Ambitious Enrolment Plan sparks debate at Council
A key roadmap that will guide U of S decision-makers as they chart the University's future is nearing completion - and its call for changes to the mix of students on campus sparked interest and lively debate at Council last week.
Provost and Vice-President Academic Michael Atkinson and Council's Academic Programs Committee Chair Geoff Hughes presented the Enrolment Plan: Bridging to 2010 to Council's Oct. 23 meeting.
Members of a number of Council committees and others have seen earlier versions of this major foundational document. Hughes' committee has now endorsed the new "Version 1.0" of the paper and is asking Council to approve the wide-ranging 30-page plan.
Hughes and Atkinson told Council the Enrolment Plan presents not a fixed plan, but a framework to guide future decisions on critical issues such as undergraduate and graduate student numbers, what priority to give to Saskatchewan students, how many international students to admit, how strenuously to recruit students from other parts of Canada and the world, and related questions such as scholarship levels and residence space.
Atkinson told Council the impetus for the plan comes from the increasingly competitive environment universities are in where government funding has declined, high-quality faculty are harder to find, top students are choosier about which university they attend, and other universities are actively recruiting the U of S's traditional base of Saskatchewan Grade 12 graduates.
The Enrolment Plan says this all means "the U of S must reach out to new students, within the province and from elsewhere in Canada and the world, to ensure its future."
Its main proposals say the U of S should:
The plan also notes the U of S is "significantly behind" comparable Canadian universities on scholarship and bursary levels, and it "must substantially enhance its financial support programs", with the goal of reaching national averages by 2010. That would require an additional $14 million annually at the undergraduate level and $20 million more per year for graduate students.
It also notes that changing Saskatchewan demographics, with a continuing increase in Aboriginal people as a percentage of the population, plus a growing demand for Aboriginal university graduates, means the U of S must continue to pay more attention to the educational needs of Aboriginal people.
And, it proposes the U of S continue to increase its complement of international students - moving to seven or eight per cent by 2010 from the level of four per cent in 2000.
Hughes told Council a major portion of an earlier draft of the Enrolment Plan, focusing on student experience and retention, "has been pulled out and will appear in another foundational document to be developed on teaching and learning."
When Computer Science Department Head Jim Greer asked how many Saskatchewan students are being recruited by other universities and why the U of S isn't actively recruiting now from elsewhere in Canada, Associate Vice-President of Student and Enrolment Services David Hannah told Council, "It comes down to scholarship dollars. We are at the bottom of the medical-doctoral pile and we aren't recruiting outside of Saskatchewan at all."
But, Hannah and Atkinson said that will change. "There are moves afoot, and we expect a much stronger present on the recruitment front in the future," Atkinson said.
Economics Professor Glen Beck noted the proposed hike in admission grades "is a fundamental shift in policy, from the old policy where anybody could get into the University as long as they were prepared to pay."
Hughes agreed that's a shift, and the Enrolment Plan proposes "to try to admit students who are likely to be successful."
Computer Science Professor Mik Bickis asked if there's concern about how the change to attracting students from outside Saskatchewan may be received in the province.
Atkinson admitted he wondered about that, but added, "There is a fair bit of respect for the U of S to chart its own course, and we've been saying for some time we want to compete on the national and international stage. Many people understand the University's future lies in extending our reach."
Atkinson noted that the college plans now being drafted across campus and submitted to the Integrated Planning Office will contain the colleges' enrolment projections and proposals, and will identify attractive U of S programs that hold the promise of attracting growing numbers of students.
He said that based on the Enrolment Plan and continuing input from Council and Council's committees, the Provost's Committee on Integrated Planning will make initial decisions on programs and proposed enrolments, and it will all go into the multi-year budget that will go the U of S Board of Governors next May.
Council is expected to vote on endorsement of the Enrolment Plan at its Nov. 20 meeting.