October update on York’s Academic & Administrative Program Prioritization

Vari Hall as seen during the early evening

Vice-president Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton and Vice-President Finance & Administration Gary Brewer have issued this update to the University community on the Academic and Administration Program Prioritization initiative:

As announced by President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri on Oct. 20, York University is undertaking an Academic and Administration Program Prioritization initiative (AAP).  Although the initiative has been discussed recently in Senate and presented to Faculty Council meetings, this update is intended to share with the broader York community what the AAP initiative is, and why we need to do it.

AAP is a structured assessment of York’s academic programs and administrative services using a common set of criteria that facilitates comparisons across the institution. The initiative is intended to help us identify what we are doing well and what might not be meeting expectations, so as to support transparent and evidence-based decision making regarding both strategic investment and opportunities for needed change.

Why Academic and Administrative Prioritization?

The higher education context is increasingly global and competitive. The focus in Ontario is how best to ensure a system that supports improved quality as well as social and economic development while facing growing enrolment in a financially constrained environment. The Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities has opted for differentiation as a primary policy driver to build on the existing excellence found within postsecondary education. Discussions about the Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMA) will begin in the new year to discuss institutional priorities and the metrics that will be used to assess progress.

Independent of those discussions, however, York is at a point where difficult decisions need to be made if we are to continue to advance our vision for the future and ensure the financial sustainability of the University.  We are engaging in this process to ensure that these decisions help contribute towards fulfillment of our mission and realization of our academic plan within this very challenging higher education context. We will recognize our areas of strength, invest in our priorities, and make best use of scarce resources in order to ensure quality and stability in our academic programs and administrative supports and services.

This intent is reflected in the four goals we have outlined for the AAP initiative. These four goals are:

  • to fully realize the goals for York’s continued success as articulated in the White Paper, University Academic Plan (UAP) and Strategic Research Plan (SRP);
  • to develop an evidence-based approach to better shape our Strategic Mandate Agreement with the government and to better inform our internal decision making processes;
  • to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of our administrative supports and service programs; and
  • to ensure the sustainability of the University as it strives to fulfill its mission and strategic academic plans.

The AAP initiative will be guided by principles throughout the process, including:

  • alignment with the advancement of academic priorities;
  • transparency;
  • collegial consultation; and
  • evidence-based decision making.

A steering committee, chaired by the Vice-President Academic and Provost Rhonda Lenton, in collaboration with Vice-President Finance and Administration Gary Brewer, has been created to oversee the AAP initiative. The Senate Academic Policy, Planning and Research Committee is monitoring the initiative and providing input to the process.  Two task forces will be created to undertake the review of the academic and administrative programs and services. Details on the Terms of Reference for the two task forces and the nomination process to become a member will be provided to the community shortly.

The AAP process will be broken down into phases. The first phase is the data collection and assessment, and the second phase will be the response phase, followed by an evaluation in phase three. The timeline and activities associated with the first phase are as follows:

June to December 2013:

  • community consultation and communication strategy plan;
  • finalize academic and administrative program lists;
  • develop criteria and templates for program information;
  • gather data for templates; and
  • nomination process for task forces underway.

January to March 2014:

  • distribute templates;
  • programs templates completed and submitted; and
  • task forces established and trained.

April to June/July 2014:

  • task forces to review submissions, complete program assessments and prepare reports.

Full details on the AAP process, including draft documents, assessment criteria and opportunities for engagement will be posted on the AAP website.

AAP will be fully integrated with our existing initiatives including the University’s Process Re-engineering and Service Enhancement program (PRASE), the new budget model (SHARP) and the Integrated Resource Planning Framework to ensure that our actions and responses are coordinated and embedded in our planning processes.

We must recognize that the University is operating in a very challenging context with increasing accountability, complexities and financial challenges at a level never experienced before. During this difficult time, York University needs to be able to effectively leverage its many strengths and take advantage of opportunities that align with our ambitions. AAP gives us a framework to help achieve our objectives by working together, and keeping the University’s success and sustainability at the forefront of our deliberations and actions. We look forward to working with you and invite you to engage in this important process.