Principalship Review and Search Policy

Approval: Board of Trustees

Responsibility: University Secretary

Date: Approved March 4, 2022

Purpose/Reason for Policy:

The purpose of the policy is to set out the principles and procedures to be followed when conducting a review of the university’s principalship or a search for a new principal of the university.

Scope of this Policy:

This policy applies to formal reviews of the principalship of the university and to formal searches for a new principal.

Policy Statement:

Pursuant to Queen’s University’s Royal Charter, the Board of Trustees is vested with the authority to appoint the university’s principal.

The Principal shall ordinarily serve a term of five years, renewable for one term.  The Principal shall advise the Board chair on whether or not they desire to seek a second term no later than 18 months prior to the end of their first term.  In extraordinary circumstances, the Board may consider further extension beyond the end of the incumbent’s second term.  In this case any consideration shall be on the initiative of the Board.

The establishment of a Joint Board/Senate Principalship Review Committee, or Joint Board/Senate Principalship Search Committee to conduct a review of the principalship, or search for a principal, as the case may be, is based on The Purpose and Functions of Senate document, which is a document jointly approved by the Board of Trustees and the Senate. Function 12 of this document provides that the Senate will “share with the Board of Trustees the responsibility for the selection of the Principal through a committee composed equally of members of the Senate and the Board.”  

While the process of selection is a shared one, the responsibility for the appointment continues to rest solely with the Board of Trustees.  Hence, the Search Committee is obligated to present more than one suitable candidate to the Board for its consideration.  The recommendation regarding the final candidates is to be kept confidential and the final choice regarding appointment shall be made by the Board.

Committee Composition

The current Purpose and Functions of Senate document requires that the Joint Review and Joint Search committees be composed equally of members of the Board and members of the Senate. In addition, the Chancellor shall be an additional member who shall be charged with chairing both committees.  The chair shall be the committee’s official, and only, spokesperson and will provide the Board and the university community with updates as appropriate on the review/search process.

Where a Joint Review Committee has been struck and the sitting principal is not renewed for another or extended term, for whatever reason, that Committee shall normally become the Joint Search Committee provided the members have agreed to extend their individual commitments to serve.  Any departures from the Joint Search Committee at this time shall be filled by the Board or the Senate, as the case may be.  Thereafter substitutions will not normally take place and subsequent resignations will not be replaced.
In the interests of confidentiality and the continuity of membership, members of the Review or Search Committee whose terms on the Board or Senate naturally conclude prior to the Committee completing its mandate shall continue on the Committee for the duration of its work.

The composition of both the Joint Review and Joint Search Committee shall be as follows:

  • Chancellor, ex officio and non-voting except in the case of a tie
  • Trustees:
    • Chair of the Board
    • Rector
    • Four Trustees selected from the Board appointed and/or Council elected Trustees, who shall demonstrate a diversity of skills, background, and personal attributes that ensure appropriate balance to each on the committees
  • Senators:
    • A dean
    • One student senator
    • Four other senators, which shall include at least one faculty senator and one staff senator, who shall demonstrate a diversity of background and personal attributes with due consideration for balanced perspectives across the university, including a diversity of academic disciplines
  • University Secretary, ex officio and non-voting, who shall ensure the appointment of a recording secretary and shall provide executive support to the work of the committee
  • AVP (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion), ex officio and non-voting, who shall be an advisor to the Committee and whose role is to provide guidance, education, and training on unconscious bias and equity in senior university searches, and administer all aspects of the equity hiring process, including confidential collection and analysis of equity group representation data as the committee’s employment equity representative
  • AVP (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), ex officio and non-voting, who shall be an advisor to the Committee and whose role is to provide guidance, education, and training to the Committee on cultural safety, unconscious bias as it relates to Indigenous matters as they concern senior university searches

The Committee Chair shall have the power to include any additional non-voting advisors deemed necessary to meet the skill set required for the work in question.

It is desirable to ensure that representation from both the undergraduate and graduate/ professional student bodies be included on the Committees.

Particular attention shall be paid to soliciting and ensuring representation from equity-deserving groups among both Board and Senate appointees.

Committee members shall be charged with considering the best interests of the university as a whole, shall not represent individual views and/or the preferences of any constituency, and shall remain unbiased throughout the review/search process.  Committee members should possess skills relevant and applicable to the mandate of the Review and Search Committees


During and following any review or search process, members of the Joint Review or Joint Search Committee shall maintain absolute confidentiality with respect to the committee’s deliberations as well as the names and personal information of any and all candidates involved in the process.  All committee members must sign a confidentiality undertaking.  Both the Review and Search Committees will be considered committees of the Board of Trustees for the purpose of the Board of Trustees’ Code of Conduct and that document shall apply to all members in respect of their service on the Committees.


Board of Trustees – The Board is responsible for careful and thoughtful consideration of the information and recommendation considering the principalship brought to it by the Joint Review or Joint Search Committee.  The Board is the ultimate decision-making authority with respect to the appointment, or reappointment, of a principal.

Joint Review Committee - The Joint Review Committee is advisory to the Board.  Its objective is to consider the present state and future development of the university and the principalship, with a view to bringing a consensus-based recommendation to the Board of Trustees respecting whether the Principal should be reappointed for an additional or extended term.

Joint Search Committee - The Joint Search Committee is advisory to the Board.  Its objective is to conduct a search process, in confidence, with a view to bringing a consensus-based recommendation regarding more than one suitable candidate for the position of principal to the Board of Trustees, as well as the rationale supporting the potential appointment of each, with the final choice to be made by the Board.

Contact Officer: University Secretary

Date for Next Review: May 2027

Related Policies, Procedures and Guidelines:

Policies Superseded by this Policy: N/A