Survey shows support for business partnerships

by Gavin Wilson
Staff writer

A majority of faculty, staff, students and alumni are in favour of UBC developing strategic partnerships with business to raise funds, a poll conducted for the university shows.

But those surveyed also want the university to ensure that proper guidelines are in place to govern such partnerships.

A total of 78 per cent of those polled said they supported UBC signing partnerships with companies in which cash contributions are given in return for university-approved business and promotional opportunities on campus, while 19 per cent opposed such partnerships.

Support was strong right across all four stakeholder groups, particularly among staff, students and alumni.

"The level of support in some ways surprised us," said Daniel Savas, vice-president of the Angus Reid Group, which conducted the poll. "We thought there might be more opposition on campus."

Angus Reid surveyed a proportionally representative sampling of 800 faculty, staff, students and Lower Mainland alumni drawn from all faculties. The poll was conducted in July on behalf of UBC's Business Relations Office.

In recent years, UBC has developed strategic business partnerships with such companies as Coca-Cola and BC TELECOM to provide benefits including access for the disabled and computer network infrastructure. Other agreements are also being considered.

Most of those surveyed saw the need to raise funds and felt that corporate partnerships were preferable to other options such as borrowing of funds, raising tuition, cutting back on services and charging higher user fees.

But while they favoured the university entering into more partnerships, they also expressed some concerns regarding business involvement in research and teaching.

"People wanted to be sure that guidelines are in place to control the extent that business can be involved in academia," Savas said. "They do not want companies telling professors what research to do or department heads what courses they can offer."

UBC's Board of Governors has adopted the Conference Board of Canada's ethical guidelines on business-education partnerships, and at their last meeting, struck a committee to further refine the guidelines as they apply to UBC.

Another important issue identified in the survey is the choice of business partner. Many felt the university should sign partnerships only with businesses with reputations as good corporate citizens.

UBC constituents also felt strongly that money raised through business partnerships should be directed to teaching and research rather than recreation or extracurricular items. A total of 57 per cent felt teaching is the top priority while 45 per cent named research as the top or second priority.

Many also felt the university should better communicate how it spends money raised through partnerships.

Communications was also important in building support. For example, fears expressed about the commercialization of campus are eased when it is learned that UBC's proposed advertising policy and guidelines would limit corporate signage on campus.

Other issues that respondents identified included evaluation of partnerships over the course of agreements; that competition and choice be maintained; that financial contributions be significant; and that quality of service be maintained.

Survey results are available on the Public Affairs Web site at or from the Public Affairs Office by calling 822-3131.