New council having positive impact
Changes in the governance structure at Memorial will channel new resources to academic and administrative units. The new Vice-Presidents' Council (VPC) is responsible for aligning budget, operations and policy with the university's mandate and its strategic priorities. This includes decision making on how to invest incremental resources and reallocate existing resources most effectively.
Replacing the former Senior Executive Committee, the VPC is intended to be responsive to the diverse operational needs of Memorial and enable greater co-ordination and collaboration among vice-presidential portfolios. The vice-president portfolios include Grenfell Campus, Research, Finance and Administration, Marine Institute and Academic.
Dr. David Wardlaw, Memorial's provost and vice-president (academic), chairs the VPC. He said the council is already having a positive impact on the university.
"The VPC allows integrated pan-university planning and the establishment of inter-campus cohesion and synergies," said Dr. Wardlaw. "It's just fabulous. It's going to make a huge, positive difference on how the place operates."
Among the council's responsibilities is overseeing a majority of the university's budgeting. And while most of the spending is operational, the VPC does administer an envelope of discretionary funds.
"There are different pots of money available on campus through our own reallocation of resources and from government allocations," said Dr. Wardlaw.
"The VPC is the body that is managing the flow through of that money, ultimately making wise investments in the university to advance Memorial. That's the big picture. The group is making budget decisions that enable programs, projects and operations that align with our strategic priorities and our mission at the university."
Memorial continues to be one of the best funded universities in the country and Dr. Wardlaw emphasized that spending decisions today will impact the university for years to come.
"The university has been fortunate to receive incremental investments from the provincial government for a sustained period," he said. "This is terrific. My personal philosophy is when you are short of money, you really think very, very carefully about how you spend it. When you have a lot of money, it is easy to get careless. Well, we can't afford to become careless.
"We must invest incredibly carefully and wisely, because it's going to affect us for years and years to come. In terms of the budget, that's a major focus for VPC."
One of those sources of funding is the grant in lieu of tuition provided by the provincial government. That comes annually to the university and the council determines where that funding is directed.
At its meeting in July, the council allocated about half of this funding. Announcements on these allocations are expected in the coming weeks.
Funding from the various vice-presidents' annual budgets can be used to co-fund strategic and academic priorities, thus leveraging the grant in lieu of tuition fund and enhancing its impact.
"We're often finding solutions by funding from multiples sources through partnerships and agreements and collaboration," he said, adding these collaborations could include funding from agencies such as the provincial Research and Development Corporation or the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.
Priorities are directed by the university's strategic plan. There are also the Teaching and Learning Framework and the Research Framework and the emerging Engagement Framework that will direct funding priorities.
"Those are three frameworks that we have to implement so we'll look at funding allocations as we go through the next year – funding allocations that will allow those frameworks to come to life."
Structural evolution puts Memorial at the forefront of student success
Among the recent structural changes approved by the Board of Regents was the creation of the new position of deputy provost (students) and associate vice-president (academic) undergraduate studies.
This move creates an innovative organizational model at Memorial University to support graduate and undergraduate students, said Dr. Robert Shea, who was serving as acting dean of Student Affairs and Services pro tempore and will sit in the new role pro tempore while a national search is undertaken.
"This will allow us to work with our colleagues in all units and portfolios across the university to enhance the continuum of services to students, and to improve student academic success and student engagement in their studies," he said.
The concept of student and academic success is the key, according to Dr. Shea.
"Students learn both inside and outside the classroom, and success takes place both inside and outside the classroom," he said. "This new model will allow us to look at student engagement and student success as all-encompassing."
Recent studies support the direction that these changes will steer the institution.
"There is an AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada) report that talks about how we need to pay more attention to undergraduate studies," said Dr. Shea. "And this new structure will do just that, focusing on student learning and how we can best position all our students for success."
The previous departments of Student Affairs and Services, including Student Health; Student Housing and Food Services; Career Development, Experiential and Service Learning; Counselling; Blundon Centre; International Student Advising; Student Success Programs; Scholarships and Awards; and the Aboriginal Resource Office, will report to the new position.
Some of the academic support units reporting to the portfolio of provost and vice-president (academic) will report to the new deputy-provost and associate vice-president position based on fit with the mandate of the unit.
The level of resources provided for operation of each of the units reporting to the new position will be maintained under the restructuring.
"This is a work in progress," said Dr. Shea. "We have had and are currently engaged in discussions with undergraduate and graduate student leaders as we assess this transition."