Academic Restructuring

The case for changing the U of A’s academic structure

We must take action urgently to address immediate financial pressures but change must support the U of A’s academic mission and vision into the future. We recognize that society’s grand challenges require new forms of collaboration, and that the trend in research funding, in Canada and globally, is to promote collaboration across disciplines. Emerging areas of student demand are also interdisciplinary in nature. As we educate future citizens, workers, entrepreneurs, and leaders, we are increasingly asked to help our students work and think across traditional boundaries.

The university’s current academic structure makes it difficult to respond to these demands. Our faculty-based structures do not encourage cross-faculty research collaboration as strongly as they could, and current reporting lines do not facilitate cross-disciplinary innovation in programs and teaching as smoothly as they might. Moreover, our current structure results in course and program offerings that are both complex and sometimes duplicative.

In addition to our academic imperatives, reductions in our provincial operating grant, combined with other provincial directives, mean that we have to reduce our overall expenses by more than $120 million over the next three years, net of tuition growth. It is important that we achieve this in a way that preserves the quality of our teaching and research mission. This means that we need to become more efficient, particularly in how we deliver administrative supports, and more collaborative, particularly in how we deliver academic programs.

Developing an organizational model for the U of A

Based on an extensive review of possible options, the Academic Restructuring Working Group (ARWG) has developed three scenarios of a more collaborative, efficient, and nimble university for consideration by the community. Presented in the ARWG Interim Report, each scenario represents a distinct philosophical approach and can still be refined and modified through community consultation.

Scenario A – Health Sciences Consolidation


Health Sciences Scenario: FoMD, Arts, Science, Engineering, ALES, Education, Business, Law, Augustana, CSJ, and Native Studies remain unchanged. Nursing, School of Public Health, Rehabilitation Medicine, Pharmacy, and KSR are consolidated into a new Health Sciences faculty.

  • Limited to minor faculty-level changes (only consolidating the health sciences other than Medicine and Dentistry).
  • Focussed primarily on department consolidation.
  • Offers opportunities for interdisciplinary professional education.
  • Common configuration among U15.
  • This option is the least disruptive to most of the existing faculties, but realizes the smallest savings.

Scenario B – Tri-Agency Alignment


Tri-Agency Alignment Scenario: CSJ, Augustana, and Native Studies remain unchanged. A Health and Medical Sciences division includes FoMD, Rehabilitation Medicine, Pharmacy, School of Public Health, Nursing, and KSR. A Natural and Applied Sciences division includes Science, Engineering, and ALES. A Social Sciences and Humanities division includes Arts, Education, Business, and Law.

  • Major consolidation of faculties into three large divisions, broadly organized by tri-agency areas.
  • Organization around tri-agencies is familiar and offers many opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration in research and teaching.
  • By creating a division which contains existing faculty, we retain faculty identity and status--something we heard was important--and also gain the greatest cost efficiencies.
  • The division structure enables new forms of academic integration and collaboration, realizes administrative economies of scale, and reduces the number of academic leadership positions.
  • The three small community-oriented faculties sit outside this structure as stand-alone faculties.
  • This option is the most disruptive to the current organization and how it operates, but offers the greatest potential savings and greatest academic opportunities.
  • All faculties are impacted.

Scenario C – Consolidation and Shared Division


Consolidation Plus Shared Division Scenario. FoMD remains unchanged. Three new faculties include a consolidated Arts & Science faculty, a Health Sciences Faculty (which consolidates Nursing, School of Public Health, Rehabilitation Medicine, Pharmacy, and KSR), and an Applied Sciences faculty (which consolidates Engineering and ALES). A new shared division includes the Education, Augustana, Business, CSJ, Law, and Native Studies faculties.

  • A hybrid division model.
  • Six professional and community-based faculties (Education, Business, Law, CSJ, Augustana, Native Studies) are consolidated into a shared division.
  • The remaining current faculties are consolidated into four divisions organized on disciplinary lines (Applied Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Health Sciences, and Medicine and Dentistry).
  • Medicine and Dentistry remains intact, given its significant size as is.
  • This option requires significant changes to our operating model; realization of academic benefits is not clear.

Next steps

The release of this interim report represents the beginning of the second phase of consultation on academic restructuring at the U of A. We ask members of the university community to provide input, comments, and reaction to the scenarios presented here.

Throughout this second phase of consultation, we will report back to the community what we are hearing about the scenarios, how they have been received and reacted to internally and externally, and how we are responding to that input. An updated proposal will be presented to the university community in November for the third phase of consultation, and the ARWG expects to bring a final proposal before GFC and the Board in December for approval.

ARWG Membership

The Academic Restructuring Working Group includes faculty, student, and leadership representatives.

See ARWG members »