Higher Education in Nunavut

Higher education in Nunavut allows residents of this Canadian Arctic territory access to specialized training provided at post-secondary institutions. There are some unique challenges faced by students wishing to pursue advanced training in Nunavut, a vast territory stretching across Arctic Canada from Hudsons Bay to the north pole. The territory was split from the Northwest Territories in 1999, following a successful plebiscite which affirmed Inuit desires to establish an independent political jurisdiction. Covering one-fifth of Canada's area and over 60% of its coastlines, the territory had a population of 31,153 in 2010.

There are no universities in Nunavut. Nunavut Arctic College is the only institution of higher education. It offers a small number of degrees in conjunction with Dalhousie University - Nunavut Nursing Program, University of Regina - Nunavut Teacher Education, University of Prince Edward Island - Master of Education in Leadership and Learning program, and the former Akitsiraq Law Program, recently and unexpectedly disabled by the territorial government, given its widely acknowledged successes and accolades. Northerners can also receive training in both very basic academic and vocational studies. Due to the distance and lack of connecting roads between communities, the college attempts to operate on the basis that adult education must be delivered in all communities and that the training be tailored to address individual and community needs.

Nunavut and the Canadian North have begun to think about and address the issues of language and quality of education in K to 12 through the creative and demanding Education Act (Nunavut 2008) which strongly supports Inuit languages and culture in the school system. The implementation of this fundamental legislation is propelling an intensive effort to strengthen and improve the quality of primary and secondary education, but also has compelled a closer look at Teacher Education in the College, and the quality and ability of graduates to teach effectively at all levels. The first two terms of the Nunavut government invested very strongly in new schools in Nunavut Communities leading (among other factors) to a steadily increasing number of high school graduates, bringing additional pressures to the College through additional adult learners. The College has struggled to effectively meet this expanding demand for higher quality, diversity, and expanded delivery.

The external dialogue has also accelerated recently with former Governor General Michaëlle Jean speaking in favour of an Arctic University GG advocates for Arctic learning, -Attempts to build an the "Arctic University", an alliance of 30 institutions with circumpolar components, located mostly in existing institutions with Arctic research mandates, and - ~ The declaration of the three territorial Premiers (Yukon - Fentie, NWT - Roland, Nunavut - Aariak) who, in a September 2009 Conference Communique "committed to examine options for the development of a northern university" in common.

The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation has taken up the issue of post-secondary education in the Canadian North, both through its Arctic Voices Fellowship program and through its commitment to sponsor a 2010 conference among territorial interest groups to address a common institutional design which would enhance post-secondary learning across Canada's northern territories.