Frequently asked questions — colleges

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the new college structure at the University of Alberta.

College development and planning

Can you give us a roadmap for the movement and transition of academic leaders?

This work is underway. The provost is leading the Academic Leaders Task Group. Each college is well represented in this process, and we will share info as soon as it becomes available. The task group will be reporting out on its work in the coming weeks. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Can you elaborate and provide updates on the college working groups?

The exact details differ college to college but working groups have been struck to focus on areas outlined in the operating model. For example, graduate education, research, education, EDI, and other strategic initiatives. They include representation from each faculty--for example, associate deans of research from each faculty are coming together in a collective discussion of research needs. As they continue their work, gathering broader input, representation, and discussion will be important, particularly as the details of the colleges develop. These working groups provide an opportunity to collectively think about new ways forward that might not have been considered previously.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Is there future planned amalgamation of faculties or departments?

At this time, there are no amalgamations planned. However, the possibility of consolidation remains an option for consideration. As UAT continues to unfold, it is important to be open to potential opportunities. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

What types of forums will be available to connect similar areas and ensure a good flow of information sharing so that publicly, to the community and students, we are able to provide unified answers and create connections among our faculties?

Listen to what deans are bringing back from the Council of Deans, working groups and other direct communication with chairs, deans, and other leaders. Engage in town halls. We need all members of the community to point out concerns and to bring forward ideas/solutions to help move us forward.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Is there a plan to create a governance structure related to the colleges—or are they purely administrative units? What are the implications of one or the other model in terms of preserving collegial (small c!) governance at our university?

There is no plan to create a new governance structure. Governance structures at the University are created in the Post Secondary Learning Act that sets out the broad authorities of the Board of Governors, General Faculties Council, and Faculty Councils. Any changes to these governance structures would need to come from a change to the legislation and is not under the university's jurisdiction.

[updated October 20, 2021]

College administration

How do we ensure that the new administrative layer that the college creates doesn't duplicate or slow down work at the faculty and department level?

The elimination of duplication and improving efficiency are two of the key principles guiding the establishment of the colleges. Nothing will move to college level administration unless it reduces administrative services and functions at the faculty or department level. The overall goal is to streamline services, eliminate duplication, and enable faculties and departments to focus on the high-value activities of teaching, research and supervision.

[updated October 20, 2021]

When can we expect the final administrative structure to be structured and operational?

Most of the structure will be in place by July 1, 2022. Full implementation and operations will take longer.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Are service partners external appointments? Are they a new layer of governance?

For more information on the role of senior partners in the new operating model, please see the new administrative model

[updated October 20, 2021]

Are there senior partner positions allocated for the standalone faculties?

In general, standalone faculties are sharing senior partners.

[updated October 20, 2021]

How will support staff be moved from faculty level to college level? Will this be automatic relocation, application, etc.?

A key principle through transition is to create opportunities for staff to apply for new positions, seek new opportunities, and have clearer career pathways. As these changes are implemented, there will be open and fair competition, with the intention of continuing the trend of hiring largely from internal candidates. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will we communicate the same messages internally and externally? How will we do that?

Through the restructuring of External Relations, communications senior partners, along with a network of faculty and unit partners will support and deliver both internal and external communications.

[updated October 20, 2021]

We were told administrative work would not come to faculty members, but now we're being asked to reconcile our own credit cards?

Some administrative work that was previously conducted by dedicated staff in faculties and units has moved to Shared Services. In some cases, administrative activities are being streamlined through self-service technology to simplify the process and reduce the reliance on assigned staff. 

In the new Corporate Purchasing Card (PCard) process, PeopleSoft routes charges for approval electronically. This eliminates the lengthy paper-based process, reduces the amount of journal vouchers previously required, ensures approvals are documented by the system, and eliminates the need to retain paper receipts (as they're now attached in PeopleSoft). While credit card reconciliation may be delegated if an administrative support person is available and it makes sense for your operating unit, self-service is encouraged as it is more efficient and cost effective. Reconciliation by the cardholder also ensures more accuracy, as it will take longer for an administrative support person to verify accuracy than for a faculty or staff member to complete it themselves.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Student services and the Office of Education

What will the Office of Education's role be, and what kinds of services will be offered at the college level?

The Office of Education will provide administrative support services to the faculties—for example: enrolment management, recruitment, academic integrity, accommodation of services, course scheduling and timetabling, coordination of student advising, administrative support for work integrated learning, and experiential learning. The goal is to provide better consistency across the college and university with this approach.

As the exact role and offerings of the Office of Education are determined, the driving question will be: what kinds of services would multiple faculties in the college need and how can they be delivered more consistently, efficiently and at lower cost?

[updated October 20, 2021]

How will student services fit into the college model? Where will student advisors be located—in the faculty, college, or a combination?

Student services and student advisors that are closely tied to academic programming will remain in the faculties. The work associated with supporting students that is less closely tied to discipline--general career development, for example--may move centralized delivery through either the colleges or the Student Service Centre. Details still need to be worked out.

