A Lakehead University environmental studies program was one of the first of its kind to become accredited by the
non-profit agency ECO Canada.
University Environmental Science Network and
Canadian College Environmental Network.
This year, ECO Canada began accrediting
liberal arts-based degrees in environmental studies as well, starting with the King’s University
College in Edmonton and Lakehead University
in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Ho wever, after an ECO
Canada presentation at a meeting of the chairs of
environmental studies programs in May, Dr. Booth,
who is curriculum chair of UNBC’s environmental
studies BA program, became concerned with
what she saw as an increasingly aggressive push
for an unnecessary and unwanted service. With
23 of her colleagues, she signed a letter calling for
an end to ECO Canada accreditation. The letter
appeared in the September issue of the CAUT
Bulletin, published by the Canadian Association
of University Teachers.
PHO TO: LAKEHEAD UNIVERSIT Y
Besides citing concerns about flexibility, the
letter notes that ECO Canada charges substantial
fees – around $7,000 for initial accreditation plus
an annual maintenance fee of $1,000 per accredited program – for a process that the opponents
believe needlessly duplicates regular university
program reviews without any added benefit.
However, not all the heads of environmental
studies programs agree with this view. John Wood,
dean of natural sciences at King’s University
College, sees several benefits of accreditation.
He said the agency helps his institution work
with alumni on career transition and noted that
accredited degree holders can achieve ECO Can-
ada’s environmental professional certification in
four years instead of five. As well, “It gives you
profile as a program, and visibility,” said Dr. Wood.
He said it made sense to have both the environ-
mental studies and environmental science pro-
grams accredited, since at King’s they are highly
integrated with many shared courses.
But Brian Cumming, director of the school
of environmental studies at Queen’s University,
countered that accreditation makes little sense
for non-vocational humanities degrees, where
programs can and should vary widely. “It’s good
that not everyone is the same,” he said. “It offers
choices.” A signatory to the CAUT Bulletin letter,
Dr. Cumming also questioned whether the
employability advantage for graduates of ECO
Canada-accredited programs is real, since, he
said, hiring decisions aren’t based on whether
someone has an ECO Canada certified degree.
UNBC’s Dr. Booth added that she has reservations about the fact that ECO Canada receives
its funding from industry and government sources.
“We think it’s an attempt to gain control over
how we teach people in environmental studies
and environmental science programs that meets
industry and government ends,” she said.
Grant Trump, chief executive of ECO Canada,
stressed that accreditation is managed by an
autonomous arm of ECO Canada, the Canadian
Environmental Accreditation Commission, comprised of representatives from academia as well
as industry. Moreover, ECO Canada’s curriculum
guidelines were developed and reviewed by academic program heads from several institutions.
Trent’s Dr. Bocking was one of those, and he
said the CAUT Bulletin letter does not give an
accurate picture of how flexible the criteria are,
since they are based on broad capabilities and not
a list of specific courses. “It’s really designed to
work for the benefit of environmental science and
studies programs and not to constrain or restrict
them in some way,” he said. – roslyn dakin
L’agrément des programmes
tales fait débat
Alors que certains professeurs accueillent avec
prudence l’initiative d’ECO Canada, d’autres
www.affairesuniversitaires.ca / décembre 2012 / 35
annie booth, qui donne un cours sur la gestion
des ressources des Premières Nations à l’Université du Nord de la Colombie-Britannique, se
souvient combien il a été difficile, il y a 17 ans,
d’obtenir l’intégration de ce cours au programme
de foresterie de l’établissement. Selon elle, le
comité d’agrément de l’époque estimait qu’un