UNBC Academic Restructuring Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the university decide to pursue a new structure?

The academic priorities document endorsed by the UNBC Senate in 2017, called for a new academic structure. While UNBC faculty, staff, and students have worked hard over the past 25 years to grow UNBC into an outstanding University, the world is changing around us. Probably the best way to sum it up is to take a quote out of the academic priorities document: “To have organizational structures that enhance opportunities for academic programs to be supported, to grow, to function efficiently, and to enable effective leadership. The goal is to also have an organizational structure that supports creativity, flexibility, and the interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration that will allow UNBC to respond to opportunities that fit our unique skills and assets” .

In other words, UNBC is seeking an academic structure which will allow us to foster innovation, creativity, and the interdisciplinary dialogue.

When will these changes take effect?

As of June 2018, the Provost, working with a small number of faculty and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on the Academic Action Plan, is refining a working model. Through June, July, and August, the Provost will invite faculty, staff, and students to review the model and provide comments. Beginning in September the Provost will begin the approval process, with appropriate documentation being brought to College Councils, Senate Committee on Academic Affairs (SCAAF), Senate, and the Board of Governors. During this period budgets will be developed and brought forward for approval. The implementation of the changes will begin once the structure is approved by the Board of Governors.

How will these changes affect currently enrolled students? (e.g. Degree requirements)

The changes to the academic structure will not affect currently enrolled students.  All current academic programming will continue to be offered under the current academic requirements. 

How will these changes affect future students? (e.g. Degree requirements)

Academic Programs expect to evolve and grow.  It is anticipated that such Program development will be facilitated by the flexibility and creativity fostered by the proposed academic structure.  The proposed structure is intended to support innovative and responsive programming to ensure “that our students are prepared to meet the challenges of a fast-paced modern world, while stepping up and making a difference ”.

What are the specifics of the restructuring?

The proposal draws on many of the concepts informing the new structure that was proposed in the Academic Action Plan (AAP), complemented by additional features to accommodate aspirations within the (AAP) The working model for the proposed academic restructuring, revolves around 5 cognate faculties.  It is proposed that Faculty Members will have a faculty home, as distinct from a program home; the faculties will lead academic matters within their areas via Curriculum Committees with few or no departments within each faculty.  For further details, please see the UNBC organizational structure.

How does the restructuring fit into the Strategic Road Map?

The first three strategic priorities in the Road Map are:

  1. Attract, retain and develop outstanding students, faculty, and staff;
  2. Enhance the quality and impact of academic programming and delivery; and
  3. Enhance the research culture.

The primary reason for restructuring is to provide a framework, within which faculty are supported and encouraged to enhance current programming, and ensure UNBC is a leading Academic environment to recruit and retain the best students, faculty, and staff.

Core to this mission is ensuring our students have access to first and foremost, programs which are outstanding. By developing the structure in the proposed manner, faculty will have greater flexibility to develop leading-edge programs, to build stronger academic leadership, and to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and research. 

This is a vital step for UNBC as it provides the environment to achieve our first three strategic priorities.

What was wrong with the old organizational structure?

The current academic structure has a number of inefficiencies which are standing in the way of UNBC enhancing and growing our academic environment:

  1. Administration of graduate programs has been a long-standing issue; it is convoluted, lacks clarity, and creates special challenges for students and faculty in interdisciplinary programs;
  2. Administration of regional programming is ambiguous, with Regional Chairs having little influence on curriculum, yet are apparently responsible for regional programming, which creates potential conflict with accredited programs that require centralized control;
  3. Budget allocations to small programs create barriers to innovation and flexibility at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; and
  4. Leadership at the Dean’s level is constrained due to the significant administration workload, leaving little time for more traditional roles of the Dean including academic leadership and fundraising.

What principles are guiding the academic restructuring?

At the highest level, academic restructuring is being guided by our motto: ‘En Cha Huna. 

At an operational; level, , the academic restructuring is being guided by our integrated Strategic Road Map which sets our Vision, Mission and Values for UNBC.

