U of T’s Committee on Academic Policy and Programs (AP&P) released its report on reviews of academic units and programs. As part of the University’s Quality Assurance Process (UTQAP), reviews of programs are done at least every eight years.

Professor Mark Schmuckler, Vice-Provostial Advisor Academic Programs, spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the quality assurance process at the AP&P meeting on October 27. He said that “quality assurance work has not slowed down” since the university closed but noted that the greatest impact is on in-person reviews. Some upcoming reviews have been delayed, deferred, or reimagined as virtual meetings. 

Current reviews reflect the findings from the previous assessments, including praise for the high quality of programs, student talent, and scholarship produced by faculty. Additional highlights include programs’ interdisciplinary strengths, along with initiatives taken to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Suggested areas of development included communication and governance structures. The need for faculty and curriculum diversity was also highlighted as an area for improvement.

One of the reviews was a non-UTQAP review of UTSC campus. Additionally, AP&P released follow-up reviews for several programs, including the Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s Doctor of Medicine (MD) program. Follow ups are usually requested when certain concerns, like student harassment, require a longer and sustained response. 

Temerty Faculty of Medicine provostial review

In October 2019, AP&P requested a follow up on the faculty’s “progress in understanding and addressing the causes of student harassment.” Dean of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine Trevor Young, in a letter to Vice-Provost Academic Programs and Vice-Provost Innovations in Undergraduate Learning Susan McCahan, noted that a quarter of students had reported experiencing harassment, while 40 per cent experienced discrimination.

These findings come from the faculty survey of MD students, and the results are apparently similar to those in other student surveys and from other Canadian medical schools.

The follow up reported that the faculty had “focused its efforts on mitigating barriers to the reporting and disclosure of instances of mistreatment.” Efforts included a promotion of professional behaviour and values. This consisted of updates to policies and procedures that ensure mechanisms “are in place to manage faculty who act in an unprofessional manner.” 

Other actions included the appointment of two new directors, one for the Professional Values Program and one for Learner Experience. The director for the latter will chair the new Learner Experience Advisory Council (LEAC). LEAC’s mandate is to develop strategies to understand medical students’ experiences and use this information to develop best practices for “how to optimize the learning environment.”

A new module for medical students will be implemented into their curriculum and will focus on best practices for dealing with mistreatment, as well as how to identify instances of mistreatment. 

UTSC review 

This year’s review was largely in agreement with the last review in 2013, with reviewers praising the innovation of graduate and undergraduate programs. Praise was given to UTSC’s strengthening of their co-op program and “expanding experiential learning opportunities for all students.” 

Reviewers noted a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and student wellness. Regarding faculty, there were “recent efforts toward gender pay equity.” 

Attention was also drawn to concerns that “UTSC currently contributes much more to the University Fund than it receives,” while also noting that other areas of the university benefit from this more than UTSC students and faculty.

There were several other areas of concern. For undergraduate students, there was uneven enrolment in programs. Graduate students at UTSC were found to face more limited access to “support services, seminars, and career development/networking opportunities” compared to their UTSG counterparts.

Regarding COVID-19, English Professor Katherine Larson noted that “Co-op and experiential learning programs are currently running remotely” and that the pandemic has opened up the question of the need for more “flexible and inclusive instructional models.”