Long-term plans for students and faculty were outlined in the first draft of the University of Alberta’s Institutional Strategic Plan (ISP). A town hall was held hours after the draft’s Monday morning release, where faculty and staff shared comments and concerns.
The ISP draft begins with a focus on diverse student recruitment, and lists objectives in attracting “top Indigenous students” and “well-qualified international students.”
President-elect and current Vice-President (Academic) of the Students’ Union Fahim Rahman said the first draft of the ISP has a lot of “great content for students,” such as of increasing student financial support, mental heath support, experiential learning opportunities and teaching quality. Rahman didn’t agree with the plan’s mention of “supporting teaching excellence in high-demand programs.” Instead, support should be offered to all programs, he said.
The first draft of the ISP included seven of the SU’s ten recommendations in January. Important points that weren’t included in the draft included the emphasis on cost of education, which the SU has been trying to mitigate with advocating for lower-cost resources, such as open educational resources. The draft also didn’t include a goal for improving consultation with students, which is important in determining residence meal plans and improving teaching quality, Rahman said.
The plan mentions francophone goals regarding French language accessibility and diverse student recruitment. It also includes a goal of implementing an equity process for faculties to include women, visible minorities, sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities and Indigenous peoples.
The ISP draft also outlines the need for a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Subsequent goals include increasing learning opportunities about reconciliation, constructing a building for Indigenous culture and evaluating the U of A’s reconciliation efforts on a regular basis.
Rahman hopes that the university will incorporate an annual evaluative method to make sure the ISP as a whole is correctly guiding the university over the next ten years, which would ensure resources are adequately used to achieve what the ISP aims to accomplish.
“Accountability is huge,” Rahman said. “I hope that we do check in, not just senior administration but the entire campus community, and see how progress is going from year to year.”
At Monday’s town hall, vice-provost and chief librarian Gerald Beasley brought up the absence of timelines in the ISP draft.
“There’s very little in it that wouldn’t be true for all times at the U of A,” Beasley said. “That’s a great thing but it creates the challenge of urgency and timeliness, and prioritization as well.”
Turpin said the ISP draft’s goal for “the next ten years” is what sets the time framework for the plan.
Jason Cobb from the Office of the Dean of Students said that though the plan focuses on recruiting students, but there should also be a focus on retention and student support.
“It’s not just about getting people in the door and getting them out of the door,” Cobb said. “It’s about supporting them while they’re here.”
Turpin responded that the draft’s intention was to reduce redundancy — while student retention isn’t as clearly stated as student recruitment, themes of student retention can be found throughout the plan, he said.
Overall, Turpin thought the first draft of the ISP reception was positive.
“University presidents often joke that there are two kinds of institutional strategic plans,” Turpin said.
“There are those that disappoint and those that enrage. From what I’ve heard, people are pretty positive about what they’re seen and there hasn’t been any over-anger.”