The Academic Governance Review

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As many of you will know, the General Faculties Council embarked on review of academic governance last spring. This is the first review of the University of Alberta's academic governance structure in about 40 years. As President Turpin, chair of GFC, noted on the January 30th meeting of GFC, this review will have a substantial impact on the future governance of the university. Today we would like to provide an update on progress to date.

Established in September, the Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Governance has been tasked with reviewing matters related to academic governance, including, among other things, the current principles and practices governing GFC, and the composition, mandate, role, and delegated authority of GFC standing committees. At the January 30th meeting of GFC, we provided the following update on the committee's work thus far.

After establishing the principles that would guide our work, reviewing the history of academic governance at the U of A, and considering governance reviews and governance structures at a number of other Canadian universities, we established several subgroups to examine and report back on key issues, including:

• The structure & operations of GFC itself
• Orientation and governance education
• GFC-Board relations
• The structure of GFC's many 'task-oriented' committees (UASC, UTAC, CLRC, CLE)
• The place of 'research policy' in the structures of governance
• Governance and procedures for program approval and regulation
• Committee nomination and replenishment procedures
• The Council on Student Affairs
• The guiding principles and management of delegations of authority

Currently, these subgroups are engaged in some focused consultations, and are working toward establishing future directions on the issues being raised.

In all our work, we have the GFC's mission as our focus: to act on its responsibility for the academic affairs of the university within a framework structured by the principles of collegial governance. Although we have not completed our review, we have already drawn some interesting and important conclusions and see potential future directions. A few highlights include:

  • On a key matter - the delegation of authority from GFC to committees - we have found general agreement that there is no immediate need for significant changes to the structure and extent of delegations of authority, but we need better guidelines and mechanisms for ensuring that full GFC is appropriately engaged on issues of broad significance to academic affairs.
  • We perceive a gap in the governance of research policy and are actively considering recommending the establishment of a GFC Research Committee; consultations have begun on this issue.
  • An elected, stand-alone Nomination Committee is also being investigated, rather than the current practice of having GFC's Executive Committee serve as the Nomination Committee.
  • To improve GFC-Board of Governors relations, we are looking at clarifying the mandate of some GFC committees where their responsibilities overlap with those of the BOG's, and developing ideas for institutionalizing more productive interactions between GFC and the BOG.
  • Likewise, we are reviewing the operation of the Council on Student Affairs and how it could operate more effectively, and in greater alignment with GFC.
  • Finally, we have uncovered a range of gaps where GFC responsibilities are unclear. These relate to important issues that affect academic affairs, including, for example, University of Alberta International (UAI), MOOCs, information technology, advancement, and capital planning. Given time constraints, the Ad Hoc Committee is unlikely to deal with all of these in a comprehensive manner, but we hope to identify how future efforts could tackle governance of these issues in a manner consistent with the direction recommended by our Committee.

Next Steps

We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident that we will have a reasonably thorough and integrated report, including recommendations for change, before GFC at the end of this academic term. In the coming weeks, we will be conducting focused consultations with sitting GFC Chairs, affected administrative leaders and others. And, we will be doing a detailed examination of the range of changes to GFC and Committee Terms of Reference at upcoming meetings that are required to implement our recommendations.

We have a dedicated Committee and we would like to thank them for their hard work. If you have any comments or questions for the team, please contact us at and We welcome your feedback and input.

Thank you,

Mark and Steve

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Mark Loewen - Chair, Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Governance including Delegated Authority; Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Steve Patten - Vice-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Governance including Delegated Authority; Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Arts; Associate Professor, Department of Political Science