University Secretariat and Legal Counsel

University Secretariat and Legal Counsel
University Secretariat and Legal Counsel

Report of the Enrolment Planning Task Force

January 18, 2000

Approved by Senate March 2, 2000

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Background
  3. Issues
  4. Consultative Process
    1. Faculty, Staff and Students
    2. Senate
    3. Deans and Senior Directors
    4. Board of Trustees
    5. Alumni
    6. City of Kingston
  5. Feedback
  6. Areas of Concern
  7. Recommendations of the Enrolment Planning Task Force
    1. Long-Term Growth
    2. The Double Cohort
  8. Next Steps

1. Overview

Over the next decade a combination of factors will lead to a dramatic increase in the demand for university education in Ontario – an increase as large as 40% or 89,000 students. The accommodation of this demand will be equivalent to adding six new universities the size of Queen's.

Deciding how to respond to this increased demand will be one of the greatest challenges facing Queen's in the near future. The University's response must allow Queen's both to fulfill its responsibilities to society and to further its mission and preserve its essential character. In particular, Queen's ability to carry out its mission, as articulated in the Report on Principles and Priorities (1996), must be considered as central to the question of whether the University should or should not increase enrolments.

As many within the University community are aware, the 1990s have been a period of fiscal constraint and reduction in resources allocated to Universities from the Province. Ontario now ranks last among the ten Canadian provinces in terms of provincial funding per capita for university education. Furthermore, of the medical-doctoral category of universities as defined by Maclean's magazine in its annual university rankings, Queen's has one of the smallest budgets. Clearly, the University is stretched in terms of the resources available to provide the quality of the broader learning environment, on which it has made its reputation, to its faculty and students.

After broad consultation with the University community, the Enrolment Planning Task Force considers that Queen's should act on the opportunities presented by fully-funded enrolment growth but that growth be managed in a cautious and thoughtful way. If the resources are sufficient to allow us to meet some very strict criteria, staged enrolment growth in selected programs to a new steady state enrolment level of 17,000 full-time graduate and undergraduate students, from the current enrolment of 14,217 full-time graduate and undergraduate students1, should be undertaken over the next decade. This would allow the University to take advantage of opportunities to hire additional full-time faculty and staff, to renew the physical infrastructure of the university and to improve the broader learning environment for research and teaching. In many ways, this development may provide a long overdue opportunity to reinforce Queen's position as Canada's leading research-intensive, residential university.

2. Background

The Enrolment Planning Task Force was established in February, 1999 to review the University's long-term enrolment goals. The Task Force was asked to explore the implications of anticipated increases in university-bound students through demographics and increased participation rates, and the further impact of the potential double cohort resulting from secondary school curriculum reform2, and, in this context, to make recommendations to the governing bodies at Queen's as to how the University should respond. David H. Turpin, Vice-Principal (Academic), chairs the Task Force; Andrejs Skaburskis, School of Urban and Regional Planning and member of the Senate Committee on Academic Development, serves as vice-chair. The full membership of the Task Force is as follows:

  • Tom Anger, School of Business
  • Rob Beamish, Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Jo-Anne Bechthold, University Registrar
  • Bob Burge, Senate Budget Review Committee
  • Sarah Corman, Alma Mater Society
  • Bob Crawford, Dean of Student Affairs
  • George Hutson, Office of the Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance)
  • Jane Knox, Finance Committee, Board of Trustees (until July, 1999)
  • Elaine McDougall, Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic), Secretary
  • Andrejs Skaburskis, Senate Committee on Academic Development, Vice-Chair
  • Thomas Thayer, Resources Planning
  • David H. Turpin, Vice-Principal (Academic), Chair

This Report reviews the work of the Task Force and highlights areas of concern and makes specific recommendations based on the feedback received from the community.

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3. Issues

The Task Force prepared a Discussion Paper which was released to the community on September 27, 1999. The Discussion Paper attempted to provide balanced coverage of the issues and a historical context for enrolment planning at Queen's and sought input from the broader community on the issues that should be dealt with before Queen's could consider altering its current enrolment policies. As background material, the Discussion Paper provided an overview of the predicted enrolment forecasts for Ontario universities over the next decade; historic enrolment and budget information for Queen's, and further information on resources issues facing Queen's along with a discussion of the Queen's learning environment3. In describing the context for the discussion, the Task Force noted in the introduction to the Discussion Paper, that:

Over the years, enrolment planning at Queen's has been taken very seriously and the decisions made have had a profound impact on the quality and the nature of our institution. These decisions have led Queen's to grow over the last twenty years at half the rate of the Ontario university system as a whole, resulting in an enrolment of 13, 641 full-time graduate and undergraduate students at Queen's in 1998-99.

