Report on Principles and Priorities

Approved by Senate January 25, 1996

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  1. The Mission of Queen's University
  2. Essential Values
  3. Principles in Support of Decision Making
  4. Queen's Basic Priority
  5. Common Themes in Response to the Changing Environment
    1. Internationalization
    2. Interdisciplinary and Inter-Unit Cooperation
    3. Resource and Revenue Enhancement
  6. Summary

In April 1995, Principal William C. Leggett requested that the Senate Committee on Academic Development examine the strategic planning documents prepared by the Faculties, Senate and various planning task forces over the past several years and, from this review, prepare a brief statement on the University's principles and priorities. This approach builds on the planning recently undertaken within the academic units, which in turn was informed by the Report of the Principal's Advisory Taskforce on Resource Issues (1992), Meeting the Challenges. As a result, this document is part of an on-going process and does not stand alone. It reflects and reinforces key goals identified by the Faculties, reaffirms the University's mission, values and principles, and articulates the themes which reflect and inform planning and decision making at Queen's.

The congruence among the central themes in the Faculty strategic plans is striking. They share a pragmatic view of the environment in which universities operate and an appreciation of the distinctive strengths of Queen's, and they respond in similar fashions to the challenges presented. The Faculties recognize that Queen's distinctive strength rests in its ability to recruit from among the academically most qualified students in the country. To protect this strength we must maintain the quality of the broader learning environment: the unique combination of, and synergy created by, teaching, research, and scholarship which fulfill the distinctive mission of the University.

In the past decade, Queen's strategy has been to support the teaching and research mandate of the University by giving priority primarily to faculty renewal. This has involved the aggressive use of bridging appointments and a successful early retirement plan. This strategy, implemented during a decade of reduced hiring in the university sector, has yielded a faculty of outstanding quality with an enviable demographic profile.

The quality of Queen's students, faculty, and staff, its research strength, and its freedom from debt has positioned this University to advantage relative to other universities in dealing with the uncertainty ahead. However, the external environment for public sector funding has changed dramatically, and further anticipated cuts will challenge Queen's ability to support the high quality broader learning environment. This realization requires that the University, in the near term, shift its strategy and focus available resources on: students, who will be bearing a greater share of the cost of their education; current faculty complement, so as to allow them to function most effectively in their teaching, research and scholarship; and, staff, on whom we will increasingly rely to maintain the broader learning environment. It also requires us to move aggressively to develop new sources of revenue independent of government grants.

As we attempt to deal with the uncertain financial challenge awaiting us, we must not lose sight of the mission and values of this University.

A. The Mission of Queen's University

The mission of Queen's University has been articulated in a number of different forms and formats over the past decade. In all of the presentations, the key elements have remained constant:

The University will build on the strength that is Queen's - students, faculty, staff, and alumni - to be among the best of internationally known universities in Canada recognized for:

  • the exceptional quality of undergraduate and graduate students and programs in the arts, sciences and professions;

  • the intellectual power and value of research and scholarship by faculty members and students;

  • the exemplary service of the University and that of its graduates to the community and the nation and the community of nations

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B. Essential Values

At Queen's, the following essential values will govern our actions:

  • intellectual integrity Rigorous standards of intellectual integrity must be upheld in all teaching, learning, and research activities.

  • freedom of inquiry and exchange of ideas The University commits itself to remain open to free enquiry and the free expression of ideas, both of which are basic to the University's central purpose. Any restrictions proposed on free expression must be openly stated and subjected to careful public scrutiny and evaluation.

  • equal dignity of all persons Queen's cherishes the diversity of human experience and background, and supports the freedom of individuals to study, teach, work and carry out research without fear of harassment, intimidation or discrimination.

C. Principles in Support of Decision Making

In these rapidly changing times, a large number of difficult decisions will be made at all levels of the University. To be effective as a decentralized institution in which faculty, staff, and students play a role in collegial decision-making requires that we focus on fulfilling the long-term mission of the University. It also requires that our decisions be informed by agreed-upon common principles.

  • enhance quality While acknowledging varying measures of excellence, our decisions must serve to enhance the quality of the teaching and research conducted at the University.

  • rethink basic assumptions Decisions must be informed by changes in both internal and external environments. The ways in which we do things must be challenged and the processes and approaches we employ constantly examined.

  • protect flexibility and respond to opportunity The flexibility required to respond in a timely and effective fashion to opportunities must be protected.

