Release of Academic Leaders Task Group Report

Steven Dew - 04 November 2021

Since June, I have been working with the Academic Leaders Task Group to review academic leadership roles in the context of the U of A's new academic structure and operating model. Our aim has been to develop recommendations on how to best deploy one of the university's most critical resources: our professors.

Today, I am pleased to share a report outlining the work of this group and to thank all members for their insight, time, and effort in examining and evaluating options.

Read the report

A year ago, with guidance and recommendations from the Academic Restructuring Working Group, President Flanagan and I were frequently meeting with faculty, staff and students across the university, consulting on the future academic structure of the university. Throughout those consultations, a key goal of the process was to determine a structure that would make it possible to reduce the number of faculty members in administrative roles and ensure that we have the maximum number of professors devoted to core teaching, research, and community engagement activities. With the approval of the college model in December 2020, we began working with the interim college deans to develop the college structure and integrate academic and administrative services into one operating model.

In June, the operating model was released, detailing the authorities, roles, and responsibilities of each level of the university, and shortly afterward, I brought the ALTG together to work with and advise me on the number, location and responsibilities of academic leaders at the department, faculty, college and institutional levels. I followed the advice of many and included representatives from across faculties and all academic leadership roles in the group. We have met as a full group seven times, plus additional meetings and offline engagement in small groups.

We had two core objectives:

  • To sustain strong, strategic and effective leadership with the appropriate number of professors and a harmonization of roles, service levels and functions (recognizing that there are unique aspects in every discipline that must be considered).
  • To explore approaches to decreasing the number of academics in leadership roles by 25 per cent.

In our deliberations, we focused on how to best deploy academic leaders, primarily associate chairs and associate deans for research, graduate, and undergraduate. We noted that historically, the assignment of professors into academic leadership positions has been driven by organizational structure rather than drivers of workload such as number of faculty, students or research intensity. Given that our faculties range in size from 14 to over 600 professors, departments range from a handful to almost 200, the scope of responsibilities, roles, work loads, service levels are also all highly variable, with unexpectedly low correlation between resourcing and productivity and service outcomes. It became clear that we need to change our current approach to make resources, roles, work loads and service levels more consistent.

After a consideration of the current state, we identified key expected outcomes for research, graduate and undergraduate supports and mapped out roles and responsibilities in alignment with the operating model. Leader roles should be focused on strategy, policy, standards where the skills and experience of an academic leader is necessary.

As you will see in the report, the ALTG explored several, diverse options for realigning leaders to best fulfill roles and responsibilities while also reducing their number by 25 per cent in a way that not only maintains services but improves outcomes. Every option explored has advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the ALTG group chose not to provide highly prescriptive recommendations, but rather to offer up the analysis and options in this report to inform a final decision.

My next step is to consider the options examined by the ALTG in conjunction with ongoing work in the SET streams and the work being done by college deans to consolidate services in the college offices. The final structure will need to align well with the rest of the operating model. I'll be working with college and faculty deans to review options and finalize how we restructure academic roles. I welcome your feedback on the ALTG report as well. Please send your thoughts to me at

I would like to once again thank the members of the ALTG for their engagement and advice. I will continue to update the community as we proceed. At this time, I anticipate that the new model will come into effect on July 1, with full transition in some areas taking up to two years.

Steven Dew
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)



2020 updates  2021 updates  2022 updates