A summary report of the Rector's Advisory Group Planning Sessions
Between April 11 and 13, the members of the Rector's Advisory Group (Rector, Provost, Vice-Rectors, Chief Financial Officer, Deans, Director of Libraries, and the Dean of Students) met at the Rector's residence for intensive full-day planning sessions. Garry Milton and Cameron Tilson (Rector's Cabinet) also participated.
Why these sessions?
* to continue the process of clarifying and refining an institutional vision for Concordia that will firmly establish our identity and place within the higher education community locally, nationally and internationally as we move into the next millennium;
* based upon the emerging vision, to identify the critical issues that must be addressed;
* to begin setting a framework to develop strategies for addressing both immediate and longer-term issues that will shape the kind of university Concordia will be in the future; and
* to recommend specific actions designed to move the planning and implementation processes forward quickly.
Why an institutional vision?
It was recognized that before particular strategies can be developed, there must be a clear understanding as to the type of university we will be in the future. In other words, how do we want to be seen 15 years from now? The following points are among the key elements that emerged on which consensus was reached.
* Concordia will continue to be an autonomous comprehensive university.
* Concordia will be increasingly recognized nationally and internationally for innovation, flexibility and responsiveness in meeting societal needs and in advancing the career goals of its diverse student body as educated, articulate, employable graduates.
* Concordia will maintain and strengthen our tradition of accessibility, but within an expanded definition.
* Concordia will offer high-quality studies at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in a wide range of disciplines.
* Concordia will develop unique and excellent research and educational programs in a growing number of areas.
* Concordia will be seen as the university of first choice by all of our applicants.
While it was recognized that the directions implied in these statements must be discussed and studied by various bodies throughout the University, the Rector's Advisory Group felt that they provide a powerful context for further planning in continuity with the academic planning already under way.
Accessibility will remain a cornerstone of Concordia's mission. However, accessibility needs to be understood in a broader context. It is more than providing flexible and innovative admissions policies and processes. It must also be expressed in terms of making an explicit obligation to students once they are admitted to the University. We have an obligation to provide educational programs and support services to every student to ensure they have the maximum possibility of successfully completing their studies. Moreover, it must be understood that there are many different definitions of accessibility and that they may vary from Faculty to Faculty and even department to department. Finally, we need to assess our accessibility in terms of how much our students learn while they are here and their relative success after they graduate. This expanded commitment to accessibility implies many things, including the need to:
* Provide flexible scheduling and innovative program options to accommodate students' individual circumstances and needs;
* Provide quality support services, academic and student-life, based on continual evaluation and assessment to ensure that students succeed in their studies and are well prepared to function in society;
* Provide opportunities to individuals who demonstrate the potential and desire to undertake university-level studies but are lacking the normal admission requirements;
* Undertake post-graduation assessment to determine if our programs and services have ultimately allowed our students to be successful.
"Concordia will be increasingly recognized nationally and internationally for innovation, flexibility and responsiveness in advancing the career goals of its diverse student body in meeting societal needs for educated, articulate, employable graduates."
It is proposed that Concordia offer our students, within our regular academic programs, advanced employability skills such as critical thinking, numeracy and information-technology abilities, which have consistently been identified by groups such as the Conference Board of Canada as essential elements for success within a knowledge-based society. These skill sets can be integrated into the curricula in a variety of ways.
It is felt that implementing this expanded definition of accessibility, offering excellent programs and providing employability skills will place Concordia in the forefront of Canadian higher education. Concordia University will be known as "the place to go" because it responds to students' needs, provides quality education and prepares students for success in the world beyond.
What are some of the critical issues that must be addressed?
While many issues were identified and discussed, the following were considered especially critical.
1. We need the appropriate number of qualified faculty.
Hiring and retention of qualified faculty is our greatest challenge. We are facing a great deal of competition from other universities and industry in recruiting faculty in certain disciplines. Moreover, maintaining competitive compensation policies is becoming increasingly difficult. Faculty are the cornerstone in creating and sustaining high-quality programs. Without the critical mass of faculty, the task of creation and delivering the programs will be impossible.
2. We need the appropriate student support services to ensure student success.
Based on the expanded definition of accessibility, we need to do more for all students in terms of providing the tools and support services (e.g. advising) they need to succeed in their studies.
3. We need to make significant investments in space, technology, training and equipment.
An investment in training, equipping and supporting of faculty and students in the effective use of technology in teaching, learning and research is required. The University's proposed space development plan must be implemented as quickly as possible.
4. The relationship between the Faculties and the administrative and support units needs to be better understood to ensure that our administrative services are partners in supporting the academic mission of the University.
The services provided by the support units of the University must be aligned with the needs, goals and objectives of the Faculties and the students. It was recognized that different organizational and service models are required depending upon the nature of the service provided. The particular approach in each instance will be developed in partnership with the Deans and Directors.
In order to effect the vision outlined in the beginning of this summary report, a preliminary analysis suggests we will need to increase our annual budget over the next three years by approximately $15 million to $20 million. This represents 50 per cent of the cutbacks we have endured from 1993/94 to 1998/99. Several strategies were developed to start addressing this critical issue. It is felt that unless the budget can be increased by this order of magnitude, quality will begin to suffer within the next five years.
What are the next steps in the planning process?
The information that has been presented above is a brief summary of major points of discussion and agreement. Approximately 65 items for action were identified, ranging from the development of "white papers" to the development of short-term strategies. Many ideas/items need to be analyzed and costed before work can continue. Schedules for implementation and the assignment of responsibilities within the Rector's Advisory Group need to be established.
The Rector's Advisory Group will dedicate the remainder of its meetings this term to moving this process forward. A formal communication process is being established to help assure that everyone has an opportunity to become informed and involved.