In May of 2010, an Academic Plan in two parts was presented to Senate. The first part identified eight academic priorities for Laurentian University, while the second part challenged the Faculties/Library to begin developing the next iteration of the Academic Plan through the creation of their own Faculty/Library-based Academic Plans. All Faculties/Library have completed this task and, in doing so, based their plans on the University’s four key goals and four areas of academic strength:
1. As approved by both the Board and Senate, our four key goals remain: National Recognition, University of Choice, Student Engagement and Community Responsiveness.
2. As part of the initial academic planning process, four areas were identified where the University was seen to be academically strong and they were expressed as four ‘purpose’ statements:
a. Building healthy communities;
b. Clean water now and forever;
c. Resource development for an evolving world;
d. Educating for our future.
Now that these Faculty/Library-based Academic Plans are in place, they will provide the Deans/University Librarian with guidance regarding the future academic activity, budgets, student supports and learning needs within each Faculty/Library.
The next step was for ACAPLAN to develop a University-based Academic Plan for presentation to Senate at the February, 2011, meeting. In establishing the Academic Plan for the University four factors would be preeminent for ACAPLAN. First, there is the broad framework as defined by our institutional mission.
Fundamental to the mission of Laurentian University is our commitment to being a bilingual and tri-cultural institution. Second, any institutional Academic Plan will be influenced by and reflective of the various Faculty/Library-based Academic Plans. Third, the University’s intention to improve the overall student learning experience through relevant, high quality academic programs, and fourth, emerging factors both external and internal to the University needed to be considered.
In terms of emerging factors three should be mentioned.
First, and most obvious is the three-year budget deficit reduction plan. This is the third year of a plan under which the Board of Governors requires the University to go forward with no operating deficit in 2011-2012 and start repaying the cumulated deficit in 2012-2013 Originally this was construed to represent a budget reduction of $2 million this year but it may be more.
Second, we have been informed by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities that it contemplates undergraduate enrolment growth funding at Laurentian for no more than 500-600 additional students in the next five years. This does not preclude student growth beyond these numbers, but it does imply that we need to be more thoughtful with regard to those programs within which we will encourage growth and concerned with maintaining high quality in those programs seeing an influx of student enrolment.
Third, and more positively, the recent introduction of the ability of departments to create minors within our degree programs will provide us with the opportunity to be more responsive to the needs and wishes of our students. Students will have more options and flexibility with specializations, majors and minors, thus enriching their learning experience.
Four broad academic priorities have emerged: Academic Excellence, Aboriginal programming, Interdisciplinarity and Support for French-language programs and the bilingual mandate of Laurentian University.
1. Support for French-language programs and the bilingual mandate of Laurentian University
As a university with a bilingual mission it is essential that we develop our French language programs and bilingual mandate.
a) Ensure that the Council of English Language Programs (CELP) and the Conseil des programmes en français (CPF) are included in the consultation process for all academic initiatives undertaken by the University;
b) Identify existing francophone programs for which there is a high demand and ensure that the allocated human and financial resources will suffice;
c) Design, develop and offer programs in key or emerging sectors that meet the needs of Francophone and Francophile communities;
d) Offer services of comparable quality in both French and English;
e) Improve and promote the Certificate of Bilingualism;
f) Offer a range of academic activities (conferences, seminars, etc.) in French, in English, and in both languages;
g) Ensure articulation among the various secondary and postsecondary institutions offering bilingual services.
2. Aboriginal Programming
As one of the few institutions in Canada to have given voice to a tricultural mission and with some 900 Aboriginal students active on campus, we need to determine how best to fulfill this mandate.
a) Develop proposals as how to expand the level of Aboriginal content by all departments after meeting with the Associate Vice-President Indigenous Programs and with established Indigenous Studies Programs.
b) Review all departmental courses for Indigenous content and seek to cross-list courses, where appropriate, with established Indigenous Studies Programs.
c) Commit to hire annually at least one Aboriginal faculty member for each of the next five years by actively recruiting Aboriginal academics; including using Aboriginal media.
d) Develop graduate programs.
It is clear that continued spending reductions over the coming years will place some academic programs in serious jeopardy. We need to examine the level of student interest/participation, the cost of delivering the programs, the structure of the programs and the manner in which the programs are delivered. The underlying question is whether by carefully reviewing how we utilize the resources available we might develop a set of programs that are of high quality, are sustainable and are in-demand by students. Such programming should seek to build on the previously identified areas of academic strength: building healthy communities, clean water now and forever, resource development for an evolving world, educating for our future.
a) Develop proposals as to how programs might be combined and re-grouped to create a smaller number of new innovative programs that cross departmental barriers.
b) Develop proposals for majors and specializations that reach across Faculty boundaries.
4. Academic Excellence
The two elements incorporated here are the support of student success/engagement and of faculty development. For both new faculty and students, the transition into their new roles can be challenging. Supporting academic excellence for students and faculty during the transition will have long-term benefits.
a) Develop the Centre for Academic Excellence;
i) Enhance student supports such as academic advising, peer tutoring and orientation.
ii) Organize workshops and symposia on teaching excellence and promote awards for good teaching.
iii) Develop a “certificate in higher education model” option for graduate students.
iv) Develop a new first year credit course “Introduction to University” that not only is designed to strengthen students writing, study, numeracy, and research skills, but also introduces students to the institutional commitment regarding bilingualism and triculturalism.
b) Establish an evaluation/assessment process for the Centre for Academic Excellence.
Impact on Budget Process
As the University moves forward to achieve its goals and plans the budget accordingly, a major change in the budget process is the involvement of the Deans/University Librarian. The Budget Committee will now include the Deans/University Librarian in the broad decision-making process within the academic portion of the budget and, in particular, with regard to staffing and resource allocation within the academic units. The Deans/University Librarian shall base their recommendations for new or replacement staffing on: the enrolment in a program, the centrality of the program to the university’s mission, the ability of a Department/School to offer an advertised program completely, and where relevant, retain its accreditation.
Finally, in responding to requests for hires, Deans/University Librarian shall consider the cohesiveness and functionality of the department /school making such requests.
The Academic plan will be reviewed by ACAPLAN annually.
Approved at the February 2011 Senate