A move toward professional schools closer to home

While driving back from a visit to Canada this weekend, I heard a news story about Canadian provinces switching to more emphasis on professional schools over traditional academic universities.  British Columbia is the latest province to push for more professional training in their educational system.  Recent articles have outlined the large amounts of funds that will be diverted to this effort, and the debate this shift has generated because it reduces public funding for other programs such as the liberal arts.  Many Canadian university presidents argue that a typical undergraduate degree provides critical thinking skills that are not fostered in professional degree training programs and that this skill is essential in the current knowledge economy that dominates many developed nations.  I wonder if similar debates occur in the publicly-funded Swiss, French, or Italian educational systems, or whether the allotted funding is fairly consistent from year to year?  I also wonder how this issue would be viewed in a largely privately-funded system such as in the U.S.?  I remember reading recently that many high schools in the New River Valley area have started to offer students more opportunities to participate in trade programs that provide them with training in skilled jobs such as hair dressing and welding.  However, in the same vein as what we have already discussed in our class sessions, these programs may not immediately viewed as better alternatives to the typical undergraduate degree.  Rather, their purpose seems to be more of a backup to buffer against the increasingly competitive and expensive endeavor of obtaining a typical undergraduate degree.  I am glad we will be exposed to a different point of view on professional and skilled labor training in Europe, I am excited to learn more about the professional schools on the other side of the pond!