The University of Calgary has decided to suspend new admissions to its bachelor’s program in oil and gas engineering.
The program has been a reliable pipeline delivering energy expertise to oilfields and downtown offices in fossil-centric cities like Calgary for more than 20 years, writes the CBC News.
The decision to press pause comes less than a year after analysts reported enrolment in the program declined 77% between 2015 and 2019.
When fossil fortunes were riding high, some 40 students would enter the program every year. Fewer than 10 graduated in 2020.
Professor Arin Sen, head of the university’s chemical and petroleum engineering department, told CBC that the decision does not spell the end of oil and gas studies, adding that the university’s 40 year-partnership with the fossil industry will continue via petroleum engineering minors and graduate studies.
But he acknowledged the sea change taking place across the global energy sector, as governments vow to cut emissions and turn increasingly to renewables, while positioning Alberta’s embrace hydrogen, geothermal, and small modular nuclear reactors—as well as solar and wind—as part of that trend. He said the university’s resources “will be allocated to exploring ways to better support students who want to work in the province’s evolving energy industry,” with oil and gas just part of a larger mix.
The energy shift is making itself felt elsewhere within the university, CBC says. Faculty of science spokesperson Gloria Visser-Niven said UCalgary’s energy science program is booming, with particular appetite for courses in “energy transformation and distribution,” and for “mature energy fields like hydroelectricity and nuclear energy, and renewable energy.”
“Energy education continues to evolve in response to global market forces and societal demand for lower carbon energy sources,” she added.
The same evolution is being felt elsewhere in Canada, reports CBC, with Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, likewise experiencing a profound shift in student interest, away from the fossil sector and towards low-carbon sources of energy.
That has the university “focusing a bit more carefully on greener technologies and these sorts of things,” said Dennis Peters, Memorial’s acting dean of engineering and applied science. “That’s where the world is going and…we’re recognizing the environment we’re in.”