Redistributing academic leaders—next steps

Steven Dew - 03 February 2022

Last November, I was pleased to share the report of the Academic Leaders Task Group. In that report, they provided a variety of options and recommendations for deploying academic leadership roles across departments, faculties, and colleges. Since then, I have been engaged in ongoing discussions with college and faculty deans to determine a path forward. We have considered carefully how the redistribution of academic leaders needs to align with work being done to consolidate services in the college offices as well as in the transition of core administrative services through SET.

We are now moving forward with an approach that aligns academic leaders primarily at the faculty level and allocates them on the basis of key drivers of activity, such as number of students, courses, research dollars and grants. By using this approach, we have greater flexibility and scalability, and can ensure that our professors—a valuable and critical resource—are focused on strategic roles that take the best advantage of their skills and expertise. We also ensure that administrative professionals are engaged in administrative tasks that match their professional expertise. The goal is not only to use our resources more efficiently, but also position us to grow and excel for the future.

I want to emphasize again the reasons why we are undertaking this work. As the university restructures to respond to funding cuts and to position itself for future success, an end-to-end reexamination of our systems is needed to streamline work, align resources with our mission, increase coordination and consistency across the institution, and elevate a focus on strategy and collaboration. That includes our examination of how professors are deployed with and tasked into academic leadership roles.

It is important to understand that we are currently putting too many resources towards academic administration both as individual leaders and as an institution as a whole. This is in large part because, 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. Leaders have been assigned based on the existence of a unit, largely independent of how big the unit is and what it does. That results in highly variable roles, responsibilities, workloads, service levels and processes, and it also inhibits coordination and collaboration, process streamlining, engagement in institutional strategies and delivery of a consistent and high quality student/stakeholder experience.

At its core, the redistribution of academic leaders is about figuring out how we can do less work, provide greater consistency, and make the work done by academic leaders as strategic and impactful as possible. We must rethink not only the distribution of academic leaders but the kind and quantity of work that academic leaders do. Reducing redundancy is key. By changing, we can also do more to support academic leaders, provide better clarity and consistency for their roles, and ensure their work is focused more on leadership and not operations.

I firmly believe that university's academic and administrative staff should both be focused on what they do best. The new distribution of academic leadership roles will help to ensure a) that we have the maximum number of professors devoted to core teaching, research, and community engagement activities; b) that those in academic leadership positions are focused on academic program and policy development; and c) that administrative work best done by highly-skilled administrative professionals is done by our highly skilled staff.

This week, I provided deans with their faculty's allocation of academic leaders. Deans will have flexibility to tailor the allocation to the specific circumstances and needs of the faculty. Over the next month, they will be working with their leadership teams and college deans to develop a proposal for implementation of their allocation. More discussions will follow and no doubt there may be some downstream refinements required. However, I expect that many roles will be in place for July 1, 2022, while others may take longer to operationalize.

Many people have been involved in developing the model and plan we are now implementing. Thank you all for your feedback and input to your deans and to me. I look forward to continuing this work with you in the coming weeks and months.

Steven Dew
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)



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