External Review of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR)

Since fall of 2022, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) has been engaged in an external review of its structure, policies, processes, and role at the university. The review, the first in 15 years, stemmed from community input and the need to engage in a more fulsome examination of the role of graduate administration in our restructured university. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are at the heart of this university, and our ability to better attract and support outstanding grad students and PDFs will be critical to the future success of the U of A.

Cheryl Misak (University of Toronto), Fahim Quadir (Queen’s University) and Robin Yates (University of Calgary) were invited to U of A to conduct an external review, meet with stakeholders and examine FGSR's current structure and function. In addition to interviewing stakeholders across the institution, the reviewers also considered the University of Alberta’s history and background, as well as the recent changes resulting from SET and the college model.

Based on this work, the reviewers have provided the U of A with recommendations for refining FGSR that will help the U of A to become a leader in the graduate student experience and postdoctoral research support.


Key Changes

The external review reaffirms the importance of a strong, central FGSR responsible for university-wide policies and initiatives. The review also recommends that FGSR needs to undergo continuous improvements aimed at streamlining its processes and improving services for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows while effectively partnering with and supporting faculty and staff.

Some of the report’s key recommendations include:

  • Developing a comprehensive plan to define the roles and responsibilities of Colleges, Faculties and FGSR
  • Changing the name from FGSR to the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies
  • Undertaking a formal review of all FGSR’s policies, procedures and communication practices
  • Forming a task force dedicated to developing a shared agenda on funding
  • Establishing a Strategic Graduate Enrolment Management Group
  • Positioning FGSR to lead a formal collaborative group focused on graduate program creation and development

What's Next

Parts of this transformation are already underway. Some of the immediate areas of focus include:

  • Identifying professional development activities for postdoctoral fellows, including a formal supervisory development training program
  • Accelerating the transition to the SLATE student records management system, a new admissions system for graduate admissions, which will enable other process improvements in grad administration
  • Working on a system for admitting exceptional applicants faster
  • Revising and clearly defining acceptable thesis formats

Progress from these changes will continually be shared as this transformation moves forward.

Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research Unit Review Update

September 2023

This table has column and row headers. Along the top, the headers are What's Done and What's Next. Down the left side, the headers headers are as follow: Name Change, Administrative Process (Admissions), Post-Doctoral Office, Minimum Funding Guarantee, Governance / Policy Review, Graduate Examinations, Enrolment Management, Program Development, Communications, Administrative Process (Program Progression), Administrative Process (Awards and Scholarship), Systems Optimization, Digital Transformation, Partnership Engagement, EDI and Indigenization, Thesis Format, Professional Development.
What’s Done What’s Next
Name Change
  • Governance Outline document created; pathway refined
  • Consultation and approval
  • Rebranding
Administrative Process: Admissions
  • Recurring Team Process review meetings over the last three months
  • Revamp the Deferrals Process; rolled out to Administrators
  • Reviewing potential ideas for expedited Admissions processes
  • Review and streamlining of required documentation for applicants (not requiring notarized and password protected documents)
  • Inventory of multilingual capabilities of team members, as related to applicant documents and assessment
  • Exploring Certificate Pathways and required documentation
  • Review of conditional admissions categories and processes (including GPA, ELP, documents)
Postdoctoral Office
  • Professional Development (PD) Onboarding Session held
  • Invited to Supervisor Training and GTL Modules
  • Postdoc Digest started
  • Associate Dean named as Director of the Postdocs
  • Administration of Collective Agreement and exceptions processes underway
  • Targeted PD opportunities for postdocs
  • Hiring of a postdoc Coordinator
  • Name Change Incorporation
  • Resources for postdoc Supervisory Guidelines
  • Updates to policies relating to postdoc categories
Minimum Funding Guarantee
  • Draft Operating Standard created
  • High-level Implementation Working Group established, first meeting held
  • Approval of Operating Standard
  • Consultations with campus community partners
Governance / Policy Review
  • Suspend PRC for the 23-24 year; review whether GPST suffices
  • Expanded role for Associate Deans, Grad group (previously known as GEFAC)
  • Approved Terms of Reference for the Graduate Leadership Advisory Council (GLAC) (formerly GEFAC)
  • Calendar changes for Certificate Admissions, Maintenance of Registration
Graduate Examinations
  • Policy Changes available in calendar and implemented. Summary document and updated forms released.
  • Conclusion of the Thesis Coordinator Pilot project
  • Workshop and Resources for Grad Exam Chairing (Fall 2023)
  • Regular workshops for Grad Exam Chairing
Enrolment Management
  • Ongoing contributions and involvement in developing the work plan consistent with the University Strategic Plan
Program Development
  • Co-chairing the working group on the Strategic Plan for new course-based master's
  • Identified concerns with the website, and initiated a project for website updates
  • Work to develop Professional Development communications strategies
  • Development of an effective change management communication plan
Administrative Process: Program Progression
  • Recurring team process review meetings
  • Academic Probation - timelines and processes
Administrative Process: Awards & Scholarship
  • Continual review of processes and awards gaps
  • Transfer of UAlberta North Awards to FGSR
  • Continue to develop resources for department administrators
Systems Optimization
  • SLATE Project Manager hired; high level requirements documented; currently developing the Project Charter (scoping document), creation of steering committee
  • WaitWell development and project work towards implementation in October (virtual cueing system for in person and virtual student visits)
Digital Transformation
  • Department Signing Authority Form revamp - streamlined, no physical signatures required, ease of google form
  • Form Digitization Project - in progress. Testing Program Progression forms first. Expected rollout of first group of digitized forms in April 2024.
Partnership Engagement
  • FGSR Staff Retreat focusing on Unit Review Recommendations
  • UCalgary Field Trip with the intention of learning about the processes and pieces that have worked well for their Faculty of Graduate Studies
  • GPAC Retreat focusing on building a graduate administrators community
  • Colleges: recurring meetings between FGSR and College ADs Education; recurring meetings between Faculty General Manager and College General Managers
  • Upcoming Meeting cycle will hold opportunities for engagement in various processes
  • Exploring potential community building events
EDI & Indigenization
  • Rubric for Equity Oriented forms review
  • Ongoing deliberate EDI and Indigeneity lens on new program development and grad program quality assurance reviews
  • Exploring an Indigenous Specialist position in the Admission/Program Progression areas
  • Review of Awards and Scholarship funding and adjudication with an eye to EDI and Indigenization (ie. introduction of an award for part-time Indigenous students)
  • Changes to forms based on rubric
Thesis Format
  • Associate Dean and FGSR Admissions Manager meeting to discuss potential changes and initial recommendations
Professional Development
  • Ongoing updates of Ethics and Academic Citizenship (INTD 710/720) to allow all students to meet their ethics requirement
  • Ongoing updates to in person, virtual, and online programming and materials, including Indigenization of Individual Development Plan for students to meet PD requirement
  • Introducing French translation of INTD 710/720 online course
  • Offering specific PD sessions for FNMI students
  • Update calendar language for PD requirement