U of T’s Committee on Academic Policy and Programs (AP&P) has released its semi-annual report on reviews of the university’s academic units and programs. The reviews, on the whole, show that students continue to perform at a very high level, though there remains a shortfall of career opportunities for undergraduates.
The extensive body of scholarly work produced by the university’s faculty was also among the reviewers’ positive comments. Areas of concern that reviewers recognized consisted of a lack of strategic planning of curriculum and an absence of support for research and experiential learning. Also noted were graduate student time-to-completion rates, which have been improving, yet “require continued support.”
Academic programs and units are reviewed every eight years, in accordance with the university’s policy for approval and review of academic programs and units as well as the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance.
According to Sioban Nelson, Vice-Provost Faculty and Academic Life, these reviews are key in assessing the strengths of a program and addressing areas of concern. Nelson emphasized that the process is meant to be thorough and positive. She said that reviews are neither about papering over issues nor trying to hide problems. “It’s meant to bring your colleagues in and to say, ‘We’ve got problems.’”
The AP&P also released its follow-up review of three programs and two faculties that warranted a report after initial auditing: two programs within the Faculty of Arts & Science, the Faculty of Forestry, the Ontario Institute of Secondary Education (OISE), and the Health Studies program at UTSC.
One-year follow-up reports are requested when programs with particular concerns — such as financial health, long-term sustainability, and faculty support — require a longer period of response.
The AP&P reports were reviewed by the Academic Board on Thursday, November 23 and will be finalized by the Governing Council on December 14, 2017.
Faculty of Arts & Science: East Asian Studies and Ethics, Society, and Law
With concerns over the Department of East Asian Studies’ curriculum and financial health, the AP&P requested a one-year follow-up report to detail the department’s method of addressing their concerns.
Curricula for the department’s programs have been taken under review to streamline its undergraduate program with the assessment of pre-requisite standards and enrolment controls. The financial health concerns within the program were met with additional half-course equivalents, four of which were approved for immediate action, as well as funds for non-teaching discretionary resources — funds for conferences, invited speakers, and graduate travel, among other initiatives. In addition, funds were committed to the renovation of the department’s office spaces.
The AP&P also requested a follow-up report from the Ethics, Society, and Law undergraduate program addressing the issues of long-term sustainability of the program and support for sessional instructors.
In the follow-up, Dean and Professor of Political Science David Cameron affirms the program’s viability — applicant numbers are usually around 500, while the program only admits 75–80 students per year. Furthermore, the program has cut down on the number of sessional instructors for first-year courses, guaranteeing they will be taught by tenured professors, while third- and fourth-year optional courses have a higher proportion of sessional instructors.
Faculty of Forestry
AP&P reviewers of the Faculty of Forestry had three specific concerns: the hiring of more faculty, the undergraduate program, and the relationship between the Faculty of Forestry and the Faculty of Arts & Science.
After Professor Glen Jones was appointed the new Dean of OISE in July 2016, emphasis was placed on the next five years of the institute’s future with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and OISE’s structural deficit.
Following a review of the initial OISE academic plan, a one-year follow-up report was requested by the AP&P. The follow-up report stressed the need to engage in novel academic planning that would prioritize the right issues for the next round of the program’s development.
UTSC: Health Studies
The review of the UTSC undergraduate program in Health Studies provided two areas in which the program could improve: strengthening of leadership within the program as it undergoes restructuring, and addressing how Health Studies can fall under both a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. The reviewers claimed that the unique program structure produces “false binaries” between pathways of biological science and social science.
William Gough, Vice-Principal Academic and Dean of Environmental Science, addressed the reviewers’ suggestions in his follow-up letter to Nelson.
The administration worked to address the first concern about leadership in the formation of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society (ICHS) as an extra departmental unit. The ICHS would be the foundation for the Health Studies program, so that it could develop into a stronger program, providing the programs with funding and facilitating the “cross-pollination” of Health Studies with other programs at UTSC.
The concern about the binary nature of the program as both BA and BSc was refuted by the administration. Gough explained that both degrees being part of the program is crucial to its nature, as its required courses tend to take a multidisciplinary approach toward the content.