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Athabasca University governors replace school president citing time of 'growth and needed stability'

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Athabasca University's board of governors has replaced the president who resisted the government's demand to double the distance-learning school's number of employees who live in Athabasca. 

The board announced Wednesday afternoon that Alex Clark, dean of health sciences, would take over for Peter Scott immediately. 

"This is an important decision and comes at an important time of growth and needed stability. Dr. Clark was a leading candidate in our recent and thorough search for a new President," a statement from board chair Byron Nelson read. 

In a news release, the university said it was "focused on open and flexible learning while also contributing to the local community."

Clark said he was committed to that vision and honoured to take on the role. 

“We need to move beyond a zero-sum mindset and recognize that we can have an active presence that benefits the local community while also profoundly contributing provincially, nationally, and internationally," he commented. "In this post-pandemic era, AU’s unique role in open and flexible education has never been as precious or as needed."

BACKGROUND 

A stalemate began in early 2022 when the provincial government threatened to withhold the school's monthly $3.4-million grant if it didn't bring the number of employees who live in Athabasca up to 500. 

Scott said the demand would make it harder to recruit top talent and waste money, time and other resources.

Nelson was appointed as Athabasca University's board chair in the early summer by a provincial order in council. 

In October, the province overhauled the institution's board of governors

In December, the provincial government and university reached a deal in which four of the university's executive members will be based in Athabasca and the number of local employees must grow from 252 to 277 within three years. 

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides called the targets "achievable" and then-president Scott said he was "pleased" with the plan.

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