will affect more students.
“This is a consequence of a fundamental concern to take the Faculty of Management forward in a way that all of its activities (teaching, research excellence and community engagement) are actually concerned with more effective leading and managing in regions like our own and around the world,” explained Sugden.
“The reason we are, as a faculty, choosing to focus on courses that are about leading and managing in regions like our own is because this campus, this faculty, this region, UBC here, has a real role in terms of meeting the needs of regions like our own. We have a real role in terms of meeting the needs of businesses and organizations in this valley,” he adds.
He says the Faculty of Management is trying to offer something that is really distinctive and important for the region while still allowing students to take a professional accounting designation through other institutions.
“Of course there is a interest in professional accounting, and we are continuing to give access to our students to take that sort of route but what we are also doing, which involves far more students in many ways, is to really strengthen and improve the focus on what it really means to lead and manage in organizations that will enable this economy, this society, these communities to thrive and flourish.”
The specific classes that would be cut are Tax, Audit and Assurance, and Advanced Financial Accounting. Students require those classes to move into a professional designation with the CPA Canada program.
UBCO students have also created a petition on Change.org called 'Save the UBC Okanagan Accounting Program'.
It currently has over 1,100 signatures.