Shepard Looks Ahead to the Summit

Photo Corey Pool

Despite recently receiving some bad news in the form of last-minute budget cuts, Concordia President Alan Shepard has high hopes for ConU and the province’s university sector in the upcoming year.

With the Quebec summit on higher education slated to take place next month, Shepard feels that constructive conversations surrounding universities and their funding models are on the horizon.

Having attended one of four pre-summit thematic meetings as a delegate of the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities, Shepard left noting that the tone of discussions on education in Quebec had become more civil and respectful.

He hopes for the dialogue at the summit to transcend the debate on whether tuition should be higher or lower, and delve into greater forward-looking ideas about why universities matter.

“There is a sophisticated conversation to be had about what the future of higher education is,” he said. “What is its function—socially and personally—and how can we maximize opportunities for people? How can we contribute to Quebec’s prosperity culturally, economically and how can we contribute to its future?”

Shepard said new models of both education and funding are important topics that need to be explored.

“The models we are operating on are pretty old,” he said. “Quebec has a long tradition of progressive thinking that gets exported to other jurisdictions—a lot of new ideas in Canada have started right here, so I’d love to see the summit be a place where there is kind of a fervent of ideas.”

He’d also like for the summit to reaffirm the fundamental value and integrity of universities.

“They are really important places where amazing things happen—people’s lives get transformed and society gets changed and strengthened by the work that happens in these places.”

Shepard hopes positive progress from the summit will alleviate some of the disrespect that the university sector has been receiving, as of late.

“It is difficult to be the leader of a place that is said to be mismanaged,” he said of Concordia. “I don’t find that to be true. I think this is a really good place that has a lot of strengths. I hope that we can tell our story about what a terrific place it is and that people are proud to be here.”