Associate Professor, Economics
University of British Columbia
A New University in an Underrepresented Region: A Case Study of University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus, Canada
Paper Presented at The 8th International Seminar for Local Public Economics,
University Of Guanajuato, Mexico, Nov 10-11, 2016
This paper analyzes the establishment in 2005 and subsequent evolution of a new university campus in the interior region of British Columbia, Canada, until then under-serviced with regard to university provision and with one of the lowest rates of participation of its population in post-secondary education in the province of British Columbia (BC). The paper considers the founding vision of the campus, situated in the city of Kelowna, represented by the original Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Government of BC in relation to its subsequent evolution to today.
To anticipate the results, we find that almost none of the original vision for the campus has been realized, and it has evolved in a way fundamentally opposed to the Government’s expressed intention. This is largely due to the fact that universities are autonomous institutions in Canada largely free of political influence and hence need only follow their own goals rather than those of the Government and/or electorate. It might also be that the Government’s stated vision was political posturing and it fully intended to leave the evolution of the campus entirely to the University and not hold it to account to the MoU. That the campus was left to UBC, one of the world’s top 40 universities in international ranking, and top 20 public universities, to develop as a second, smaller campus in Kelowna than its much larger main campus in Vancouver, a 4-hour drive away, has had important implications for its subsequent development away from the original expressed goals. The paper discusses issues of academic planning, accountability and oversight in the provision of this local public good by the Government funders/taxpayers.