Laurier and Conestoga introduce combined degree-diploma programs in computer sciences and biochemistry

Laurier and Conestoga College officially launched two new joint programs in computer science as well as biochemistry and biotechnology on Friday. Both institutions signed an agreement to begin these programs in the fall.

Students will be able to complete degree-diploma programs that include Bachelor of Science degrees from Laurier. One offering combines Conestoga’s software engineering diploma with a BSc in computer science from Laurier; the other is made up of a biotechnology technician diploma from Conestoga and a corresponding BSc in biochemistry and biotechnology.

“We’re moving towards a situation where a blend of applied and theoretical learning is the answer because students are going to be looking for jobs,” said Conestoga’s president John Tibbits, who noted that demand in the technology and biotechnology fields will make such combined programs popular and necessary for students entering the job market.

He emphasized the situations students may find themselves in after graduating with just a regular bachelor’s degree. “We have hundreds of people at Conestoga with degrees, but people are coming to get particular skills. Industry would prefer the students in some cases to have more experience.”

Tibbits noted that by providing the option of programs that incorporate aspects of college and university-level curriculums, students are able to benefit from both theoretical and tangible applied learning.

“It’s much easier if you can merge the two [types of programs], and actually much better for the student, who can come out much more prepared.”

Tibbits said that these first offerings were the result of about two years of planning and discussion between the two schools after the idea first emerged.

According to Tibbits, the new combined offerings should appeal to those already enrolled in any of the component programs who would like to specialize, or to incoming students who see the merits of college and university experience. “If anything it will increase the number of students in our existing programs.”

Marlene Raasok, associate vice-president of the school of health sciences at Conestoga, noted that the university and college working together will benefit students.

“We have different facilities – we invest in a certain type of facility, Laurier invests in somewhat different facilities, so we can compliment each other.”

“There’s different equipment and it comes down to the classroom versus a lab in some cases,” she continued.

These two programs will likely be the beginning of a trend of further collaboration between Laurier and Conestoga that could see a variety of similar programs offered in the years to come.

Raasok mentioned progress toward programs in early childhood education that would involve Laurier’s faculty of education, applied health sciences and degree completion arrangements between the two institutions.

According to Raasok, more programs will be developed in the next year and over the next few years. “There should be something every year with this plan. There are things being finalized right away and more next year.”

“Watch for something every year for the next three to four years, that’s my sense.”

Rassok concluded by stating the importance of combined programs, like the two just launched and those currently in development.

“Students’ time and money are important and educators’ money is important. When we build pathways like this with real intentions, we reduce [the instance of] students going back to the beginning after graduating and make better use of our money and the students’ money.”