Your degree might be faulty


In 2008, Capilano’s designation changed from college to university. Most of the transition seems to be focused on bureaucratic requirements, such as a new senate, formalized alumni associations, and the design of a crest. Student expectations have soared, however, and the provincial government has given us further recognition to develop and grant bachelors degrees. What didn’t change—sit down, this is shocking—is that Capilano, even as a university, is still facing issues of accreditations, which means that the degree you obtain here may not count at other universities across the country.

With being a university, “the biggest change from the student perspective is that we’re going to be offering more degrees,” says Cap Vice President Jackie Snodgrass. These degrees will include BAs in General Studies, Communications and Legal Studies, and we’ve already seen the development of the BA in Applied Psychology.


The transfer problem does not come from Cap’s quality of education – it comes from Cap’s lack of membership to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). According to their website, they are “the voice of Canada’s universities.” This voice is also a lobby group that is neither federally nor provincially grounded. Currently, Capilano is unable to join this association because we lack some of the criteria for membership, such as having a percentage of students in four-year degree programs, and, much more importantly, professors aren’t required to produce peer-reviewed research.

Unfortunately, the AUCC is used by numerous Canadian universities as the de facto way of determining accreditation of full degrees. This means that when you apply to the University of Toronto for your MBA, for example, they won’t even look at your application because Cap does not belong to the AUCC. Thus, you lack the pre-requisite of a degree.

It isn’t only U of T either. When I phoned McGill, they said Capilano was not in their books for accredited degrees to move onto post-graduate studies (specifically the MBA program). According to Macleans, you’ll also be rejected by Lakehead University, the University of Ottawa, The University of West Ontario and Nipissing University.

As Snodgrass says, “It seems ludicrous to me that there is an association [the AUCC], supposedly representing degree granting institution in Canada, and a provincially designated degree granting institution [Cap U] doesn't qualify for membership.” Perhaps the AUCC is just an old boys club that has attained a surprising amount of clout in academia.

Research Required

As previously mentioned, one of the criteria that prevents Capilano from joining the AUCC is a lack of research. “It’s opposition to our mandate to require faculty to do research,” says Snodgrass. That mandate is to maintain small classrooms and to foster faculty and student interaction. Further, Cap has not received any additional funding for doing research from the provincial government despite the change in designation.

At first this might seem ludicrous, as too much emphasis on research can obviously lead to a decrease in the quality of teaching. As Greg Martin, Professor of Mathematics at UBC, says, “part of the reason it’s difficult [to achieve balance] is they’re such different enterprises.” As a professor at UBC, Martin is expected to spend roughly the same amount of time on research as teaching. Consequently, he’s required to produce two articles a year, roughly. Martin said if he were to stop doing research it wouldn’t necessarily affect his abilities to teach lower division (first and second year) courses, but, “it would start to eventually affect the number of upper level courses I could teach.”  However, research isn’t all good when it comes to the class room. “[Professors] have these competing desires and competing exceptions from different parts of the job,” said Martin.

This whole issue stems from the lack of a national accreditation body, Snodgrass pointed out. This leaves the educational institutions Canada at the mercy of associations like the AUCC, who don’t even claim to be an accreditation body, yet in lieu it acts as such for many post-secondary institutions.

Perhaps as a counterweight to the AUCC omission, Capilano is in the process of joining an American, independent, non-profit organization, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). If all goes well, we’ll be in with the NWCCU by 2011 at the latest, expanding and streamlining the possibilities for Capilano transfers to the US. It does nothing, however, for accreditation in Canada.

Transfer Credit/Admissions

Before you panic about undergraduate transfers, don’t. There’s still good news for most of us, sitting somewhere in the University Transfer or perhaps Diploma program, accumulating credits. Pre-degree students currently have a much better deal than the grad students.

When transferring to U of T or McGill, Capilano courses are regarded as highly as credits from UBC or SFU. Here’s how it works: First, you are evaluated exclusively on your GPA, not your school. Now when a university (McGill for example) receives an application it is prioritized – first high school students, then transfers from Quebec universities, and finally out of province transfers. This means that if there are only four spots left in a program and you apply with a GPA of 3.8,  you could be out of luck.

For those that get in, the transfer credits will be evaluated on a course-by-course basis, and only after you’ve been accepted. How can you find out which courses will count before you get in though? It’s simple, you can’t.

Maybe Capilano is like the second-year biology student who plans to become an M.D., already insisting that people call her doctor. As I see it, education is valued on its currency of origin, which is ever shifting depending on the deals that are made in the brotherhood of academia. Until something changes, Capilano University is teaching one of life’s most profound lessons: “Caveat emptor,” – buyer beware.

//Léo Newman

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