Provost announces Academic Innovation Fund to jump-start change

Patrick Monahan, York’s vice-president academic & provost, has issued the following memorandum to members of the York community:

As I announced in Senate on Sept. 23, I am pleased to announce the creation of an Academic Innovation Fund to ensure that we are able to move ahead on implementing academic directions set out in the White Paper and the upcoming University Academic Plan to be submitted to Senate this fall. I want to ensure that this funding opportunity is brought to the attention of the wider York community and to invite input as we develop the criteria and process for its implementation.

As colleagues may recall, the White Paper was endorsed unanimously by Senate in April. That endorsement was the first step in a process of new development at York. As next steps, it is crucial that we put in place implementation plans to build on the consensus we achieved through the White Paper process. Therefore, we have begun work, through the Senate Academic Policy, Planning & Research Committee, towards the articulation of the next University Academic Plan (UAP) for 2010-2015, guided by the directions set out in the White Paper. I have also established White Paper Implementation Working Groups to foster initiatives and coordinate planning in four key areas arising from the White Paper:

  • teaching and learning;
  • the student experience;
  • community engagement and outreach;
  • research intensification.

These working groups, which draw their membership from across the University, are exploring options and developing plans to move forward. At the same time, I am very mindful that if we are to make real, measurable progress in any of these areas, we must be prepared to devote resources to them; that is, we must make an initial investment in order to enable the kinds of change and innovation envisioned in the White Paper.

The Academic Innovation Fund
It is for this reason that I am introducing the Academic Innovation Fund, which will provide funding over a limited time horizon (three years) to enable Faculties and other academic units to move forward with initiatives that are widely supported but which could not be implemented without this initial upfront investment.

A total of $2.5 million will be made available in each of the next three years to support initiatives in three categories:

  • initiatives which are intended to have impact or apply across the University, and which will be eligible for funding of up to $200,000 per year;
  • those which apply within a particular Faculty or academic unit, and which will be eligible for funding of up to $100,000 per year; and
  • those which can be submitted by faculty, staff or students and will be eligible for funding of up to $10,000 per year.

The initiatives selected for support from this fund must directly advance priorities identified in the White Paper/UAP – for example, in relation to the enhancement of online teaching and learning opportunities, the expansion of experiential education options for students, or improvement of supports for students’ transition to university study, to name just a few – where an investment of institutional resources is necessary in order to effect change, to capitalize on opportunities or to leverage areas of existing strength. I am hoping, in particular, that the fund will stimulate collaborative initiatives across units and Faculties. Further details are available on the website.

Call for proposals process
I plan to issue a call for proposals for initiatives to be funded by the Academic Innovation Fund in mid-December. In the interim, we will be further developing the categories of initiatives for consideration and the criteria for selection of initiatives to be funded. The four working groups will play a key role in the definition of the scope of initiatives and recommending funding for specific proposals, but I want to give committees, Faculties, academic units and individual members of the community an opportunity to shape the process.

I am therefore inviting individuals (faculty, staff and students), committees and other bodies across the University to send me suggestions about the particular kinds of initiatives that should be included and any other relevant criteria that should be taken into account in assessing proposals.

Comments and suggestions can be sent directly to me at; and I would appreciate receiving input by Nov. 15.

I look forward to working with all areas of the University in the coming months to make progress towards our shared goals.