In the coming years a dramatic increase in the number of students seeking admission to Ontario universities is predicted. This increase will result both from projected growth in the population of 18- to 24-year olds and from projected increased rates of participation in university education. In addition, Ontario secondary school reforms which affect those students enrolling in Grade IX this September (1999) will result in a "double cohort" of university applicants scheduled to graduate from secondary school in 2003.

The nature of our response to the double cohort must be governed by our long-term enrolment plans.

In the Discussion Paper, the Task Force summarized the issues facing Queen's as follows:

If resources from the Province are sufficient to fund increased enrolment, a number of opportunities may present themselves. These could include the hiring of additional faculty to reinforce key areas of strength in teaching and research, and additional resources for library acquisitions and other improvements in the quality of the learning environment at Queen's. On the other hand, increases in enrolment may affect the very character of Queen's and some of its defining strengths. These factors may outweigh potential benefits to the institution which fully funded enrolment growth may appear to hold.

Although the Province has yet to provide firm indication as to what additional funding may be available to support enrolment growth, the Enrolment Planning Task Force requests input from the community on enrolment planning at Queen's so that we will be able to make an informed response when the Province's intentions are made clear.

The Task Force stressed that the discussion must be viewed as contingency planning until the Province indicates what additional resources for both operating and capital grants, if any, may be available to fund the projected increases in enrolment, and that Queen's could not commit to a plan of action until the Provincial funding formula is made clear. In addition, the Task Force emphasized that three principles had guided Queen's enrolment planning in the past and should continue to do so in the future:

  1. the need to maintain quality (of faculty, students and the broader learning environment),
  2. selectivity in decision making (enrolment plans should be made on a Faculty- or program-specific basis)
  3. the need for a long-term perspective in enrolment decisions.

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4. Consultative Process

The Enrolment Planning Task Force has consulted with community constituents in a variety of ways.

  1. Faculty, Staff and Students

    The Enrolment Planning Task Force Discussion Paper was released to the Queen’s Community as an insert in the September 27, 1999 edition of the Gazette. A front-page article referring to the discussion paper also appeared in the same edition of the Gazette. Additional copies of the Discussion Paper were available from the Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic) and the Alma Mater Society.

    A half-page advertisement in the September 28, 1999 edition of the Journal encourage comments on the issues from students and indicated that the paper had been distributed through the Gazette, the website and the AMS Office. In addition, Vice-Principal Turpin addressed the AMS Assembly and the AMS Executive and further encourage comments from students.

    Members of the Queen’s community were invited to make their thoughts and comments on enrolment planning at Queen’s known to any member of the Enrolment Planning Task Force, either directly or through an e-mail listserv ( created for this purpose and forwarded to all members of the Task Force. Responses from the community were requested by October 29, 1999.

  2. Senate

    Senate establishes enrolment goals and objectives and the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD) reviews these annually within the framework of the University’s priorities and circumstances. SCAD then recommends specific annual intake targets for approval by Senate. These targets have traditionally focussed primarily on the size of the first-year undergraduate class required to achieve the total enrolment goals for each degree program and Faculty or School. The Enrolment Planning Task Force has strong links to SCAD through its Chair and Vice-Chair, who are both members of SCAD.

    Enrolment planning issues have been discussed at a total of ten SCAD meetings since September, 1998. At the September 23, 1999 Senate Meeting, Vice-Principal Turpin spoke about the enrolment discussions that would take place this year and urged Senators to read the full Discussion Paper and to consult with colleagues about these issues.

    At the September 29, 1999 SCAD Meeting, Vice-Principal Turpin provided an outline of the complex enrolment issues facing the Ontario university system over the next decade with regard to increasing demand for university education, projected growth in the 18- to 24-year old cohort and high school reform. As the Committee which recommends enrolment targets to Senate, SCAD plays an important role in the University’s enrolment planning process. In order to reflect on the issues raised in the Enrolment Planning Task Force Discussion Paper and to communicate its comments to the Task Force, SCAD devoted a significant portion of its October 27, 1999 meeting to a detailed discussion of the issues raised in the Discussion Paper.

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  3. Deans and Senior Directors

    Faculties and Schools at Queen’s set annual individual degree-program enrolment goals (which must be approved by Senate). Deans play a key role in the establishment of short-term enrolment targets within the framework established by Senate.

