Policy on the Establishment of Research Centres and Institutes

Approved April 14, 2020

A list of institutional and faculty-based research centres and institutes can be found on the Research website.


Research Centres and Institutes (RCIs) are often the structural outcome of teams of researchers who work collaboratively and/or across disciplines. They represent central indicators of the research strengths and interdisciplinary collaborations that exist at a university. They frequently reach beyond the standard Department, School and Faculty structures that exist, and promote the sharing of methodologies, of knowledge, and of resources in ways that foster the development of innovative research programs, and by extension, the development of highly qualified students and personnel. RCIs have the capability to extend their reach beyond the university community – locally, nationally, and internationally.

Scope of this Policy

This Policy provides the criteria by which the Senate, on the advice of the Senate Advisory Research Committee (SARC), assesses applications for the establishment of RCIs and recommends them, if endorsed, to the Board of Trustees for establishment. The Policy also provides the criteria for Senate review and renewal of RCIs, and provides guidance on dissolution.

There are a number of organized/collaborative entities in which Queen's faculty participate -- some bearing the title of Centre, Institute or Group, which are designated as such by bodies external to the University. There are also a number of resource and service centres at Queen's which bear such titles. These entities are outside the scope of this policy.

Criteria for Assessment

RCIs at Queen’s have traditionally been categorized as University-based or Faculty-based. However, the relationships of a RCI to other units are far more complex than this simple dichotomy. RCIs differ widely in terms of how many relationships they have to other units and how wide-reaching those relationships are across institutions and among other partners nationally and internationally.

A newly forming RCI, or an RCI that is coming to its natural end, may benefit from close relationships to existing university structures; conversely, large scope RCIs may have funding, legal or constitutional reasons for not being tied to such structures. The number of linkages that a RCI has with other units across the university or outside of the university may bear on the scope of its research agenda, and have implications for its degree of interdisciplinarity, internationalization, and impact. The organization of the RCI should align with the strength of the research and of the researchers at the national and international level, and with their current research activities and aspirational goals.

To guide SARC in its assessment of initial applications, and subsequent renewals, the Senate endorses the following as the overarching criteria by which RCIs shall be assessed:

  • Alignment with the Queen’s Strategic Research Plan
  • Research Excellence
  • Evidence of Collaboration
  • Training and Development of Highly Qualified Personnel
  • Knowledge Mobilization Activity

Application of this Policy and Associated Procedures

Senate exercises its role of academic oversight and governance through the establishment of the overarching criteria on how applications and renewals of RCIs are assessed. All initial RCI applications, and subsequent renewals will follow procedural steps under the Procedure for the Establishment, Categorization, Renewal and Dissolution of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure A) and the Procedure for the Administration of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure B). These two procedures will help to ensure that the centres and institutes are appropriately governed and supported throughout their lifecycle.

The Procedure for the Establishment, Categorization, Renewal and Dissolution of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure A) provides guidelines for SARC to recommend establishment, and renewal, of RCIs within one of three categories: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Group. The categorization will guide the governance, oversight and administrative requirements of an RCI, with Tier 1 representing the areas of highest strategic importance to the university research mission. Other factors guiding the categorization may include, but are not limited to: maturity of research program, depth and breadth of research expertise, demonstration of research excellence and impact, knowledge mobilization and partnership activity, and impact on the training and development of highly qualified personnel. A list of criteria will be maintained by SARC as a part of Procedure A to inform their decision-making; the list will be reviewed by SARC periodically, and at a minimum every five years, and updated as appropriate. Established RCIs will be required to inform Senate, via SARC, on progress and will be assessed periodically to monitor alignment with established criteria, as outlined in Procedure A.

The Procedure on the Administration of Research Centre and Institutes (Procedure B) guides the administration of RCIs. Procedure B is established under the Administrative Policies process, and will provide direction on administrative, oversight and risk management activities, including budget and financial planning, staffing, physical space requirements and the responsibilities of the Faculties, the Vice-Principal (Research), Provost and other administrative units. It also provides direction for those RCIs wishing to develop other more formalized structures including the offering of credit courses and degree programs. It has been recognized that an RCI that wishes to evolve to this level will require an enhanced approval process, to ensure that other established policies, including those governing program development and approval and the recruitment of faculty, are followed. Procedure B provides guidance on the development of an Operational Plan, required as part of the formal application to SARC for establishment.

Related Policies, Procedures and Guidelines

Procedure for the Establishment, Categorization, Renewal and Dissolution of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure A)

Procedure on the Administration of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure B) - View the Procedure in the "Policy, Procedures, Forms, and Templates" section