A recently obtained access-to-information request reveals that Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) paid Alex Usher $34,500 in consulting fees to be part of the Strategic Planning Facilitation Team to produce a five-year strategic plan for MUN ranging from 2012 to 2026.
The university describes the plan as a “Guiding vision: A beating heart for Newfoundland & Labrador – contributing to a socially resilient, economically prosperous, culturally vibrant, inclusive, healthy, & sustainable province.”
The university issued a request for proposals to engage an expert higher education strategy consultant, and Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) was appointed. In the document, Strategic Plan 2021-2026 Update: What We Have Heard to Date, it states, “Alex quickly became an integral part of the team, playing a key role in guiding us through our strategic planning process.”
Alex Usher is the President of the consulting firm HESA based in Toronto. He is a so-called “expert” in post-secondary strategic planning. Clients have hired him for “projects on student financial aid and access to post-secondary education; rankings, benchmarking and quality measurement in higher education, and development of strategic plans in higher education at the national, provincial, and institutional levels.”
It is questionable that an out-of-province agent was chosen. Additionally, why was an objective consultant not chosen instead of Usher (who has a clear bias)? He has the same views as many of the administrators at MUN in favour of a profit model/privatization of the institution.
In his May 4th, 2021, blog post, Usher made statements favouring a tuition increase, “after twenty years, the tuition fee freeze must go.” Usher states that it may have made sense in the boom times, but now, with the decline in government funding, “it can only harm these institutions.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. As Usher states in his blog post, MUN is an institution where HESA does a lot of work.
Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.