    In June, 1999 Deans were apprised of the issues that the Task Force would identify in its discussion paper. As part of the information gathering and contingency planning process, the Deans were asked by the Vice-Principal (Academic), and Chair of the Enrolment Planning Task Force, to consider the implications of the projected growth in university applications for their units and to prepare a unit report which was provided to the Enrolment Planning Task Force on the implications of growth which addressed the following:

    1. Identification of any departments/schools/programs which could, with appropriate resources, enhance the quality of their students and programs by increasing enrolment. For each of these, indicating:
      1. how the resulting increase in faculty complement could help reinforce research, scholarship and graduate education particularly in areas of existing strength or of importance for future development;
      2. what the resulting balance between graduate students and undergraduate students would be and how this would influence our commitment to undergraduate and graduate education and research quality;
      3. the availability of new faculty members in these areas;
      4. the availability of qualified graduate and undergraduate students in these areas;
      5. the extent to which enrolment should respond to applicant demand;
      6. what modifications to present admission and enrolment management procedures (i.e., direct admission to degree programs, majors, course caps etc.) may be required;
      7. the incremental costs in i) holding constant the current student to faculty ratios and ii) decreasing the current student to faculty ratios by 10% with respect to any projected increases in enrolment levels;
      8. how other Faculties would be affected by any projected change in enrolment levels in these programs;
      9. how support areas such as the library, ITS, etc. would be affected; and
      10. the physical resources required.
    2. Identification of the most appropriate planning range (10%, 20% or 30%) among various identified growth scenarios.
    3. Identification of programs which may be best served by remaining at the current enrolment levels (or by decreasing enrolment) but which can project earning increased revenue for quality enhancement through increased fees. The implications for student financial aid were also indicated.

    Similarly, all senior Directors of academic support units were asked to indicate the costs of enrolment growth by 10%, 20% and 30% (these would be estimates only since growth in certain disciplines may affect certain services differently) and the staff required for improving the quality of the broader learning environment.

    In the September, 1999, the Vice-Principal (Academic) held the annual retreat for Deans and senior Directors and the afternoon of this session was devoted to a discussion of the reports submitted in response to the above.

    Deans continue to be involved in this process through monthly discussions at the Vice-Principal (Academic)/Deans meetings.

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  4. The Board of Trustees

    At the October 1-2, 1999 meeting, the Board of Trustees discussed the issues outlined in the Discussion Paper at the theme session "Enrolment at Queen’s: Future Developments and Implications". Vice-Principal Turpin provided an overview of the issues (the Discussion Paper had been distributed with the agenda package for the meeting) and asked the members of the Board to identify key issues and questions which the University must consider in determining the "right size" for Queen’s University. After the presentation, Board members were assigned to break-out groups (each moderated by a Dean). When the groups reported after their individual discussions, Donna Finley acted as facilitator and summarized the results for the Board.

    At the December 3, 1999 meeting of the Board, the Finance Committee was provided with an update on the activities of the Task Force by Mr. T. Thayer, a member of the Task Force.

  5. Alumni

    Copies of the Discussion Paper were sent to Mr. Robert Owen, President of the Queen’s Alumni Association by the Vice-Principal Turpin, with a request for comments. In addition, an article on enrolment planning and the Task Force appeared in the November/December issue of the Queen’s Alumni Review. Comments from alumni on the issues outlined in the Discussion Paper were encouraged. The article provided the website address for the Discussion Paper and also indicated that copies were available from the Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic).

  6. The City of Kingston

    Copies of the Discussion Paper were sent to Mayor Gary Bennett, Mr. William Giguere (President, Kingston Chamber of Commerce) and Mr. Steve Kelly, (President, Kingston Area Economic Development Corporation) by Principal Leggett, with a request for comments.

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5. Feedback

The Task Force received input from the above groups as well as nineteen specific responses to the issues raised in the Discussion Paper. Fifteen of those were from individuals (faculty and staff) and four represented groups (the Aboriginal Council of Queen's, the AMS President's Caucus, the Law Students' Society, and the Queen's University Staff Association). In addition to the feedback solicited through responses to the Enrolment Planning Task Force Discussion Paper, the Task Force received feedback from the Board of Trustees, SCAD and Deans and individual directors. The feedback was helpful and constructive and highlighted some common areas of concern as well as reinforcing the need for the University to continue to be guided by the principles of quality, selectivity and long-term thinking in its enrolment planning processes.

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6. Areas of Concern

As indicated above, common themes emerged in the feedback received by the Task Force. The feedback received supported the three general principles articulated by the Task Force:

  1. the need to maintain quality (of faculty, students and the broader learning environment),
  2. selectivity in decision-making (enrolment plans should be made on a Faculty- or program-specific basis)
  3. the need for a long-term perspective in enrolment decisions.

