The plans for the transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university are unambitious and lacking in ideas, according to letters by Mayor Rebecca Alty sent to the GNWT.

The letters were made public as part of the agenda ahead of Monday’s city councillor meeting, where the new university will be discussed.

The letter – addressed to the territorial government as part of their open feedback process – focuses on how the university will be governed and the courses it will offer.

According to Alty, the governance structure lacked clarity and as written may allow the board of governors to overrule the senate. 

The guidelines for who can be on the board would also allow for GNWT employees with little expertise managing postsecondary education on the board, Alty wrote.

Alty also flagged the fact only three Indigenous spots have been reserved for Indigenous representatives on the board, which she said is disproportionate to the overall population in NT.

Generally, a polytechnic university combines the practical approach of a college education with a more in depth study into a topic, like in a university program. 

The proposal sees courses fall under four areas of specialization: skilled trades and technology, mineral resource and environmental management, Northern health, education and community services and business and leadership.

But in the letter, Alty said those areas of specialization were “too broad and do not focus on what a polytechnic university should, or could, offer here in the North.”

Alty added the specialization areas will likely fail to attract students from outside NT, and that  technology elements were too focused on the trades. Topics like coding should be included to allow to expand the polytechnic’s appeal, Alty said.

However, a feasibility study done by an outside contractor for the city — that was also attached in the council agenda — said a polytechnic university is still the best option for Yellowknife. 

Economic benefits and the chance to “create an integrated and vibrant city-university neighborhood”  were the main plus points.

The report concluded that the city should place high priority on working with GNWT to “continue to be a champion of a university/polytechnic in Yellowknife.”