Just for fun, let's split these schools into two groups. One group is those that care about the "Nova Scotia: Canada's University Capital" political promotion, and the other group is those that don't. How can I tell? My glib metric is whether or not there's a link to the promotion on the front page of the school websites today, October 14th, 2010.
But first, a few words about the program. I'm all for encouraging people to come and study in Nova Scotia, though it must be disclosed to them that their tuition will be less in provinces that apportion more funding to their universities and colleges (e.g.: Newfoundland). Let it be for the rich, then.
What irks me is the idea that having eleven universities is somehow better than having one or two. We could argue about this, but I certainly wouldn't be promoting it. It makes our province look like a basket case. Heck, we used to have 12 universities before Dal acquired TUNS.
If I had my druthers, the first thing I'd do is amalgamate SMU and Dal. Seriously - Dal has more resources, attracts better professors, and does a little bit of everything. SMU and Dal would be a tremendous asset to each other. Well, it might be more like a US and Canada in NAFTA thing, but still. So let's put SMU, Dal, and Kings under one university and call it U of Halifax or U of NS or something, and have Dalhousie and Saint Mary's and King's colleges as constituent parts.
Editorial Opinion: Here's an example of how this would work: Dal has a graduate program in math, and so they can employ their graduate students in a mathematics resource room. It's effing great - I almost certainly wouldn't have my pre-calculus or my integral calculus without it. It's essential for people who aren't born mathematicians. (It's a bit of an exaggeration to say that anyone is "born" anything, but by the age of three this fellow was telling people how many seconds they had lived. I wonder to how many significant figures?)
Meanwhile, over here, the math department is a mess. There are a few good profs, but there are also a lot of space cadets. And your resources are limited to whatever your prof's office hours happen to be, and you may also have reasons not to visit your prof. (It's much easier to admit you don't know something to someone who isn't in your class and isn't grading you!)
Now let's flip this around. Dal does not offer an astronomy / astrophysics program, only astronomy courses. Physics informs astronomy - but physics informs chemistry too, and they are separate disciplines. At SMU we have some great physicists who aren't astronomers, some great astronomers who are great physicists, and some great astronomers who are good physicists. And all of varying teaching abilities, too.
Under my system, physics courses would be taught at Saint Mary's, but it would be through a Dalhousie-based physics department. Astronomy courses would be taught at Dalhousie, but through a Saint Mary's-based astronomy department.
Then again, my ravings might be that of a lunatic. Keep in mind I'm just a physics dropout. ;-) Not a teacher, not a scientist, not likely to be either anytime soon.
Anyway, getting to the other schools...
The seminary I would leave alone because it's irrelevant. NSCAD should drop the "university" from their name - those who care about the "university" part in their name probably don't know shit about art or art school. The work speaks for itself. Besides, AFAIK they don't have varsity athletics or a gym. They're not a university by generally-accepted standards, aside from the fact that they grant degrees, but that's OK. Anyway, other than the suggested name change, I'd leave them alone, too.
I'd leave MSVU alone for now because there should still be some dedicated extra effort put towards educating women in particular - but in this country, I should hope that clock is ticking. Eventually my hypothetical university would include them, too.
As for the other universities, due to geography, they'd stay as they are. We could have some kind of streamlined interuniversity agreement for courses, though. No more letters of "permission" or any of that bullshit.
Also, Sainte-Anne would have to be left alone under any amalgamation scheme due to its status as the only Francophone university. That's something pretty special. As are the other schools, but I think there's more to be gained by coming together than by staying separate.
Anyway, here's my list, with regards to schools that have the University Capital promotion on the front page of their websites:
Atlantic School of Theology
Mount Saint Vincent
Nova Scotia Agricultural College
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
St. Francis Xavier
I'll give Sainte-Anne a pass because they're
But aside from that? I'd say go to a place that is willing to stand on its own merit, and don't pay undue attention to this or any similar promotion. Quick, Canadian friends especially - what state is Harvard in? See? j/k