The Alberta government has hired consulting firm McKinsey & Company to perform a review of the province’s post-secondary education system. The contract is valued at $3.7 million.
The comprehensive review will analyze how Alberta’s post-secondary system compares to leading jurisdictions such as California, London, and Hong Kong, while also examining the financial viability of the system, and how to prepare the province’s students for the “future of work.”
The review emerged as a result of a blue ribbon panel in 2019 which concluded that Alberta’s post-secondary system lacked common goals, spent more money per student than some other provinces, and extracted less value per dollar.
The request for proposals (RFP) was issued on March 6 and closed on April 6. As part of the contract, McKinsey will deliver 10-15 issue papers on a number of pressing topics. This includes an analysis of the changing nature of work, current and future labour market demand, and recommendations on how to build a stronger connection between education and jobs.
McKinsey will also assess the system’s financial viability and propose effective cost containment strategies, according to the RFP.
The consulting firm will also be tasked with examining how to cut down on “unnecessary duplication,” such as a duplicative programming and back office systems.
Other analyzed issues will include examining why post-secondary participation rates are relatively lower in Alberta than in other provinces, and what can be done to improve them. The review will further analyze challenges such as difficulty transferring university credits, and how to better support the commercialization of research.
According to Alex Usher, president of consulting firm Higher Education Strategy Associates, the Alberta government has paid McKinsey $3.7 million to, among other things, tell institutions to spend less money – something which will inevitably irk numerous stakeholders. “Pro tip for the Alberta government: if you’re going to commission a report on efficiency, don’t hire the Rolls-Royce consultants,” Usher noted in a blog post on his company’s website.
The ruling United Conservative Party has previously pledged to reduce government funding to colleges, universities, and polytechnics by 20% over its four-year term. Two consecutive budgets have shrunk funding and led to thousands of job cuts in the sector, according to CBC News, with some institutions bearing a funding drop of up to 10% this year.