Operating Model

U of A for Tomorrow was initially divided into two branches: administrative restructuring (or SET) and academic restructuring (the college model). This operating model for the university represents the complete integration of the administrative and academic branches of restructuring into a single vision for the U of A moving forward.

The new operating model is a significant shift from the current approach to operating the university. It consists of a hybrid of centralized and decentralized services to promote consistency, avoid duplication, and support a university-wide service culture. The model integrates administrative and professional services (those required for operation of the university, such as human resources, information technology services, or finance) with academic services (those specific to delivering teaching, research and community engagement, such as teaching resources or student services).

The three colleges are key to implementing the model. They serve as integrators and accelerators, creating economies of scale and reducing the administrative burden borne by faculties and departments. Each college will provide common administrative, professional, and academic services for its constitutive faculties.

Read the full report

Leadership Structure

The new operating model encompasses four main levels, each with a defined purpose and role: university (i.e. vice-presidential portfolios), college, faculty, and department. Based on these levels, the operating model describes organizational structure, decision making authority, budget, approach to interdisciplinary teaching and research, and administrative and professional support.

Each college is implemented by a college dean and led by a collegial Council of Deans, in consultation with the provost.

Each faculty will continue to be led by a dean who reports to the provost, and each department led by a chair who reports to the faculty dean.

Uniersity of Alberta organizational structure

  • President and Vice Chancellor
    • University Secretary and General Counsel
    • Office of the President and Vice Chancellor
    • VP, University Services and Finances
    • VP, Research and Innovation
    • Provost (includes institution-wide supports such as FGSR, Extension, Library & Museums, and UAI)
      • College Dean, Health Sciences
        • Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
        • Dean, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
        • Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
        • Dean, Faculty of Nursing
        • Dean, School of Public Health
        • Dean, Faculty of KSR
      • College Dean, Natural + Applied Sciences
        • Dean, Faculty of Science
        • Dean, Faculty of Engineering
        • Dean, Faculty of ALES
      • College Dean, Social Science & Humanities
        • Dean, Faculty of Arts
        • Dean, Faculty of Education
        • Dean, School of Business
        • Dean, Faculty of Law
      • Dean, Faculty of Native Studies
      • Dean, Campus Saint-Jean
      • Dean, Augustana
    • VP, External Relations
    • VP, Facilities and Operations

Roles and Responsibilities

The new operating model aims to standardize administrative roles within each college and faculty, and across the university. The general roles and responsibilities for each of the four main levels within the new operating model are:

A summary of the key roles and responsibilities
Function University College Faculty Department
Overall role Institutional strategy and policy, institutional performance, budget and space allocation, central admin and student services delivery, quality assurance and consistency, institutional brand and marketing, external and alumni relations, fundraising College strategy, collaboration and coordination between and across colleges, shared services. Delivery including as a service partner hub for faculties, college and faculty performance Faculty strategy, program development and innovation, academic talent management, faculty and department performance, alumni relations, fundraising Program development and delivery, research, academic talent management
Leadership roles Provost
  • Authority for performance of colleges and faculties 
  • Oversight of college and faculty deans
  • Authority for strategy, policy and performance in relevant domain
College dean
  • Coordination & performance of college and faculties
  • Alignment with university
  • First among equals
  • Support college dean
  • Operational leadership
  • Assurance of delivery of administrative, professional and academic services, including embedded partners
Faculty dean
  • Leadership of and authority for faculty
  • Ensure faculty performance
  • Alignment with college
  • Support dean
  • Coordinate delivery/ access of admin services
  • Manage professional and administrative staff

Department chair

  • Leadership of and authority for Department and academic programs
  • Recruitment and supervision of academic staff

Department manager (often shared)

  • Support chair in coordinating academic functions

Decision making

Note: All decisions are made with appropriate consultation at all levels

  • Provost - sets institutional academic direction and policy in consultation with PEC-S and Deans’ Council
  • Other VPs - set portfolio policy and direction in consultation with PEC-S
  • The Council of Deans aims for consensus. Where consensus is not possible, elevated to provost for resolution.
  • Dean has decision rights for faculty subject to the authority of the Provost and operating model.
  • Chair has decision rights for the department subject to authority of the deans and operating model.
  • PEC-S sets admin budget, oversees budget model
  • Portfolio budgets managed by VPs
  • Sets college budget for shared services and initiatives
  • Collected as levy on faculties
  • Budget managed by college dean
  • Faculty budgets determined by budget model (less college levy)
  • Budget managed by faculty dean
  • Department budgets set by faculty dean in consultation with department chair
  • Budget managed by chair

Administrative, Professional and Academic Services

The operating model offers a hybrid of centralized and decentralized services to promote consistency, avoid duplication, and support a university-wide service culture.

Those services and administrative activities that are common across the university are centralized through two service centres (one for students and another for staff) and a universal transaction hub. Advisory support services are distributed within the colleges and faculties through embedded service partners who report primarily into the Centres of Expertise.

