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

“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.