Specific principles that guide academic restructuring are laid out in the Academic Action Plan priorities document. Specifically:

  1. Innovation: “letting go of the past rigidities, walls, and silos, and about being open and welcoming to the new questions, issues, and insights emerging in the world around us” ;
  2. Centrality of Students: ‘UNBC should aspire to have a strong and innovative community and culture of teaching, learning, research and service in which all people feel secure, welcome, and challenged in the pursuit of knowledge, and in which the student voices and responsibilities are central ;
  3. Importance of Leadership: “to have organizational structures that enhance opportunities for academic programs to be supported, to grow, to function efficiently, and to enable effective leadership. The goal is to also have an organizational structure that supports creativity, flexibility, and the interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration that will allow UNBC to respond to opportunities that fit our unique skills and assets” ;
  4. Mentoring: “the University must support the mentorship process through all stages of career development” ;
  5. Efficient: “Distribution of responsibilities between Deans and Chairs so that responsibility and authority is better aligned with the appropriate levels needed for effective and efficient decision making” ;
  6. Flexibility: “be ready with the direction, flexibility, and responsiveness that post-secondary organizations will need to be successful in the decades to come” ;
  7. Responsive: “academic units must maintain a level of readiness, responsiveness, and adaptability” ;
  8. Creativity: “intellectual coherence and the potential for synergies provides an opportunity for those units to enhance their creativity and flexibility in the face of emerging opportunities” 
  9. Disciplines: “preserve the visibility of traditional disciplines and knowledge areas even when new degrees and teaching options may emerge” ;
  10. Interdisciplinary Dialogue: “organizational structure that supports creativity, flexibility, and the interdisciplinary dialogue” ;
  11. Break down Disciplinary Barriers: “it then becomes imperative that units strongly consider and seek out ways to share teaching resources and instructional opportunities to mutually support and improve content and teaching quality, break down disciplinary and professional boundaries, create relationships and improve efficiency” .

Could the new organizational structure result in layoffs?

There is no intention or plan to reduce our workforce as a result of restructuring.  It is expected that Faculty Members will have greater freedom to develop their programming, and create new and exciting curricula as a result of evolving ideas encouraged by the proposed structure. 

What is the faculty’s role in the restructuring?

Faculty input has been and continues to be vital to the restructuring process. The members of the Phase I and II Academic Action Plan Committee were fundamental to the process of gathering initial faculty input, sifting through a number of options, and presenting the outcomes in the Academic Action Planning priorities document to the Provost. As an outcome of this engagement, the Provost’s Advisory Committee on the Academic Action Plan, and the ad-hoc Provost’s faculty focus group supported the Provost’s team in fine-tuning the model and providing constructive feedback as it was developed. As we move forward towards approval, all faculty will have the opportunity to review, discuss, and provide constructive feedback as the model is finalized.

Once the model is approved, faculty will be responsible for self-organizing within the broader structure and moving forward with our future academic programming.

How does this affect the plan for financial equilibrium?

The restructuring will play an integral part in the long-term financial equilibrium plan. Specifically, the new structure provides a flexible framework to provide the opportunity to develop more efficient programming. The reduction of the number of departmental chairs, the redefining of deans’ roles, and the addition of professional support for these deans will free up important academic time to foster the development and implementation of outstanding academic offerings and scholarly achievements. 

This will allow for greater concentration of faculty effort on teaching and research which ultimately will maximize student success, and thus financial success.

Did the university utilize a consultant during the deliberation process?

A consultant was not employed specifically to address the college restructuring process. Some consultants were used to facilitate discussions for some specific elements, for example the Student Success Road Map, the Indigenization initiative, and the late stages of the Phase II Academic Action Plan - Faculty Renewal and Development Working Group.

While we looked to national and international best practices regarding university structure, we were mindful that we needed to develop a UNBC solution. Which, thanks to a significant effort of many people we did.

Will the changes to the university’s academic organizational structure impact the university’s Advancement campaign?

No. Priorities for the campaign will not be affected by the university’s new organization. In fact, in the future, the academic restructuring should provide for new opportunities for Advancement to connect our faculty, programs, and research to the philanthropic community.