Volume 95, Issue 63
Thursday, January 24, 2002
UWO to merge business and education
Critic slams deal, warns of post-secondary corporatization
By entering into a new partnership with Cisco Systems, Western has become the first Canadian university to offer a degree based on a corporate program, but at least one critic is hesitant to celebrate the partnership.
The new partnership with Cisco Systems Canada will allow Western students to work with a cutting-edge company, said Western president Paul Davenport.
"Cisco is a world leader for network systems," Davenport said, adding Cisco is a good friend of the university. "By reaching out to friends in the private sector, Western can continue to produce the best grads."
Pierre-Paul Allard, managing director for Cisco, said Western is the first Canadian university to incorporate the company's "networking academy program" in its degree curriculums.
"The Cisco Academy teaches students to design, build and maintain network systems," he said, adding the program was launched only three years ago but is now being taught in 133 countries around the world," he said.
"Western's new partnership is not about opportunity but about competitiveness," Allard said. "For Canada to thrive in the global economy, we must remain at the top of information technology."
"Cisco has contributed, as a gift, the equipment in the laboratory to deliver the material to the student," said Franco Berruti, dean of engineering science.
Jesse Greener, VP-external for the Society of Graduate Students, said the new partnership could have negative ramifications. "Entering into agreements with industry makes it difficult to remain objective with the technology used in our departments," he said. "This is putting academic freedoms at risk.
"This seems to represent the homogenization of post-secondary education," he said.
The program will be a mandatory component in the third year of the computer engineering science degree, said engineering professor Mike Bennett. The new lab will allow for both distance learning online and hands-on application with real equipment, he said.
To keep the changing curriculum perpetually up-to-date, all examinations and course material are done via a main website in San Jose, California, Bennett said.
Fourth-year engineering student Aaron Coady is building what hopes will be a more user-friendly setup interface for Cisco Systems at the newly donated lab as a part of his program. "I'd like very much for Cisco to distribute it," he said.
"When people take [Internet technology] courses with our programs, they might often wonder if there's a brand name behind it. And now our students will have University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Engineering and Cisco Systems on their degrees," Davenport said.
"This is an initial step in the mutual partnership with Cisco Systems. We are looking forward to building on this beneficial start," Berruti said.
Copyright © The Gazette 2001