Changes at Memorial University since 2019

For almost 100 years, Memorial University and its predecessor, Memorial University College, has been changing the face of the province by improving the social, cultural and economic well-being of Newfoundland and Labrador. More than 66,000 of our 100,000 alumni live in this province. They are our teachers, doctors, artists, engineers, folklorists and entrepreneurs. Universities are proven pathways to prosperity—for individuals and communities. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians share a profound sense of attachment to Memorial University, the province’s university. We will work to uphold and guard that privilege and responsibility. 

The auditor general review of Memorial University covers the period of April 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2022. This was a time of significant challenges at the institution and in the world, including the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Since the audit period, there have been many changes within Memorial University focused on enhancing transparency and accountability. This document provides a high-level overview of those changes.  

A Renewed Focus on Governance and Oversight 

  • Memorial has welcomed 16 new Board of Regents members since July 2023. This included, for the first time, the introduction of “members of the teaching staff of the university or an affiliated college.”
  • Changes in Board of Regents committees. The new structure and updated terms of reference have been developed under the principles of a smaller, dynamic and more efficient board structure and in keeping with governance best practices. More information is available on the Board of Regents website
  • In September 2023 a revamped and expanded on-boarding program for new and returning members of the Board of Regents was introduced. This program will include ongoing professional development sessions to support regents in discharging their fiduciary duties.
  • A move to full-day board meetings will provide an opportunity for strategic sessions for regents to engage with university leaders around topics of special interest and of strategic importance. 
  • A recent Senate Governance Review recommended an annual joint meeting of Senate and the Board of Regents. Both bodies are now working to determine an appropriate time and format for that collaboration.

Strengthened Executive Leadership Decision-Making

  • Multiple changes in leadership at the executive level during the audit period, including two changes at the presidential level, in April 2020 and in April 2023. 
  • In 2023 Dr. Neil Bose was appointed president and vice-chancellor (pro tempore) for a two-year period. As part of his contract, performance objectives will be set in consultation with the chair of the Board of Regents. His performance will be reviewed according to the Presidential Assessment Policy and will include a 360, allowing all members of the university community and key constituents to provide feedback.  
  • The President’s Executive Council (PEC) has been established. As outlined in the terms of reference (approved Aug. 18, 2023), PEC is the senior administrative committee of the university. It is a decision-making body with responsibility for university operations and affairs, especially for matters that cross over vice-presidential portfolios. This replaces the President’s Advisory Team (PAT), which was an advisory group to the president. There is a significant difference between the advisory group, which advises a president, and the executive group, which acts as a decision-making body with the president.
  • A Senior Leadership Council (SLC) has been established. SLC is a consultative forum that builds and promotes a culture of information-sharing and collaboration across all campuses and units and provides leadership, expertise and advice on matters pertaining to the university’s strategic directions and priorities. This group of leaders had the first of its monthly meetings in September 2023.
  • Vice-presidential and dean searches are currently ongoing (as of Oct. 23, 2023), including the provost and vice-president (academic) and five dean searches. The vice-president, Grenfell Campus, and two deans, for the Faculty of Education and for the School of Science and the Environment at Grenfell Campus, were recently appointed. Three other dean searches are about to commence, as is the vice-president of the Marine Institute. 

A Commitment to Accountability and Transparency 

  • Creation and approval of Transforming Our Horizons, Memorial University’s strategic plan from 2021-26. This plan was developed through a highly participatory process, with more than 1,200 people participating. A scorecard of key performance indicators is monitored annually by the Board of Regents.
  • The institution has been reflecting and considering the topic of Indigenous identity and verification since the development and approval of the Strategic Framework for Indigenization. In recent months, it has been made clear that Memorial needs to be more responsive in this area. Working with independent external resources, in consultation with members of Indigenous communities, including students, Memorial is working to create a clear mechanism that will purposefully and respectfully verify Indigenous identity.
  • A new travel request approval process has been approved for Memorial’s president and vice-presidents. Travel requests for vice-presidents must be approved by the president and travel requests for the president must be approved by the chair of the Board of Regents.
  • Resources within the Department of Human Resources will be used to support executive searches, rather than the use of executive search firms. Use of executive search firms will require approval by the President’s Executive Council (PEC), based on recommendation of the specific search committee.
  • There has been an increased focus on policy development and renewal. Since December 2022 four policies have been approved by the Board of Regents. There are currently 13 policies in some stage of review process with several more coming through the pipeline. 
  • Memorial conducted a review of management salary scales (the Senior Administrative Management (SAM) salary scale) in 2019. This resulted in the creation of the Leadership Group salary scale, which aligns with the national public sector market. 
  • A review of executive compensation took place in 2022, the first review since 2005-06. This led to the creation of a revised salary scale that is aligned with salaries at comparable Canadian universities.
  • Memorial participates in a number of audits, accreditations and regulatory inspections and reports. For example, since December 2022 audits have included Memorial’s audited financial statements for March 31, 2023 (with an unqualified audit opinion), and a public procurement agency audit. Various accreditations have occurred, including the Faculty of Business Administration’s accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Faculty of Nursing's bachelor of science in nursing (collaborative) program accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is about to undergo its accreditation process. In addition, several regulatory inspections and reports related to health and safety and industrial controls audits related to facilities have taken place.
  • The Budget Office developed a more comprehensive monthly report for units and implementation that began in July 2023. 
  • Changes within Finance and Administrative Services to have a more robust focus on key financial issues at both the Board and executive level. 

Looking Ahead  

  • Memorial worked in partnership with Indigenous Peoples across Newfoundland and Labrador to develop the university’s first Strategic Framework for Indigenization, that the Board of Regents endorsed in March 2021. The framework sets out four strategic priorities: leadership and partnership; teaching and learning; research; and student success. The university continues to focus on building meaningful relationships with Indigenous Peoples and advancing indigenization and decolonization at Memorial. 
  • Memorial is in the early stages of developing a new Student Enrolment and Retention Plan that includes all campus locations and levels of study to support recruitment and retention enrolment objectives.
  • A research strategy for 2023-28 was approved at the October 2023 Board of Regents meeting that will be a guiding and aspirational document as Memorial continues to advance its research agenda, address the needs and opportunities of our province and align with important initiatives, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada calls to action and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Building on the initial Public Engagement Framework, which reached the end of its first phase in 2020, a new public engagement strategy is under development. Throughout fall 2023, the Office of Public Engagement is conducting broad consultations to inform strategy development.
  • Memorial’s first strategic plan focused on equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism (EDI-AR) is under development and is guided by meaningful consultation with students, faculty, staff and alumni.
  • Work has begun on a new budget model for the institution, with transparency at the core. This is particularly important in light of reductions to Memorial’s permanent operating grant budget over the last decade, the phasing out of the tuition offset grant and increases in student tuition. Between 2012-13 and 2021-22, Memorial managed more than $55.2 million in permanent operating grant budget reductions (general reduction and attrition). While managing the impact of these budget cuts, the university’s priority has been to protect the quality and integrity of programs, maintain Memorial’s special obligation to the province and ensure a continued high-quality student experience. During that same period, $37.3 million in cumulative tuition fee revenue offset grant funding was provided, as well as funding for collective agreement increases, targeted funding for strategic initiatives and other adjustments. In 2021 the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced a $68.4 million reduction over five years ($13.68 million per year for 2022-23 to 2027-28) for the tuition fee revenue offset grant.