Internal Academic Review Committee

Report on the Review of the Department of Political Studies

The Department of Political Studies is cited for its outstanding record of scholarly accomplishment and service to Queen's and the country and is recognized for its contribution to the reputation of the University. However, the reports of the External Consultants and the Review Team, along with responses from the Department Head, the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research, all describe a department at a critical juncture in its history. Most of those involved in the review process felt the sense of malaise and perceived a department in crisis. A variety of recommendations, aimed at revitalizing the reputation and improving the overall situation in the Department, were made in the reports.

Although a reduction in resources, especially in the faculty complement, was identified by the reviewers as a major cause of the problems in the Department, the IARC noted that in relative terms, this department has not suffered any greater losses than other departments in the University during the recent era of budget cuts and financial constraints. The reviewers recommended and the IARC agreed that the development of a focused, powerful and proactive Strategic Planning document setting its priorities and objectives was a pressing goal for the Department. Furthermore, such a document ought to address a number of areas of concern including the undergraduate curriculum, graduate studies, research issues, faculty hiring and the association of the Department with related departments, schools, institutes and centres. It is encouraging to note that the Department has since completed its Strategic Plan.

Recognizing the strong commitment to teaching and a standard of excellence in the delivery of the undergraduate program, it was nevertheless noted, and the IARC concurs, that a comprehensive curriculum review should be undertaken at this time. Although the Department continues to advertise an extensive curriculum in the Faculty Calendar, many of the courses listed are apparently not available in any given year. This problem is not unique to this Department and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science has recently asked all units heads to purge the Calendar of courses no longer being offered. Despite the wealth of courses that are offered, it was noted that a remarkably small number of Arts and Science students choose Political Studies courses as electives. Furthermore, a substantial decrease in the overall total enrolment in the discipline was experienced in the early 1990's, with only a small reversal in this trend on the undergraduate side in evidence more recently. The grading practices of the department are viewed as harsh in comparison with other cognate departments and an examination of these practices should be included as part of the larger review.

Time-to-completion in the PhD program, the high number of doctoral students who are teaching undergraduate courses, and the extraordinary number of graduate courses that are also available to 4th year undergraduates were among issues identified as indicators of the necessity for a review of the graduate program as well. The IARC agrees and recommends that this be undertaken as a matter of priority.

With a comprehensive Strategic Plan in place that will support a well articulated hiring plan, promote creative research activity, enhance constructive synergies with related departments, schools, institutes and centres, and encourage the reviews of the graduate and undergraduate programs that have been recommended above, the Department of Political Studies should be able to make the critical choices necessary to move forward, rebuild and continue to play a vitally important role in the University.

Follow-up on these recommendations and issues will take place in the annual budget and staffing meetings between the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Vice-Principal (Academic).


N. B. One member of the Internal Academic Review Committee declared a conflict and did not participate in the preparation of this Report.