Specific comments included:

Maintaining and Enhancing the Quality of the Learning Environment

Considerable concern was voiced about the erosion of the student-to-faculty ratio since the late 1980s, as the number of full-time faculty has declined by almost 80 positions while the full-time enrolment has increased by over 1200 students during the same period. Class sizes have correspondingly increased. If Queen's is to maintain or improve the quality of the Queen's experience and continue to attract top faculty and students these trends cannot continue. To the extent that resources for enrolment growth contributed to decreasing the student-to-faculty ratio, growth could be positive. Consideration was also given to how to improve the quality of the classroom experience and the extra-curricular learning environment.

Economies of Scale

A major source of concern is that Queen's, as one of the smallest medical/doctoral institutions in Canada, may be too small to achieve its aspirations. To this end, limited growth which would allow for the hiring of additional faculty to enhance critical mass, an increase in library acquisitions, and enhanced support for research and learning infrastructures, could be positive.

Quality of Faculty

Queen's, with every other Canadian university, is entering a newly competitive environment for top faculty. Some Faculties are already experiencing difficulties in faculty recruitment and retention. Feedback highlighted the effect of enrolment levels on the teaching and research environments (including issues of critical mass and library acquisitions) and the need to provide an environment that will attract the best new scholars would be important if growth were to proceed.

Quality of Students

Queen's prides itself on selecting its students from among the academically most qualified in the country. This strength must not be lost. All things remaining equal, any growth must occur at a rate less than the system average to maintain this advantage.

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Admissions and Accessibility

Concerns were expressed that enrolment pressures would lead to a more competitive admissions environment that together with higher levels of tuition fees could potentially reduce the diversity of the student body at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Any move to increase enrolment must be coupled with increased student financial assistance so that accessibility is maintained or enhanced. Queen's must also continue to use the Senate-mandated personal information forms as an important consideration in admission.


Feedback indicated that growth should only be considered in selective areas and programs of strategic importance to Faculties. Respondents also noted that the University must consider its enrolment decisions in light of the demands and needs of society, balanced with its obligations to its internal community. Issues such as program demand, student supply, and practicum placements must be considered in enrolment plans on a Faculty-by-Faculty basis.

Physical Capacity

The Province has already asked Ontario universities to make submissions for the "Super Build Growth Fund" which is designed to make one-time funding available for capital investment to support the anticipated increases in enrolments. Queen's has made a submission but has indicated that any potential capacity increases included in the proposal will only be exercised if sufficient base operating funds are provided. An announcement on operating funding has not yet been made by the Government. Any enrolment increase would have to be matched with appropriate investment in the physical fabric of the University.

On- and Off-Campus Housing for Students

The campus residence system is currently operating at capacity, and as a residential university it is important that Queen's continue to be able to offer first-year students a guaranteed residence room. Growth would require additional residence space. The off-campus housing market is currently tight and beds will need to be made available for graduate and upper-year students, either directly through Queen's or through the private sector.

Town-Gown Relations

Some respondents expressed concern that if University enrolment expands, the potential exists for deterioration in relations between the University and City of Kingston residents. Clearly, our relationship with the City is important and any growth in enrolment would involve a need to be sensitive to any concerns expressed by the City and its residents.

Double Cohort/Long-Term Planning

Feedback supported the view that the University has an obligation to contribute to the solution of the problems raised by the "double cohort". The University's response will inevitably be shaped in part by the Government's policies but also must reflect our own priorities and our long-term enrolment plans. The unique nature of Queen's as a research-intensive, residential university must also be reflected in this decision, as Queen's would face difficulties in providing adequate temporary housing for students admitted as part of a transient increase in enrolments only.

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7. Recommendations of the Enrolment Planning Task Force

Queen's has succeeded in differentiating itself from every university in this country. We attract the best academically prepared students in Canada and provide them with a high quality education within a research-intensive residential environment. The residential nature of Queen's has allowed us to develop a broader learning environment which is second to none in Canada. At the same time our outstanding faculty are committed to the highest standards of research and scholarship and are recognized as amongst the best in their field. This commitment has allowed the University to achieve recognition as one of Canada's leading research-intensive institutions.

In planning any changes to enrolment policy at Queen's it is this unique combination of factors we must strive to protect. If our sole objective is to be a high-quality undergraduate institution there would be no compelling need to grow. Our aspirations, however, are much greater. They involve competing successfully at the highest level of national and international research and scholarship. In supporting research and scholarship, the size of the institution matters. The larger the institution, the greater the critical mass of scholars in particular areas and the greater the number of areas that can be developed and supported. The size of the institution also determines the annual expenditures that can be made to support library resources, information technology, and other elements of basic research infrastructure so important to our goals and objectives. Consequently, the challenge for Queen's is to balance the need to maintain what is best about the broader learning environment with our desires and aspirations for success in research and scholarship.

