Governance Reform and Charter Changes

Frequently Asked Questions

Queen's University was created in 1841 by a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria. Because Queen's is a pre-confederation corporation with powers extending beyond provincial boundaries, the only Canadian legislative body that can amend its Royal Charter is the Parliament of Canada.

No. The Charter has been amended by acts of Parliament of Canada (and also referred to as statutes) in 1882, 1889, 1906, 1914, 1916, 1961 and 1996.

From a governing legislation standpoint, Yes. Universities in Ontario are usually governed by a provincial act of Ontario.

University acts normally contain provisions for the Board of Governors, the Senate, the President of the University, etc. They will differ somewhat depending on when they were created.

Queen's has a bi-cameral governance structure that is the norm at most Canadian universities. This means "two chambers" and comprises a Board of Governors or Trustees (financial responsibility) and a Senate (academic responsibility). See the Queen's Governance Chart (PDF*, 19 KB).

A major Ontario exception is the University of Toronto that has adopted a uni-cameral system and has one large governing body, the Governing Council.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body that is responsible for the financial management of the University and the appointment of the Principal and the Vice-Principals. See the Board of Trustees.

The Senate has ultimate responsibility for academic matters that affect the university as a whole. See the Senate

This is a unique Queen's body that was added to the Charter in 1882. Its composition is described in the Charter as "all of the Trustees ... all the members of the Senate ... and of as many graduates or alumni as shall be equal in number to the aforesaid members taken together ..."

In 2010 the total membership of University Council is 228 (including 114 elected alumni).

The University Council elects the Chancellor, frames Bylaws and otherwise is predominantly an advisory body. See the University Council

The Chancellor is the highest officer and the ceremonial head of the University. It is a volunteer position for a person who can be an ambassador for Queen's nationally and internationally.

The Rector is a student, elected by all Queen's students (undergraduate and graduate) who is a member of the Board of Trustees and who represents Queen's and its students internally and externally on many occasions.

It is important to recognize that Queen's is an institution that has grown and evolved over 169 years of history.

The Charter dates from 1841, the middle of the nineteenth century. Some changes were made towards the end of the century and some more in the early twentieth century when Queen's College separated from the Presbyterian Church and again when Queen's amalgamated with the School of Mining and Agriculture. Later in the twentieth century, staff, faculty and student members were added to what had previously been predominantly an external membership.

Today, planners try to foresee the needs of an organization in the future, or at least to build in a degree of flexibility so that an organization can respond effectively to change as necessary.

The Charter is silent on the details of Senate composition and membership.

The Board of Trustees has determined that it could discharge its duties more effectively as a smaller board and it seeks to reduce its numbers from 44 to 25, while retaining the representative nature of its composition.

Over 3 years the Board would be reduced from 44 to 25 members

Elected/Appointed By Now (2010) Proposed (2013)
Ex Officio (Principal, Rector, Chancellor) 3 3
The Board 15 10
The Graduates 6 0
The University Council (Alumni) 6 6
The Benefactors 7 0
The Theological College 1 0
The Students 2 2
The Faculty 2 2
The Staff 2 2
TOTAL 44 25

In this case, the electoral group for these 7 Trustees are the benefactors. The definition of a benefactor for the purposes of election to the board is that the elector must have given $1000 to Queen's during their lifetime. The candidate does not have to be a benefactor. This is an historic category of elector. Today, Queen's is fortunate to have many very generous benefactors and all Trustees are expected to demonstrate philanthropic leadership in support of Queen's. It is no longer necessary to identify a special category for election purposes.

The Board itself elects 15 Trustees (proposed to be reduced to 10) and recruits benefactors directly through this route as well as a full range of necessary board skills.

This is not really the case. Because the University Council Trustees are also alumni of Queen's, on the 44 member board, this category in reality has 12 positions (6 elected by the University Council and 6 elected by the Graduates. On the proposed smaller board, this group will have 6 of 25 positions.

Of the members for 2010-2011, 88% are Queen's grads or current students.

Ex Officio, Principal, Chancellor and Rector (student) do not change.

The University Council will continue to elect 6 graduates to be Trustees

The Undergraduate Students will continue to elect one Trustee

The Graduate Students will continue to elect one Trustee

The Faculty will continue to elect two Trustees

The Staff will continue to elect two Trustees

The Charter contains a composition formula for the University Council. In 2010, this formula generates a very large body of 228 members which meets annually to discuss matters of interest to the University and to offer advice and assistance.

The Board proposal to change the Charter to gain some control and flexibility over its size and composition (think of "Home Rule") offers a similar opportunity to the University Council to have control over its size and composition and be able to improve its effectiveness as an advisory body for the University.

Therefore, the petition to Parliament will include "Home Rule" for the University Council as well as the Board of Trustees.

Legal Counsel will navigate the various steps in the parliamentary process on behalf of Queen's, following contacts initiated by the Principal, in consultation with the Chancellor and the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

The formal petition is being prepared by Queen's Legal Counsel in the form required by Parliament. Then it is reviewed by parliamentary experts before it is submitted for consideration by the Senate and by the House of Commons.

There will be some legal costs associated with this process. However, the Trustees firmly believe that a smaller Board will provide highly effective governance for the University now and in the long run. This is about making the best decisions for Queen's for the next 169 years.

*PDF files can be viewed using Adobe Reader