After 15 years in Barrie, Laurentian University will cease its operations at Georgian College.

On Friday, Laurentian’s Board of Governors voted in favour of leaving Barrie by May 2019.

In a statement, Laurentian officials said they made the decision after carefully considering all of their options, and said both theprovince and Georgian don’t share Laurentian’s vision on how degrees should be offered.

A provincial report has recommended that degrees being offered in Barrie should come from college-university partnerships.

Laurentian wanted four-year degree programs to be delivered by its own faculty.

Laurentian Board of Governors chairman Michael Atkins says the province’s restrictions were just not acceptable to stay in Barrie.

“These are not winning conditions to attract and retain top university students and faculty in Barrie or to fuel creativity and innovation in the community we serve”, he said.  “They do not allow us to be competitive or sustainable in Barrie.”

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman says he is not surprised by Laurentian’s decision to leave.

“It is the faculty, the students, the local economy, and ultimately our community who will suffer because these two institutions could not agree on a sustainable future,” Lehman said in a statement. “The Province has consistently refused to allow growth in Barrie since then.  This has been damaging to all three of our postsecondary institutions and has serious implications to our community.”

Georgian College president MaryLynn West-Moynes says she supports a report compiled by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, which outlined how degrees should be offered in this region by the college, Laurentian, and Lakehead University.

“We support the report, Laurentian did not and has chosen to leave,” West-Moynes says.

According to Laurentian, Barrie is the largest census metropolitan area in Canada without a university campus. However, West-Moynes notes that there was a call for proposals last year for possible university sites and Barrie wasn’t chosen.

“That’s our reality. As a post-secondary leader for over 30 years it’s our responsibility to ensure that without a standalone university in Barrie, Simcoe has the best possible degree options going and I’m confident the University Partnership Centre will be able to fill that void.”

At the same time, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Reza Moridi says he is disappointed by Laurentian’s decision.

“We are disappointed that we could not find a path forward in Barrie and Simcoe County that builds on the unique strengths of all three institutions. We are pleased, however, that Laurentian has communicated that a plan is in place to ensure a smooth transition for students who are impacted by this decision.”

Student impact

Beginning in the fall of 2016, no new first-year students will be accepted at the Barrie campus. By May 2017, arts and management programs will no longer be resourced; social work programs will cease being resourced by May 2019.

“Mayor Jeff Lehman, who has been an exceptional champion for university expansion, knows that we have left no stone unturned to fulfill our shared vision.”

The university says 696 students are currently enrolled at the Barrie campus, with 23 full-time faculty.

The 186 students currently enrolled in the bachelor of social work program will be able to complete their degree in Barrie by April 2019.

The 291 third and fourth year students currently enrolled for a bachelor of arts, bachelor of business administration and bachelor of commerce will be able to finish their degrees by April 2017.

Laurentian says the remaining 219 students will be presented with other options for completing their degrees in Sudbury or online.

Georgian College expanding its own degree programs

Shortly after Laurentian’s announcement, Georgian announced it would expand its own degree programs. The college says they are now planning for 11 new degree programs – five of which will be run by Georgian alone. The other six will operator through a partnership with Lakehead.   

“We are delighted with this green light to move forward on our innovative plans,” said West-Moynes in a statement. “Our partnerships have been a success story for our students and our communities, and collaboration will continue to be our focus.”

West-Moynes tells CTV News the college will look towards establishing a new partnership with another university, but says there’s no current time frame.

More information on Laurentian’s decision to pull out will be revealed on Saturday at a news conference.