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LU terminating its agreement with federated universities amid insolvency

University of Sudbury says this means it won’t be able to offer courses this spring semester
UniversityofSudburyWinter2020_2Sized
University of Sudbury. (File)

As of May 1, Laurentian University is terminating its agreement with the three federated universities operating on the post-secondary campus - Huntington University, Thorneloe University and the University of Sudbury.

Laurentian made the announcement April 1.

This is occurring as Laurentian University undergoes court-monitored restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) due to insolvency. 

The university has until April 30 to come up with a plan to cut costs. We’re expected to get a fuller picture about this plan in mid-April.

Each of the federated universities are separate legal entities and are each governed by a board of governors independent of Laurentian. They own certain buildings on land that is owned by Laurentian and is leased to the federated university by Laurentian. 

The federated universities currently do not recruit or register their own students, nor do they grant their own degrees. All federated university programs and courses are offered through Laurentian. 

Huntington, Thorneloe and the University of Sudbury do not receive funding directly from the Province of Ontario, but historically, Laurentian has transferred a portion of the funding it receives from the province to each federated university according to a set formula.

“On February 1, 2021, the Laurentian community embarked on a very difficult chapter of our history, commencing restructuring proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA),” said the letter issued by Laurentian president Robert Haché April 1.

“This step provided the best, and possibly the only, opportunity for the University to restructure its operations, enabling a financially sustainable future.

“As part of the CCAA process, Laurentian terminated its federation agreement with Huntington University, Thorneloe University and the University of Sudbury on April 1, 2021, which termination will become effective on May 1, 2021.  Issuance of the termination notices was done with the approval of the court-appointed Monitor in the CCAA proceeding.”

Haché said termination of the federation agreements was necessary in order to ensure that millions of dollars paid by Laurentian to the federated universities each year relating to the delivery of programs and courses will remain within Laurentian, as part of its path to future financial sustainability.  

Laurentian has the capacity and the faculty required to teach all students in a more efficient delivery model, said the statement, adding that these steps allow Laurentian to focus its resources on programs and courses that students have demonstrated they are interested in taking.

The termination of the federated university relationship relates to delivery of academic programs and courses only, the statement continues. Each of the federated universities will continue to own and operate their own buildings and facilities, including residences.  

Haché said Laurentian is committed to ensuring that students enrolled in programs at any of the federated universities will be offered a place within Laurentian in a similar or alternative program, and assistance will be available to help students navigate those choices.

“We remain proud of these three federated institutions and the pivotal role they have played in our community’s history, whose traditions we will continue to celebrate at Laurentian,” the Laurentian president said.

“Throughout the CCAA process, students have been our foremost priority. We understand that this news will be difficult for all Laurentian students in programs administered by the federated universities. However, we remain committed to ensuring all students’ path to a quality education.”

University of Sudbury president John Meehan spoke about the situation in an April 1 internal email to its community members.

“This decision will have a negative and immediate impact on our student enrolment, seriously undermining the financial stability of the University of Sudbury,” said the email, of which Sudbury.com obtained a copy. 

“This news is regrettable though not unexpected given the possibility of termination mentioned in the Laurentian University president’s affidavit, which is publicly available.”

Meehan said due to this decision, the University of Sudbury will be unable to teach courses during the spring semester.

“Students are being informed of this development,” he said.

“Over the coming days and weeks, we will keep you informed of the practical implications of this decision on our students, faculty and staff.”

Last month, the University of Sudbury announced its board of regents had decided to make its two charters available to its two long-standing communities - Francophone and Indigenous - to help provide education by and for those communities.

The Francophone community’s request to develop a fully Francophone university has been accepted by the board of regents, and Meehan said last month the University of Sudbury was in discussion with Indigenous communities regarding the use of the other charter.

Sudbury.com has reached out to all three federated universities for an official statement, but has not yet received a response.

Laurentian advised current students with questions about their program to reach out directly to the dean of their faculty.

Those applying at programs administered by the federated universities can reach out to Liaison Services at info@laurentian.ca.