Maclean’s may not have been overly favourable to Concordia in this year’s university rankings, but provost David Graham says an academic plan currently being researched should provide a major boost to push the university toward the top.
The plan is considered an integral component of the strategic framework adopted by the Board of Governors in 2009, which aims to have Concordia nestled among the top five comprehensive Canadian universities within the next decade. The university ranked 11th out of 12 on this year’s list.
According to Graham, the academic plan, which he hopes to have adopted by the end of the school year, will especially focus on quality — be it that of academic programs or of faculty and students themselves.
“‘The plan is trying to answer the question of what kind of programs do we need to become a top comprehensive university,” he said. “‘It will help us measure the quality of our programs and also give us tools to help us deal with a program that may be declining in quality.”
The university’s chief academic officer explained that one way to measure the quality of a program is to look at the quality of its students.
“‘One way would be to look at how effective we are at recruiting students and retaining them,” said Graham. “‘Another way would be to look at the number of external awards won by students of a particular program as well as the graduate schools that have accepted them.”
He noted that the process would be essentially the same for measuring the quality of faculty, looking as much at the number of applicants for a position as their qualifications and accolades.
Should the administration come to the conclusion that a program’s quality is declining, Graham said its relevance would inevitably come under question.
“‘We need to ask ourselves why the quality is declining,” he said. “‘It could be because priorities are changing. If that is the case, then the unit needs to reflect on whether they want to continue offering this program. Or maybe the number of student applicants is declining. But if we decide that the program is still a priority, we could decide how to support them.”
He noted that Concordia is better than most Canadian universities at creating programs rather than getting rid of them.
As for the reception of the academic plan process, Graham feels it is has been generally positive, but encourages people to offer their feedback on the initiative by commenting on the academic plan working groups’ reports published on the provost’s website.
“‘In a heterogeneous community like ours, it’s hard to get the word out, but I think as people begin to understand what is going on, they will become more interested and will want to comment,” he says.
The provost hopes to present a draft of the academic plan to a steering committee by January 2011. He envisions the document as containing two main parts: an overview outlining the goals of the strategic framework, and a set of actions to achieve those goals. Graham said he was hesitant at divulging specific actions at the present time.