Alberta government reduces employee-relocation demands, reaches deal with Athabasca University

The Alberta government announced Wednesday night that it has struck a deal with Athabasca University that will see the post-secondary institution increase the number of employees who live in the town that the mostly online university is named for.

In a news release, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides noted that the new investment management agreement “stipulates that four of the university’s nine executive members must be based in the town of Athabasca within the next three years and that the university must grow the number of local employees from 252 to 277 within three years.”

The government said the university’s board of governors has unanimously approved the new investment management agreement.

Nicolaides’ press secretary confirmed the agreement means the government has dropped its demand that the university have 500 employees living in Athabasca. He also told Global News that with the new deal, the university is no longer at risk of having its $3.4-million monthly grant withheld if it doesn’t meet the 500-employee threshold.

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READ MORE: Alberta advanced education minister extends deadline for Athabasca University to move staff to town

In its news release, the government noted the university was relocated to Athabasca in the 1980s to create jobs and economic growth in and around the northern Alberta town.

“Athabasca University had about 500 employees based in Athabasca until 2014, but now only half that number work in the town,” the government said. “A 2017 report into the university’s future recommended that the university strengthen its physical presence in Athabasca.”

In his statement, Nicolaides said he believes the new targets are “very achievable.”

“I am confident the university will be able to meet these goals,” he said. “How the university achieves these targets is entirely up to it and I have already heard about some interesting and exciting ideas from the faculty association and others about how this can be accomplished.

“Alberta is home to ingenuity and innovation and I am confident the university can continue to excel in online learning while bringing more jobs to the region.”

The university had previously resisted the government’s demand that 500 employees live in Athabasca, Alta. The university had said requiring so many employees to live there would make it more difficult to recruit top talent and cost money and time to enforce.

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Click to play video: 'Athabasca University president calls on-site staffing demand to the small Alberta town backward, ruinous'

Athabasca University president calls on-site staffing demand to the small Alberta town backward, ruinous

Last month, the university’s board of governors saw a significant change in its membership, when Nicolaides announced four public members had been removed from the board via an order in council.

READ MORE: Athabasca University board of governors shakeup meant to move relocation plans forward: minister

Seven new public members were also added to the board, one of whom was to succeed a sitting board member.

–With files from The Canadian Press and Adam Toy, Global News

Click to play video: 'Province fires Athabasca University board members'

Province fires Athabasca University board members

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