[updated October 20, 2021]

How do you see co-op, career and work-integrated learning initiatives fitting within the college?

The Office of Education Working group has identified this as one area worth exploring in terms of college-level services. However, at this point, the college is envisioned as being a facilitator—a connector within co-op, internships and work integrated learning. At the institutional level, other areas are also being considered, such as how to better support/offer work-integrated learning so students have a range of opportunities to draw on during their program.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will the discipline process stay with the faculties or move to the college level?

This is currently under consideration but it is likely that the administrative aspects of discipline will move to the college level. Academic decision-making will be connected to the faculties. Common administrative processes currently handled by faculties will be consolidated at the college level. That is where the efficiency will be gained. Instead of multiple discipline teams (each doing the same admin processes in each faculty) will become one discipline team at the college serving each faculty.

[updated October 20, 2021]

What role could colleges play in the provision of services for accommodated learners?

If the college can be of help in this at all, it will be. College deans will be reaching out to faculties to see if colleges can be of help; associate deans undergraduate will drive needs assessment on this issue.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Graduate administration

What graduate program administration functions will move to the college? Who will have the academic oversight over graduate programs?

Graduate administration is a major area of focus and concern. Conversations are ongoing to determine what will move from FGSR to college offices, but the activities close to the academic mission of faculties and departments will remain in the faculties and departments. More information will be shared over the next couple of months.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Enrolment and recruitment

How will enrolment management responsibilities be allocated between RO, college, and faculties?

This is work that is still in progress. The faculty deans will work with the provost to set enrolment targets, and will have authority over implementation. The RO will manage admissions and enrolment processes. Colleges will play a supporting and collaborative role - e.g. exploring the potential for collaboration on recruitment strategies among the faculties. This will be a major focus for the enrolment management service partners. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Enrolment growth: how will we coordinate development of new programs between faculties that are all pushed to increase enrolment, and may have overlapping/competing interests?

Collaboration among deans and faculties will be critical. By working together, colleges and faculties may be able to increase enrolment in a certain program that increases revenues across several faculties—these could be important wins for all involved. Management Service partners at the college level will work directly with faculty deans and the Registrar's Office to manage exactly these kinds of questions. They will have a bird’s eye view on enrolment management and growth to address the pressure points of growth.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will departments and faculties and their faculty members still be involved or engaged in student recruiting efforts or will this fall to recruitment staff?

Yes. Academics in departments and faculties will continue to be engaged to help recruit prospective students. The connection to the academic discipline is critical when recruiting students, and input from faculty, current graduate and undergraduate students is essential. The recruitment team/staff will continue to work with faculties to understand strategic enrolment priorities, and from there, work to identify champions within the discipline who can speak specifically about the program. The administrators will continue to build and execute recruitment plans that include identifying target schools, leading presentations and events, communicating admission information (averages, subjects, dates, deadlines), and answering questions.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will the colleges and/or faculties review their eligibility requirements in order to meet the desired enrolment growth?

Competitive averages used for admissions from high school and other post-secondary institutions are determined first by what is indicative of a student's ability to succeed and then by the available space in a program of study. In cases where there is high demand and limited availability of spaces, the averages to be admitted can be very high. In some cases, faculties have introduced additional criteria for selection to allow other non-grade based factors to be considered such as situational judgement tests.  As we seek to grow we will be creating more available space and in some cases this will lead to lower averages for students wanting to enter programs at the U of A. Accessibility is one of the key drivers for growth.

[Updated November 25, 2021]

Research administration

When will we see the transition to the new structure supporting research administration?

The transition is underway. Julie Stevens has been hired into the director of partnerships role, and potential senior partners for the colleges are currently being interviewed. Work to identify and assess needs and gaps related to individual faculties' research administration needs is ongoing.

[updated October 26, 2021]

Can you comment on hiring and research contract services—traditionally understaffed, resulting in delays in these services?

This is a common question and issue, and VPRI has identified it as an important area in that portfolio. More information will be forthcoming about whether certain components will be in college offices once research partners are in place. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will the senior partners in VPRI and graduate administration be academics or administrative workers?

Senior partner roles are administrative positions, working closely with academic leaders in related associate chair and dean roles.

[updated October 20, 2021]

By what avenues can researchers help guide research admin and grad training needs?

There are research working groups that have been formed in each college. These groups primarily include academic and administrative leaders from faculty research offices who themselves are gathering input from colleagues and coworkers. The working groups will bring their ideas and suggestions back to the Council of Deans. There are also working groups focused on graduate education and training.

[updated October 20, 2021]


How will Interdisciplinarity inform the operation of the college?

Each college already has a great deal of interdisciplinary scholarship and work. The college model will allow us to identify opportunities to amplify and expand on this work both in terms of programming and research. For example, through the college structure, research strengths across faculties can be identified and leveraged for large, grand challenges. Similarly, curricular intersections and strengths can be leveraged for programs that are relevant to today’s and the future’s students. In addition there will be a senior research partner, and in future, a partner network, well positioned to more quickly and efficiently share information between researchers of different disciplines. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

How will colleges manage cross-disciplinary opportunities in research, teaching or faculty appointments, with the standalone faculties (Augustana, Campus St. Jean, Native Studies)?

