Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.16

May 19, 2005


Senate Notes

A regular meeting of University Senate, held May 6, 2005.

Academic plan: Provost Martin Singer presented this five-year plan (see Senate Notes, CTR, April 21), which was unanimously approved in the faculty councils. He said it would be “absolutely essential” to Concordia’s future. There were immediate challenges; enrolment had dropped, especially in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science. Singer said that some outstanding students could be brought up to admission standards, i.e., English proficiency, but he assured Senate that “we’re not going to lower standards.” The plan was unanimously approved.

Senate composition: At the March 4 meeting, the membership of Senate was increased. Graduate students went from two to four seats. Undergraduates saw their seats from 10 to 11, but they objected that based on enrolment, they should have 12 and the graduate students only three. However, Senate approved the changes and submitted them to the Board for approval. President Frederick Lowy reported that the Board had been sympathetic to the arguments of undergraduate student representatives, and passed the issue back to Senate. Several faculty members complained that it had been referred back without any new information. They wanted to reaffirm their support for the changes immediately, but most of the undergraduate representatives being absent, it was decided to do this at the next meeting (May 30).

2004-05 budget update: Vice-President Finance Larry English presented notable items of the current financial year.

In terms of enrolment funded by the Quebec government, Concordia is down by 100 full-time-equivalent students, and the operating grant is down by about $5 million.

Part of this is due to what English called an “accrued clawback” of tuition by international students. Indeed, “bad coding” had led to a $1.7-million clawback by the government of funds that had never been collected by the university in the first place.

English said, and Singer confirmed, that the government has changed its approach so radically that instead of funding the universities for exchange student who come here, it now links funding to Quebec students who go on exchange to the countries from which we receive exchange students, and then only when they return and report on the courses they passed. Most of Concordia’s exchange students are from France, and the number of our students on exchange there is negligible.

The $88-million surplus that resulted from an ad hoc infusion of funds by the government had “done a lot of good things.” However, English forecast that this year, the university would run a deficit of zero to $3.5 million. He set this against the deficits of most other Quebec universities, which climb in one case to $187 million.

Two years ago, the university floated a bond of $2 million to finance its capital projects. So far, English said, $17 million has come out of the operating budget to pay part of the six per cent interest for investors.

Regarding the deficit of $3,839,683 posted by the John Molson School of Business, Dean Jerry Tomberlin said falling enrolment accounts for $600,000, and hiring and union settlements another $600,000. The faculty is determined to reduce expenses by $1 million, and more revenue will be realized from the re-privatization on international students’ tuition.

English gave Senate a forecast of changes in the funding formula. The government funds disciplines unequally, depending on the cost of delivering the courses and, perhaps, on political considerations. The current formula is weighted according to 11 categories; this will be expanded to 23 categories. Lowy remarked that graduate students are particularly valuable.

China trip: Dr. Lowy reported on a trip to China taken April 5 to 17 by him, Singer, Deans Nabil Esmail and Chris Jackson, and Vice-President (Advancement and Alumni Affairs) Kathy Assayag. Fifteen academic institutions were visited. Lowy mentioned four in particular: the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, which is interested in Concordia’s Master’s in Investment Management; Hunan University, in Changsha, whose students will do a Concordia program in Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering while spending their first two years studying in China; Beijing Normal University (Zhuhai Campus), which signed a new agreement with the JMSB; and Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Concordia has agreements with at least seven schools in China, many of them specific to faculties at Concordia.

Lowy said that some of the staff of the Canadian embassy in Beijing are recent Concordia alumni, and he was impressed by the level of responsibility they hold. Receptions in Beijing and Hong Kong were enthusiastically attended by nearly 50 alumni each, and $108,000 was pledged in donations.

On their way back, the delegation held receptions for alumni in Vancouver and Calgary, where honorary certificates of graduation were warmly received by pre-1974 graduates of the university’s founding institutions.

Research: Vice-Provost Truong Vo-Van reported that it had been a mixed year in terms of research results. There were good results from the Natural Science and Engineering Council (NSERC) in the Discovery Grant Program, with $5.8 million in grants, as compared to $5.2 million last year, and 57 successful applicants out of 69 to this program. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Operating Grants also showed a considerable increase, from $70,000 in 2003-2004 to $816,000 this year (three successful applicants).

A substantial increase was also noted in grants to the inter-university digital art facility Hexagram, with grants totaling almost $400,000. The recipient of a substantial CFI grant, Hexagram has succeeded in obtaining an additional $1 million grant from the government for the coming year. It has also created a $1-million research fund devoted to media arts, thanks to contributions from private organizations such as Fondation Daniel Langlois and the Cirque du Soleil. “We expect that more contributions will come, and are optimistic that another half a million dollars will be added to this newly created fund,” Vo-Van said.

Less encouraging news came from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). In the Standard Research Grants Program, the success rate was low. In total, we obtained about $2.2 million, showing a decrease as compared to $3.3 million last year.

“There were a large number of applications in the 4A category (about 40 per cent of them), i.e., applications deemed of high quality but not funded due to lack of resources at SSHRC. We have expressed our concern to SSHRC about the low rate of success, and asked SSHRC to reconsider a number of applications in the 4A category. In the past, some applicants in this category were able to receive a grant after reconsideration by SSHRC.”

Results with the Quebec funds were also mixed, with good results in certain programs and low results in others. It is worth noting that Concordia has had success with the Nature and Technology Fund (FQRNT) Nouveaux Chercheurs Program; seven faculty members obtained funding.

Ellen Jacobs (Arts & Science) suggested that older researchers mentor younger ones, and Vo-Van said this will be done.

Next meeting: Monday, May 30, at 9:30 a.m., in AD-308.