Program prioritization reports have now been released at York University (Nov. 13) and Wilfrid Laurier University (Nov. 28). Faculty at both institutions are preparing to push back against recommendations that violate the principles of good academic governance and the quality of education.
At York, faculty in the the Faculty of Environmental Studies and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies both passed motions to cancel the Academic and Administrative Program Review (AAPR) as the basis for any future academic planning. These motions are the first of many to come. Faculty at Laurier are analyzing the results of the Integrated Planning and Resource Management (IPRM) process before charting their next steps.
Program prioritization can take many forms, but typically involves ranking all academic and non-academic programs at a university against one another. It is often used as a pretext for program cuts or closures. Many universities in Ontario – including York and Laurier – have received funding from the provincial government to undertake prioritization as part of their broader differentiation agenda. Unwilling to increase stagnant public funding of universities, the government is encouraging institutions to “specialize” and “focus on their strengths.” Program prioritization is the campus-side part of this process, guided by Strategic Mandate Agreements signed with the province.
Since prioritization processes began to appear at Ontario universities, OCUFA has criticized these initiatives as divisive, based on a flawed methodology, and as a means to subvert normal academic governance. We are not along, either. Students and some administrators have also been critical. Leo Groarke, President of Trent University, wrote an article for OCUFA’s Academic Matters magazine questioning the logic and utility of program prioritization.
OCUFA is busy providing support to member faculty associations grappling with program prioritization. We host a regular information-sharing conference call, and provide targeted research and communications advice. We will continue to work with our members to preserve academic integrity and quality at every Ontario university.