Enrolment growth in the Ontario system has presented us with a key challenge to protect and enhance the broader learning environment at Queen's and an opportunity to strengthen and support research and scholarship. The Enrolment Planning Task Force, following a review of all the input received, feels that in order to meet our aspirations and to continue to differentiate ourselves successfully, Queen's must grow. This must be done in a way that does not jeopardize the quality of the broader learning environment while at the same time allowing us to generate the additional resources necessary to compete nationally and internationally in research and scholarship.

As a result, we are recommending that there be significant enrolment growth but that it be done in a cautious and thoughtful way, provided the resources are sufficient to allow us to meet some very strict criteria.

Based on its analysis and the input received from the community, summarized above, the Enrolment Planning Task Force offers the following recommendations:

  1. Long-Term Growth

    If resources provided by the Province are sufficient to fund enrolment increases such that the quality of the broader learning environment can be improved, Queen’s should continue to grow from its current level of 14,217 full-time graduate and undergraduate students to a level not exceeding 17,000 full-time graduate and undergraduate students over the next ten years. This rate of growth is approximately 50% of the projected system average. This is also consistent with our historical patterns of growth over the past several decades. The long-term goal of having full-time graduate enrolments represent 20% of the total full-time enrolment should be maintained. The resources available to support this growth must, at a minimum, allow the following conditions to be met:

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    1. The funding must be sufficient to allow for a parallel investment in new tenure-track appointments resulting in a decrease in the student-to-faculty ratio and new continuing staff positions necessary to maintain or strengthen the quality of the broader learning environment.
    2. The funding must be sufficient to allow Deans and Department Heads to be able to focus hiring in areas of strategic importance and to attract outstanding faculty.
    3. The funding must be sufficient to allow enhancement of student quality and diversity.
    4. The funding must be sufficient to allow an increase in the level of student financial assistance so that aid available for new students is not compromised by enrolment growth.
    5. The funding must be sufficient to allow for adequate investment in the physical and information resources necessary to enhance the quality of the environment for research and teaching.

    In addition, the following conditions must also be met prior to any significant enrolment growth:

    1. Enrolment growth must be done selectively, in programs of strategic importance, with high demand and a large supply of qualified applicants.
    2. Appropriate new residence facilities must be constructed to maintain the residential nature of Queen’s.
    3. The University and student government must continue to work with students and city residents to ensure the continued improvement of town-gown relations.
    4. Support must be provided for the various aspects of the broader learning environment including athletics, student counselling, health services, and extra-curricular activities.
  2. The Double Cohort

    If the resources to fund enrolment growth are sufficient to meet the criteria outlined above, the University should use the double cohort as a vehicle to aid in the transition to a new steady-state enrolment level.

8. Next Steps

Upon approval of this report by Senate, the Enrolment Planning Task Force recommends the following actions:

  1. Annual enrolment targets should remain the responsibility of Senate acting on the recommendations of SCAD.
  2. The Dean of Student Affairs in conjunction with the Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) should begin planning for additional residence capacity. The fact that our residences are currently over-subscribed indicates that even if we don't grow, there is a need for additional residence space. This planning should begin immediately.
  3. The Deans will be asked to identify those areas where enrolment growth would be in the strategic interests of their faculty and the University. This process should involve consultation with their Faculty Boards and the Vice-Principal (Academic). This analysis should also include a detailed assessment of the reinvestment required to ensure the quality of programming is enhanced.
  4. The Vice-Principal (Academic) should prepare to respond to any government announcement on the funding of additional enrolment growth and the double cohort. The nature of this response will be governed by Queen's ability to meet the conditions outlined above.
  5. The Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) should begin detailed planning to determine the physical capacity issues which must be resolved to support enrolment growth.
  6. The Dean of Student Affairs should continue planning to ensure that enrolment growth does not erode the quality of the broader learning environment.

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1 November 1, 1999 Enrolment (Headcount) Report, Office of the University Registrar

2 In the fall of 1998, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to develop enrolment forecasts for Ontario universities. The resulting report indicates that a combination of factors will increase the demand for university enrolment in Ontario by 88,900 students (almost 40%) over the next ten years. The greatest increase in demand is expected to begin in 2002 when secondary school reforms in Ontario reducing the duration of high school from five years to four will cause a short-term increase in the number of high-school graduates. With the addition of this "double cohort", Ontario's universities will face the enrolment levels projected for 2010-11 five to six years early in 2004-05.

3 A copy of the Discussion Paper is in Appendix A