Rather than being managers of cross-disciplinary opportunities, colleges will be facilitators. As facilitators, each college can enable more strategic thinking not only across its faculties and departments, but also with the standalone faculties as well as the other colleges.

[updated October 20, 2021]

International initiatives

How will colleges intersect with UAI? What role will colleges play in international initiatives or international recruitment?

It is not clear yet what changes will happen with UAI and the colleges will need to be responsive to this. College conversations are focused on aggregate growth; college deans are working closely with UAI on this. The key question is always: how can faculties benefit from more international engagement, and how can the college support and facilitate this work? 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Budget and finances

What degree of financial autonomy can units and faculties expect in this new model as compared to now?

Faculties and units will maintain the same depth of budgetary responsibilities as they have in previous years, though they will see less breadth and be more focused on the core academic mission as administrative services are increasingly centralized. That said, there are opportunities for growth: enrolment growth presents a significant opportunity to generate new revenue that directly supports the core academic mission in faculties and units.

[updated October 20, 2021]

What transparency can we expect re: budget, layoffs, etc.?

We are committed to being transparent as college budgets and offices are being developed. All decisions will be driven by common drivers and costing and that information will be available. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Indigenous initiatives and equity, diversity, and inclusivity (II & EDI)

Will Indigenous initiatives and EDI be streamlined to function across the college, or will they operate at the faculty level?

Our approach will likely include aspects of both. For example, we will likely explore common experiences across all of the health faculties, as well as additional opportunities within faculties and related to specific disciplines. The overall goal is to create a broad culture of EDI, and we certainly see significant opportunities to advance this goal across the college and university.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will criteria for strategic initiatives be identified from strategic priorities?

Some strategic initiatives are already outlined in the operating model, such as II & EDI or internationalization. In teaching and research within the college, initiatives will come from the bottom up in consultation in the faculties. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Will the EDI office be focused only on recruitment of staff and students? Will there be ways to improve the experience of diverse individuals at the faculty? Are we looking at the integration of EDI concepts across curricula in various disciplines, as a function of the EDI office at the college?

II & EDI will be strategic initiatives of the colleges and their activities will not be restricted only to recruitment of staff and students. In partnership with faculties within the colleges, as well as units across the university, the colleges will lead, facilitate, and/or support a broad range II & EDI initiatives that align with the U of A's Strategic Plan for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity.

[updated October 26, 2021]

Are there any plans at the college level to increase partnerships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities to support decolonization of our college and faculties, in response to our commitments under the Treaties, TRC, and EDI obligations?

Yes. The colleges will work in partnership with the Office of Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programing and Research to support and implement a range of Indigenous initiatives and to strengthen and increase partnerships with FNMI communities.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Faculty autonomy

Does the new model make faculty councils obsolete? Is there a decision-making role for faculty at the college level?

Faculty councils are absolutely not obsolete. The college is not a substitute for the academic decision-making structures and processes that are enshrined in our academic governance. This work remains the purview of the faculties.

[updated October 20, 2021]

How will faculties retain their longstanding cultures? Will college deans and support staff respect the fundamental and large differences between the faculties in their colleges?

This question gets at the heart of the restructuring approach: preserving strong faculty cultures is precisely the reason that the college model was developed and approved, rather than consolidated faculties. The colleges will serve to amplify faculty strengths and values—not diminish them—by focusing on commonalities between faculties (and the opportunities stemming from them) and freeing up faculties to focus on their core missions. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

I used to be able to anticipate the needs of my department; with all these changes, will we see that freedom or ability to act upon gut feeling ?

Absolutely. If you anticipate a need for your department you will do what you did in the past to make sure that the need is met. The difference is who you might interface with. The department manager and faculty general manager will have major roles here and they may address the need with partners within shared services instead of staff members working solely within the department. The plus side of this is that your gut feeling about the anticipated need can also be applied to other departments as well; this is a benefit of the system because knowledge can be shared across departments and faculties. Enrolment management is a good example of this.

[updated October 20, 2021]

Continuing education and lifelong learning

Where do continuing ed and lifelong learning fit into the colleges?

The Faculty of Extension is evolving. Deputy Provost Wendy Rodgers is now also interim dean of extension and is engaging with stakeholders on the future direction for continuing professional education, including opportunities for growth. The development of a central hub for continuing professional education should support faculties and the colleges may play a role in bridging and connecting those two. 

[updated October 20, 2021]

Facilities and operations in colleges

Facilities repairs (e.g., plumbing leaks in labs) are taking very long to repair, and it is clear that this is due to the restructuring and a lack of available human resources. Does the College have a strategy to support F&O in obtaining the budget to hire the staff needed to properly maintain College infrastructure?

Colleges do not have a role in F&O budget strategy. However, colleges can act as a coordinated point of contact both from a joint planning and prioritization standpoint. Unlike some of the other streams, F&O will not embed partners but rather work closely with the general managers and the research partners.

[updated October 20, 2021]