  • build on strength, capitalize on synergy Areas of strength within and between units and institutions must be promoted.

  • practice selectivity Activities supported by the University must be selectively chosen to focus on a limited number of areas of high quality and effectiveness. When areas of weakness are identified, a decision must be made either to improve quality or to withdraw from the area of operation.

  • promote diversity Human diversity provides essential elements of strength, resilience and innovation to the University. Acknowledgement of the importance of diversity must inform decisions at all levels.

  • practice openness and accountability Information required to inform decision making must be available, taking into account the right to individual privacy.

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D. Queen's Basic Priority

Consistent across every Faculty plan is the basic priority to support and enhance the quality of the broader learning environment for students, faculty and staff. As a university, Queen's is committed to providing its students with the highest quality education possible. The current climate requires that this priority be supported in new and different ways.

All Queen's faculty are expected to contribute on three fronts throughout their careers: teaching, research and scholarship, and service to the community. There are, however, times in an individual's career when it may be desirable to concentrate effort more effectively on one pursuit while maintaining activity in other areas, but at a reduced level. There must, therefore, be sufficient flexibility in the annual performance review process to allow variable responsibility profiles agreed to over an academic career in a fashion consistent with Departmental and Faculty objectives.

Recommendation 1 That Deans and Department Heads should negotiate responsibility profiles with individual faculty in order that each individual may contribute most effectively to the success of the unit. [Responsibility: Department Heads, Deans]

Societal expectations of and support for universities are changing. Universities now face a severe decrease in the real resources available from government and, as a result, there will be continued upward pressure on student-faculty ratios. Queen's must respond to the changing environment by examining fundamentally the way in which we carry out and support teaching and learning, and by restructuring our programs to ensure the quality of our academic endeavours. Recent developments in technology have resulted in a wide range of opportunities to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. Technology, however, must be viewed as a pedagogical tool, not an end in itself.

Recommendation 2 That all units engage in the fundamental examination of their curriculum, and that resources to support curriculum development be made a priority. [Responsibility: Instructional Development Centre, Computing & Communications Services, Library, Senate, Department Heads, Deans, Vice-Principal (Academic), Principal]

Changing demographics, the aging population, cultural diversity, and the need for life-long learning requires programming which responds to evolving individual and collective needs.

Recommendation 3 That commitments to continuing education, both credit and non-credit, be encouraged, refocused, and coordinated. [Responsibility: Chief Librarian, Continuing Education Units, Deans, Vice- Principal (Academic)]

The changing external economic environment indicates that students will be carrying a greater share of the cost of their education. To maintain the distinctive academic strength of Queen's student body, we must work to enhance our programs of student aid and student support services.

Recommendation 4 That Queen's work with student leaders to enhance financial assistance programs (bursaries, loans, and scholarships) and promote development of academic and non-academic student support services. [Responsibility: Student Leaders, Registrar, Dean of Student Affairs, Chief Librarian, Senate, Academic Deans, Vice-Principals]

Achievement of our basic priority also requires a continued investment in the upgrading of classrooms and laboratories, and information resources.

Recommendation 5 That priority shift from new buildings to the upgrading of existing classrooms and laboratories, support of library acquisitions and information technology. [Responsibility: Chief Librarian, Director of Computing & Communications Services, Campus Planning & Development, Senate, Vice-Principals, Principal]

To maintain and enhance Queen's position as a research intensive institution with international distinction in selected areas of research and graduate study requires development of both existing areas of research strength along with new areas which reflect the evolution and emergence of disciplines. This must be a priority in every academic unit and should be accomplished by re-evaluating priorities and providing the direction, support and incentives for faculty to achieve the highest quality of scholarship and research.

Recommendation 6 That academic units focus their research and graduate programs on selected areas of strength. [Responsibility: Department Heads, Deans, Vice-Principals]

Recommendation 7 That funding for the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) be re-examined in order to yield resources required to support unique projects and research initiation grants for junior faculty with the goal of ensuring future competitiveness in the external environment. [Responsibility: Vice-Principals, Principal]

Non-academic staff will play an increasingly important role in the success of the University. As the nature of the work environment is changing, we must ensure adequate professional development opportunities for non-academic staff to ensure that they are able to contribute effectively to the work of the University.

Recommendation 8 All units must make provision for professional development opportunities for staff. [Responsibility: Human Resources, All Units, Deans, Vice-Principals, Principal]

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E. Common Themes in Response to the Changing Environment

Our basic priority to support and enhance the quality of the broader learning environment and the recommendations made in support of that priority speak to the longstanding elements of the University's mission. In addition, three common themes have appeared in Faculty planning documents.


