Strategic Mandate Agreements, Performance Indicators, and University Differentiation.
In his report for the December 4th meeting of Senate, President Lightstone explained recent developments in the provincial approval process for the Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) that have been developed by each university, as well as the province’s plan to establish a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for university performance. It appears that the province will achieve its plan to increase differentiation and otherwise direct the development of the post-secondary education sector through the implementation of SMAs and targeted funding awards , likely guided by KPI performance (see Ontario’s Differentiation Policy Framework for Postsecondary Education for the final differentiation framework and Ontario’s Differentiation Agenda and Program Prioritization for further context). The President believes that Brock will be asked to provide further details about how its proposed SMA may be realized during the next 3-5 years. These details will include specification of enrolment targets and plans for new programs that will be expected to be consistent with the priorities and directions identified in that document. As you may recall, transdisciplinary initiatives were a major focus of our SMA; therefore, the Ministry expects to see Brock invest substantial resources in this area (e.g., the $5 million commitment to the five transdisciplinary institutes) and may restrict the development of new programs only to those aligned with this direction.
The Voice of Senate.
As described above, the original SMA content, subsequent revisions, and the University’s response to the Ministry’s draft KPI position paper is likely to have direct and major impacts on the development of research, teaching, and overall academic culture at Brock. Given the academic significance of such documents, it is both important and appropriate for senior administrators to consult with the faculty in Senate as much as possible in their creation, review, and revision. The province clearly is moving toward greater interference in the academic conduct of Ontario universities and, in doing so, is requiring universities to propose, plan, justify, and document their activities, goals, and progress with greater frequency, detail, and scope than the government has done in the past. It is understandable for the bureaucracy of the province to communicate directly with the senior administrators of the universities. And it would be very tempting for the senior university administrators to take arguably the most direct, simple and efficient way to respond to such provincial opportunities and requirements, which is to centralize, as much as possible, the responsibility for crafting the university’s submissions and any policy development that may be contained therein.
Recently, circumventing Senate input in these circumstances seems to be occurring too often at Brock. Here are some examples. In September 2013, the province put out a call for submissions to its new Productivity and Innovation Fund. Brock’s administration submitted one proposal for “program prioritization”, which was created without consultation with Senate’s Planning, Priorities, and Budget Advisory Committee. Not only did this consultation fail to occur but, when asked, the Administration refused to share the already submitted proposal with the Committee. The University also was member of a multi-university submission for “course redesign” that focused on identifying indices of teaching quality. This proposal too was completed and submitted without consultations with Senate at large nor any discussion of the proposal reported to Senate by its Teaching and Learning Policy Committee. Similarly, the University’s communications to the province about the specific implications of our proposed SMA for graduate and undergraduate enrolment, development of new programs, and resource allocations to academic programs should involve consultations at the appropriate level(s) of Senate, given the clear academic implications of these decisions. Senate has the legislated responsibility for overseeing the academic mission of the University and, whenever possible, it should be an essential part of the preparation of these important provincial submissions.
A “Watch List” of Miscellaneous Items.
The Teaching and Learning Policy Committee recommended that the Senior Administrative Council (SAC) undertake the development of an overall policy on the use of social media for university-related activities by faculty, staff and students. Should SAC accept, we hope that it consults widely and meaningfully with all members of the University community in the development any such policy. In addition, the Teaching and Learning Policy Committee is piloting a standard template for course outlines in the winter semester, which may eventually be implemented on a voluntary basis.
President Lightstone indicated that alternate budget models will be presented early in the new year. These alternate budgets will reflect variations in basic assumptions, such as predicted enrolments, and thus presumably result in different conclusions about the size of Brock’s deficit.
Recommendations resulting from the Special Task Force’s program review of non-academic programs and units are now expected to be released in February 2014. “Lean processing reviews”, however, have already started in some administrative units. We look forward to additional details on what that will mean for the delivery of academic programs and related service.
Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
500 Glenridge Avenue St. Catharines ON Canada L2S 3A1
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870 | Fax: 905-688-6922