by Alex Watkins (News Writer)
The University of the Fraser Valley’s latest strategic educational plan was unveiled on Tuesday, September 21 in what Eric Davis, Vice President and Provost, referred to as his “State of the Institution Address.” This year’s plan is different than previous ones because it spans several years instead of just one. Additionally, it is meant to be more concrete and interdisciplinary.
Davis said that while plans from previous years had also hoped to achieve these aims, the actual process of planning frustrated the goals – that is, meetings were held amongst specific related groups such as department heads or faculty councils, which tended to “silo” rather than unite the disciplines.
Davis anticipated that the new approach will form “cross-faculty, interdisciplinary working groups… in an effort to provide an integrated perspective and function to our planning process.” Additionally, members of the community will be invited to speak at faculty councils regarding issues facing their region, and possibly even join the working groups.
Davis stated that it was important that the planning and budgeting be shaped by the understanding that post-secondary institutions such as UFV are currently receiving no growth funding, and that tuition remains capped. Davis said that the Ministry “recently imposed a six month moratorium on approval of new degrees so that they could review the entire system,” and stressed the importance of being ready to justify UFV’s current funding and future development plans to the ministry when the moratorium is lifted. He noted that the Ministry’s priorities are currently health, trades and Aboriginal education.
Last year was UFV’s first year executing program reviews. Not one review was completed in full; however, the reviews still identified many areas that could potentially be improved. Even UFV’s Criminology and Criminal Justice undergraduate program, which was rated as outstanding overall, received over 30 suggestions for improvement. Davis expressed hope that the acquisition of Heidi Tvete as new Program Review Facilitator would improve future program review experiences.
With the recent departure of UFV’s Dean of Science Dan Ryan, as well as the planned retirement of Harv McCullough, the Dean of Trades and Technology, next August, UFV may be searching for as many as five new Deans.
Senior academic offices are under-resourced and therefore currently immobilized, making it of utmost importance for UFV to come up with a plan regarding the desired number and general composition of faculty so that they may begin the hiring process. UFV must additionally seek replacements for the Director of the Institutional Research Office and the Director of Marketing and Commerce; they must also hire a Chief Information Officer, a Vice Provost and potentially an Associate Vice President.
Davis reported that “the first phase of the strategic plan – Changing Lives, Building Communities – identified three strategic directions: to provide the best education in Canada; to be a leader of a social, cultural, economic and environmentally responsible development of the Fraser Valley; and to be innovate, entrepreneurial and accountable in achieving our goals.”
Specifically, the plan will continue to focus on improving the first year experience of students, and work on ways to deal with UFV’s over-enrolment issues. “We must…add a focus on developing an admission strategy which takes account of these facts: we are full and had to close applications in mid-summer; [and] we have dual commitments to access and excellence, to being as accessible as possible to both traditional and non-traditional students and to attracting the best students in the Fraser Valley.”
UFV therefore needs to devise a strategy that “limits admission while honouring both commitments.” This depends on determining specific enrollment targets for all programs, and to wok towards that end the Director of Enrollment Management will work with each department to generate these targets.
Davis also recognized that improving the first year improvement and student success in general requires “optimal advising services.” In order to achieve this goal, a university-wide review of advising services will be carried out. Additionally, UFV plans to launch a review of all Aboriginal services and programs in order to continue improving the relationship between UFV and the Aboriginal community.
UFV plans to further advance its establishment of a new university governance system, as the needs of the new institution are different than that of a university-college. Chief Financial Administrator Jackie Hogan has been assigned to create alternate budget models, in order to identify which is most effective in achieving UFV’s strategic goals.
Closing on an optimistic note, Davis said, “As public funding for post-secondary institutions continues to decline, only those with community and regional relevance will receive the political and financial support to thrive. In this and many other ways, we are establishing the prototype for the model twenty-first century university.”