UofC Logo convocation june 2004

OnCampus Weekly.. June 11/04

 Search Search Button
HomeNews/EventsLibraryCalendarDirectoryITContact Us

This Issue's Index

OnCampus Weekly

@OnCampus Daily



president weingartenReport to the University

An update on the Academic Plan
by President Harvey Weingarten

On June 3, University of Calgary President Harvey Weingarten met with faculty members, staff and students to provide a “Report to the University.” The following are edited excerpts from that presentation.

The full written text is available at www.ucalgary.ca/academic-plan/agm-june3-04.html

Ithink it is fair to say that the last little while has been a time of change at the U of C. We have many initiatives moving forward and given what we have accomplished so far we should be optimistic about the future.

From informal comparisons I have made with some of my colleagues, I think it is also fair to say that the University of Calgary is moving ahead as fast as any university in the country.

So, the first logical question you might ask is: “Why change?” Why do we need to contemplate or entertain any change? To me, the answer is obvious. The world that universities operate in now is dramatically different from the one we have known for some time.

  • We have an unprecedented growth in demand for university education at a time that our resources are remarkably strained.
  • Students are carrying a larger share of the true cost of their education. They are paying higher tuition, graduating with increasing debt loads and, perhaps consequently, being very clear with what they want from us – a quality academic experience, accountability, and – whether we like to hear it or not – preparation for well-paying jobs.
  • We are under increasing scrutiny from the public and government for the public dollars they give us – even though the university now receives only about 30 per cent of its revenue from public tax dollars.
  • We are supposed to cherish our role as a place of contemplation and higher learning but also embrace our role as an economic driver.
  • We are a public institution, but we are supposed to be thoroughly enmeshed with the private sector.

Our workloads are increasing. We are increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of our teaching experiences. We are unhappy about the way that the public supports us, both financially and rhetorically.

So, skeptics are right – I suppose we don’t have to change. But, as Alan MacDonald reminds me in every email, with a quote from quality guru W. Edwards Deming – “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

So, change we must. But, we are a university and we cannot, and should not, change willy-nilly or sway in every direction that every social commentator, politician, or university administrator might suggest.

So, we plan and decide on our direction of change and once we do that we move boldly to achieve the objectives directed by our Plan. It was only two years ago – April 2002 – that the framework for the Academic Plan was approved by General Faculties Council and only a little more than a year ago — February 2003 — that the Academic Plan Advisory Group recommended an action plan.

The Academic Plan leads us down some roads and not others. It helps us make choices. But, it also paints a picture of what we will look like as a university as we go down the roads it suggests.


I know I am a biased observer but, in my view, the Plan is working. I base this judgment on successes we have had in implementing the Academic Plan in the short time that we have had it as a guide.

Here are some of our major achievements:

The Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy under Robert Mansell was formally launched last fall. As we had hoped, it has served as a focus for the recruitment and retention of some key faculty. Our investment in this Institute – about $1.8 million over two years – has already leveraged considerably more research funding for scholars in the areas represented in the Institute than we would have otherwise received.

And it is not just getting more oil and gas out of the ground. It is also about making discoveries that improve our environment. The U of C is working with the City of Calgary to create a unique research facility that will allow for studies of innovative approaches to water and wastewater treatment.

This project will propel us to national and international leadership in these areas when the treatment plant opens in December 2007.

Last year, Curtis Eaton agreed on an interim basis to lead the planning for the Institute for Advanced Policy Research. He will be handing over the reins to Ken McKenzie who has agreed to take on the longer-term responsibility starting this summer.

We also launched the Institute for Quantum Information Science, the Language Research Centre, and the O’Brien Centre for the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program, and we have asked Susan Bennett to lead our conversations around projects we should initiate in the area of Creativity in the Arts.

The Academic Plan also serves as the compass for the development of new academic programs or initiatives such as the:

  • Undergraduate Student Research Program in Bone and Joint Health, which involves collaboration among the faculties of engineering, kinesiology, medicine, nursing, and science.
  • The Biomedical Engineering Specialization in the Faculty of Engineering program that provides a research experience in training engineers in a rapidly expanding field.
  • Social Work has developed a new two-year master’s program for students with any degree other than a Bachelor of Social Work; it is the only one of its kind in western Canada.
  • Last fall saw the launch of the Nurse Practitioner Program in one of two rounds of Access funds in the last year.
  • Last September saw the launch of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program running out of the O’Brien Centre.
  • The Faculty of Science has a new degree program in Natural Sciences, which will enable students to obtain a degree that combines math and sciences.
  • The University has established the iCore Chair in Quantum Information Science. We now have a $2 million G8 Legacy Chair. In partnership with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation we have recruited a joint professorship in Family Centre Care.

Let’s be clear. The focus provided by our Academic Plan is allowing us to secure a share of resources, government and otherwise, at levels we otherwise would never see. We have secured a disproportionately high share of provincial government program and infrastructure funds in the last several rounds.

This results, most surely, from the quality of the proposals we are sending in. But it also reflects the fact that people see and understand our Plan, they like it, they see us living up to it and they are prepared to support it.

As another example, this year we raised more in donations – philanthropy – than in any other year in the history of the U of C, including those years during which we were on an active campaign. We set a target of $25 million – we exceeded it. Our fundraising success is also directly related to people’s view that we have a plan, it is a good one, and we are committed to it.

What are our next steps?

  • We’ve launched the Urban Campus Initiative in partnership with our sister post-secondaries, the City of Calgary, the Calgary Health Region, Kahanoff Foundation and others. A priority for the U of C must be the search for more space. But from a community perspective, our role in kick-starting development in the east end of Calgary’s urban core, and all of the associated economic and social issues, is equally important.
  • The Campus Calgary Digital Library, a new information and learning service for the post-secondary institutions and lifelong learners of greater Calgary, is just one example of the strength of the University’s commitment to multi-institutional initiatives. It is our top capital priority and will mean that for the first time, the public will be able to tap electronically into the University’s vast information collections, and access data from around the world for business, education and non-profit applications.
  • A building for ISEEE. The logic of ISEEE depends critically on a space to allow scholars from different disciplines and perspectives to rub shoulders, challenge and learn from each other.

I’ll admit that I am bullish on the U of C. I came here fully cognizant of the problems universities face and the particularly difficult problems that were going to be faced by the university in the near future. But, I am struck by the potential and capacity of this place.

So, although I acknowledge the problems of today, I choose to focus on the brighter future. Although I recognize and work to fix some of our inevitable failures and missteps, I celebrate our successes.

Although I recognize that we need to do some work to make universities and higher education top in the minds of the public or government, I come to work every day enthused and comforted by the fact that I, like all of you, are engaged in the noble profession of preparing the citizens and leaders of our country.

The full text of President Weingarten's talk is available at: