When Atlantic Canada’s universities collaborate, all institutions benefit. Below we profile organizations which have developed collaborative cross-institutional programs which deliver benefits to all PSE institutions and their students.

ISI, the Perpetual Pioneer

Interuniversity Services Inc. (ISI) was founded in 1984 on a single innovative idea – PSE institutions in Atlantic Canada could save millions of dollars by taking a collaborative approach to procurement.

This made ISI a pioneer in university procurement in Canada. Prior to 1984, most PSE institutions in Canada had purchased their own goods and services.

Today, ISI continues to deploy the collective buying power of its member institutions to lower the costs of everything from fuel oil to stationary products. In addition, its Employee Benefits portfolio leverages the sector’s 20,000 employees to reduce premium costs for them and their employers.

The ISI team – comprised of professionals with expertise in public procurement, contract management and administrative services – continues to explore the efficiency, collaboration, and innovation frontiers.

In the area of Information Technology, for instance, ISI’s collaborative approach mitigates the cybersecurity risk to participating members, while reducing the costs of both contracting internet capacity and key software tools.

In doing so, ISI reaches new milestones. In 2022, for instance, the organization’s 19 member institutions collaborated on more than $100 million in contracted spending.

Today, ISI continues to focus on achieving its primary goal – finding new ways to save money for its member institutions.

At ISI, it is always about the next step, about doing its job more efficiently and effectively. There are always new milestones to reach.

AACUSS – Helping Students, and Each Other

For international students, the transition to life in Atlantic Canada had never been more challenging. As COVID-19 gripped the country and the world, students arriving in the region had to find a way to travel from airports, isolate for 14 days under federal restrictions, and find places to live.

In the worst of times, The Atlantic Association of College & University Student Services (AACUSS) put its best foot forward. By collaborating across institutions, AACUSS members were able to determine a best-practice protocol for everything from airport pickups to settling new students in the region once they had been through a fortnight in isolation.

AACUSS also had to develop these best practices on the fly during an unprecedented pandemic. By collaborating continuously with each other, association members were able to refine the welcoming protocol for international students by sharing what worked and what didn’t at their own institutions.

During the pandemic, with the sands shifting so frequently, the various divisions of AACUSS rallied to bring together professionals to talk about what was happening, the challenges faced, the solutions found, and the lessons learned.

AACUSS Divisions also found ways to support each other at a time when the delivery of student services was shifting to the virtual world from the real one. In the end COVID-19 actually brought people closer together inside the association. As a result, members were empowered to deepen their commitments to professional development and to establish the best standards for the delivery of Student Services.

By helping each other, AACUSS members were also able to help students more effectively and efficiently.

Novanet – knowledge, learning and community

Novanet, a consortium of academic libraries in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, was established in 1988, but its history can be traced back to 1982. That year, the presidents and chief librarians from five Halifax universities decided that sharing resources was better than competing for them.

Better for students, who could borrow books and access other resource materials from five libraries instead of one.

Better for member universities, which could share and refine a single automated library cataloguing system instead of building five separate ones.

And better for communities. Today, anyone with a public library card in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick can access books and other materials through Novanet’s Borrow Anywhere, Return Anywhere program.  

At its core, Novanet has always been about collaborating to share knowledge and information. This is the core value upon which Novanet has grown its membership.

Today, Novanet includes twelve Nova Scotia and New Brunswick postsecondary institutions serving more than 50,000 full- and part-time students.

The shared automatic cataloguing system on which Novanet was founded in 1988 has since evolved into a shared Library Services Platform (LSP). LSP software handles everything from purchasing electronic and print material, to circulating books and other resources, to managing user access to electronic material.

LSPs are a complicated and costly purchase. Universities save money and staffing resources by sharing and managing a single LSP rather than each purchasing their own. For many smaller institutions access to a modern, robust LSP would not be possible without Novanet.

In short, Novanet not only succeeds on a collaborative model. It also does so by making more knowledge available to more people while saving its member institutions money.

Read the full article: Atlantic Canada’s Universities: Collaboration that works for the region