The diagram below shows how the service centres, service partners, Centres of Expertise, and Shared Services work together to meet the needs of students, academics and staff in the U of A community:

Model of the administrative services for the University of Alberta.

Diagram explaining the administrative operating model:

  • A member of the U of A community (staff, faculty, or student) makes requests to any of the three service entry-points:
    • Service partner:
      • Staff and faculty make requests of service partners (embedded in colleges and faculties).
      • The service partners work with the Centres of Expertise and Shared Services to process the requests.
      • Then service partners communicate back to the community member with a solution/answer.
    • Staff Service Centre:
      • Staff and faculty make requests to the Staff Service Centre.
      • The Staff Service Centre either resolves the request immediately or sends the request to the back-end of Shared Services to process it.
      • The back-end of Shared Services either processes the request or works with the Centres of Expertise to process it.
      • The back-end of Shared Services is grouped by administrative function: external engagement, finance, HR, IT, research administration, student services.
      • Then the Staff Service Centre communicates back to the community member with a solution/answer.
    • Student Service Centre:
      • Students make requests of the Student Service Centre.
      • The Student Service Centre either resolves the request immediately or works with the Centres of Expertise and Shared Services to process the request.
      • Then the Student Service Centre communicates back to the community member with a solution/answer.
  • The Centres of Expertise are made up of teams grouped by function. They produce policies, strategy, and standards followed by the rest of the service providers, and help to process requests from the service partners, Shared Services, and the Student Service Centre.

Service Centres

Service centres provide a central space for addressing and triaging enquiries from the U of A community. They represent the front door to all services in the university. The U of A will have two service centres: one for student needs and one for staff and faculty needs.

Centres of Expertise

Centres of Expertise are teams of functional specialists. Under the leadership of vice-president portfolios, these centres provide strategic expertise and specialized services in specific functional areas to lead strategy, policy development, and ensure the institution has the services needed for staff and students.

Service Partners

Service partners will provide functional support to colleges, faculties, and units. Partners are accountable to associate vice-presidents for performance, and serve the college/faculty/unit in which they are embedded.

Senior partners, located in colleges, will be responsible for providing support to the colleges (as coordinated by the college general manager), and for coordinating the service partners for faculties in that college. 

Service partners, located in faculties, will provide support to the faculties as coordinated by the faculty general manager, and report directly to the senior partners.

Colleges, Faculties, and Departments

Where specialized services and administrative needs are integral to academic programming, colleges, and faculties will provide these services under the direction of a general manager who works closely with the college and faculty deans to provide strategic advice and operational leadership.

Please see more detailed information on college operations below.

Shared Services

The Shared Services team will streamline transactional services to create consistency and take advantage of automation technology where possible. These staff manage typically high-volume activities that require standardized processes across the university.

Overview of the Colleges

The colleges' academic and professional staff will ensure the delivery of core activities across teaching, research and engagement. In addition to providing college-level services, each college will have a responsibility to foster interdisciplinary teaching and research initiatives within the college and across the colleges, as well as in collaboration with the three stand-alone faculties.

The colleges will have four components: college offices, strategic initiatives, professional, and administrative support teams, and service partner hubs.

College Offices

College offices lead and support specific areas of excellence, innovation, and improvement. They are designed to operate in partnership with central units and faculties, including setting shared priorities and goals.

College offices include:

  • Office of Education
  • Research Office
  • Graduate Office

Strategic Initiatives

Each college is designed to take leadership of strategic initiatives for both the college itself and its constitutive faculties. Strategic initiatives program teams are designed to operate in partnership with other units—particularly with the vice-presidential portfolios, whose primary role is to lead and support the achievement of related UAT goals.

Strategic initiatives include:

  • Equity, Diversity, Inclusion
  • Indigenous Initiatives
  • International

Professional and Administrative Support Teams

The support team provides administrative support to the college leadership. This team will also help to coordinate and monitor business planning, manage load planning, ensure continuous improvement, implement policy and procedure, and so forth.

Service Partners

Coordinated by the college general manager, senior partners are accountable to associate vice-presidents and will be responsible for providing administrative and professional support to the college, and coordinating the service partners for faculties within that college.


The university's operating model will support and strengthen the U of A's core teaching, research, and community engagement mission. Implementation will occur in phases over many months to ensure that we can refine as we operationalize the model.

New Operating Model Phases

  • January to June 2021: Phase 1, Design
    • Stakeholder Consultation
    • Appoint College Deans
    • Structure Development
    • Metrics
  • July 2021: Launch
  • July 2021 to June 2022: Phase 2, Build
    • College Consultation
    • Structures
    • Strategic
    • Planning
    • Budgets
    • Services
    • Feedback
    • Transition Plans
    • Refine Metrics
  • July to December 2022: Phase 3, Refine
    • Process Optimization
    • 18-Month Report
    • Interdisciplinary Opportunities
    • Refinement

More Questions?

Do you have additional questions? Please read through the full report and check out questions on our FAQ page. If you still have questions, please email uat@ualberta.ca.