Internationalization is essential to the long-term growth and development of Queen's and to the success of its graduates. By gaining a global perspective, Queen's graduates will obtain the skills and cultural understanding needed to thrive in the international environment. The presence of international students at Queen's is crucial to increasing our awareness of a changing world. Equally important is a re-examination of courses and programs to anticipate the international dimensions of life in the 21st century. Promoting international linkages in research and scholarship will enrich the academic environment and help Queen's to achieve world-wide distinction in these areas.

A major focus of our international activities is the International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle. We must strive to make it a centre which attracts students and faculty from across Canada and around the world. The ISC should also be exploited in developing links with other leading institutions which have strengths in areas of interest to Queen's.

Recommendation 9 That Queen's support the development of international dimensions in our courses and programs, and promote the study of selected languages and cultures, recognizing the opportunities for both credit and non-credit offerings. [Responsibility: Deans, Department Heads, Vice-Principal (Academic)]

Recommendation 10 That Queen's increase the number of opportunities for international study by Queen's faculty and students, and for study at Queen's by foreign faculty and students, and ensure that transitions between Queen's, the International Study Centre, and other institutions are handled effectively. [Responsibility: International Centre, Registrar, Department Heads, Deans, Vice-Principals, Principal]

Interdisciplinary and Inter-Unit Cooperation

The challenges facing society in the late 20th century transcend specific disciplines. Queen's must respond to these challenges by positioning the University to support our distinctive traditional strengths while at the same time fostering new and emerging areas of scholarship and teaching, including those which cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. Rigorous criteria must be fulfilled prior to any resource reallocation to new initiatives. These criteria are:

  • Initiatives should tap into existing research and teaching strengths within the associated disciplines and be based on a scholarly critical mass existing in the area;

  • Initiatives should be driven by strong grass-roots interest within the Faculties involved;

  • Initiatives should reflect the demand of many students.

Operating with these criteria will maximize the probability that only strong, worthwhile initiatives will be supported, many of which will have the possibility of attracting external resources.

Interdisciplinary curricula and research are not the only avenues for inter-unit cooperation. Many aspects of service and support will benefit from cooperation between units within discipline groups or in close physical proximity. Examples include the sharing of facilities or support staff; in some cases, such cooperation would enhance the level of service to all concerned.

Recommendation 11 That the University and its academic units facilitate interdisciplinary activity by eliminating administrative barriers to inter-Departmental and inter-Faculty activities, particularly in areas of performance appraisal, promotion and tenure. [Responsibility: Department Heads, Deans, Vice-Principal (Academic)]

Recommendation 12 That, upon meeting the earlier stated criteria, inter disciplinary initiatives be supported at all levels of our undergraduate and graduate programs through a reallocation of available resources. [Responsibility: Department Heads, Deans, Vice-Principal (Academic)]

Recommendation 13 That short-term transition funding be provided to facilitate development of shared facilities or support units. [Responsibility: Deans, Vice-Principals]

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Resource and Revenue Enhancement

The changing external environment for public sector funding requires that Queen's look to opportunities for revenue enhancement in all sectors. To do so, we must develop opportunities to move away from government funding in specific programs, further develop our fundraising capability to benefit all aspects of the University's operations, and encourage entrepreneurial activities which serve to support the mission of the University. Units generating such resources should be the principal beneficiary, but benefit must also accrue to the University as a whole.

Recommendation 14 That units be encouraged to explore non-traditional funding opportunities in support of core activities and that the Advancement Office continue to link with academic units in developing Faculty and University-wide priorities for fundraising. [Responsibility: Deans, Vice-Principals, Principal]

F. Summary

The changing environment requires new strategies for maintaining the quality of the broader learning environment. We must reallocate resources to support curriculum development, the quality of the existing physical learning environment, the development of the research and scholarship of faculty, and the professional development of staff. As students will continue to pay a greater proportion of the cost of their education, we must also move resources to student aid to ensure that we are not excluding individuals on the basis of financial need. There is both the need and opportunity for development of the international dimensions of our activities and a need to support inter-unit cooperation and inter-disciplinarity. At the same time, all segments of the University must work to develop new funding opportunities.

If we can maintain a clear focus on these principles and priorities, Queen's will effectively meet the challenges that lie ahead.