Academic Restructuring Update: November 25

Bill Flanagan & Steven Dew - 25 November 2020

This has been an important week in the academic restructuring process. On Monday, General Faculties Council met to discuss the Revised Proposals of the Academic Restructuring Working Group. The entire meeting was devoted to this critical discussion. Many members shared their thoughts and perspectives on the models in a very productive, collegial dialogue. During the meeting, the college model was the main focus of discussion. There was support for the college model voiced especially from those faculties for which academic autonomy and the retention of faculty nomenclature is critical for accreditation. The fact that the college model also preserves faculty identity, history, and reputation was another reason for support. 

However, on one key feature of the college model there is not yet consensus. There was divided opinion at GFC about the role and advisability of the establishment of executive deans as the leaders of the colleges. On the one hand, people are concerned that executive deans will bring added expense and complexity, rather than leading to cost savings and more nimble, strategic leadership. On the other hand, others noted that without the establishment of the executive dean role, colleges will lack the strong academic leadership needed to build a strong interdisciplinary vision and programming and maximize the administrative economies of scale within and across the colleges. 

Monday’s meeting demonstrated that there are still important questions for GFC to consider as it comes to a decision at its next meeting on Dec 7. While there appears to be movement towards a college model, we welcome robust discussion on the outstanding questions on important features. These include whether or not a College of Arts and Science is a preferred option, and whether or not a shared services approach with a manager would be preferable to the establishment of executive deans.

Today, the Academic Planning Committee met to discuss how they can aid GFC in their decision-making. Rather than recommending a defined course of action for GFC, APC endorsed the concept of a college model and referred to GFC the specific question of the content of a college model and its administrative structure.

The bulk of the APC meeting was spent discussing in detail the preparation of three motions for GFC to consider on Dec 7, in order to provide a pathway for GFC’s discussion and decision on academic restructuring. These motions deal, first, with recommendation of a college model; second, with defining the administrative structure of a college model; and third, with the composition of the colleges.  

Over the last several weeks, APC has played a critical role in the academic restructuring process and we would like to thank them for their efforts, critical attention, insightful questions, and wisdom. It is now GFC’s responsibility to consider the motions that will be come before it on Dec 7 and provide its recommendations to the Board. The Board has final approval of proposals for academic restructuring of faculties and departments as well as the university's proposed new administrative framework, operating model and organizational structure.

Thank you for your continued commitment to this process and we look forward to another robust discussion at GFC on Dec 7.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor
Steven Dew

Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Share your feedback on academic restructuring for GFC to consider as it makes its recommendations to the Board. The feedback will be included in a summary report prepared on December 1 to be shared with the ARWG and GFC. Submit feedback through this form or by emailing uat@ualberta.ca.

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