York VPs issue update on planning responses following AAPR

Vari Hall as seen during the early evening

Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton and Vice-President Finance & Administration Gary Brewer have issued the following update on planning responses to the York community:

As has been discussed at some length over the last 18 months, various factors coincided to make a more comprehensive, pan-University review of our programs and services timely. These factors include: financial challenges both in the province and at York, the government’s differentiation agenda, calls for increasing accountability and the declining enrolment projections that are having a significant impact on our University. In this context, clarity around our vision and how to obtain that vision, as articulated in our planning documents is central to our success.

As we are in the last year of our University Academic Plan (UAP) 2010 – 2015, the review is also an opportunity for us to take stock of our progress, and to identify both challenges and opportunities to contextualize the next University Academic Plan 2015 – 2020. The Program Information Forms (PIFs) asked colleagues to reflect on their contributions to the advancement of the White Paper and UAP including relevant data such as volume of activities and external benchmarks in the case of services, and in the case of academic programs, enrolment trends, curricular innovation and research activities. The Academic and Administrative Task Force Reports have provided a further lens on our collective progress, issues and potential directions to leverage strengths in the future.

We are aware that the review is not without controversy. In particular, the data has been challenged for not being “100 per cent accurate”.  Setting aside the point that data is rarely (never) without some limitations, we acknowledge that the incremental budget model does pose some challenges in attributing the revenue and costs of academic programs down to the last penny especially in a university that is at its core interdisciplinary. An important implication is that many of our courses serve multiple programs. Nevertheless, we cannot abandon our data for the alternative of making decisions without the benefit of any data at all. What is important is to look at the general trends of what our data are showing and to understand and comment on any limitations of the data. For example, what academic programs (whether large or small) have stable enrolment or are growing? What programs have declining enrolment and what can be done? What improvements can be made in regards to the administrative services that support our academic activities?

The University is facing a challenging context. We know that we must find a way by which to balance our budget over the next few years that continues to support our vision and core academic priorities. With the completion of the Academic and Administrative Program Review, we have now transitioned to our normal planning and budget cycles providing a significant third opportunity for all members of our community to reflect on the information we have at hand (the PIFs, the Task Force Reports, Cyclical Program Reviews, the 2015-2016 enrolment update, student surveys etc.) and to provide much needed input on strategic directions that hold promise for York.

Input has therefore been requested from divisions and faculties based on collegial and consultative processes about the best strategies to aid these efforts. Engagement in planning discussions is ongoing at local and institutional levels. Each division head/dean has arranged for engagement sessions in their respective units to gather ideas, feedback and input to shape the unit’s response to our current context. In late 2014, a number of community engagement sessions were held to gather feedback, with student specific engagement sessions held throughout January and February. Future sessions are planned and we urge all members to participate in these discussions.

Response Plans are due March 2. In the ensuing months, these plans will be taken up by senior administration in order to draft an Institutional Strategic Directions Document. This document is best thought of as an institutional Integrated Resource Plan (IR Plan), which will provide context for our planning and budgeting processes and ensure alignment between our academic priorities and our resources moving forward. Specifically, divisions and faculties conduct a year-end evaluation of their 2014-2015 IR Plans in the spring (April 2015). The call for 2015-2020 IR Plans will come out in May 2015 with a due date of September 2015 to inform the next UAP cycle this fall. Similarly, the rolling budgets are presented and reviewed in March 2015 to inform the June 2015 Budget presentation to the Board of Governors.

In broad strokes, the document will be a culmination of individual responses from across the campus, and address both:

  1. Broad academic strategies and/or proposed recommendations.
  2. Administrative strategies and/or proposed recommendations.

Individual responses will focus on what can be done differently within a specific faculty or division, as well as opportunities for inter-divisional or inter-faculty collaboration. The draft Institutional Strategic Directions Document will be the subject of engagement sessions held in April 2015 and will be discussed at Senate (with a request for endorsement in principle in the case of directions regarding academic programs) prior to the June 2015 budget submission to the Board of Governors.

The Institutional Strategic Directions Document (discussion framework) is available on the AAPR YU Link site. The unit heads for the following areas are responsible for submitting responses:

  • Division of the President
  • Division of the Provost and Vice President Academic
  • Division of the Vice-President Finance & Administration
  • Division of Vice-President Advancement
  • Division of Vice-President Research & Innovation
  • Division of Students
  • Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies
  • School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (formerly the Faculty of Fine Arts)
  • Faculty of Science
  • Lassonde School of Engineering
  • Schulich School of Business
  • Osgoode Hall Law School
  • Glendon College
  • Libraries
  • Faculty of Education
  • Faculty of Environmental Studies
  • Faculty of Health
  • Faculty of Graduate Studies.

For additional information on planning activities and the Response Plan framework, employees are invited to visit the AAPR YU Link site.