Academic quintile characteristics

In preparing for the work of assessing the program templates submitted by academic units, the task force has engaged in considerable discussion about the characteristics we should attach to each of the quintiles in our classification system. In our original communications about the quintiles, we described them in very basic terms:

1 – Candidate for enhanced resourcing
2 – Maintain with current resourcing
3 – Maintain with reduced resourcing
4 – Reconfigure for efficiency/effectiveness
5 – Candidate for phase out

It became clear to us that we needed to describe more fully the kind of decision we are making when we place a program in a particular quintile. We would like to share the descriptions we are now using.

Quintile 1 – Candidate for enhanced resourcing
These programs have well-articulated objectives that are strongly-aligned with university priorities. They rest on strong scholarship and/or teaching. There is evidence that the addition of further resources would permit them to make an even stronger contribution to the achievement of the university’s academic goals.

Quintile 2 – Maintain with current resourcing
These are effective programs that are well-aligned with university priorities. In a climate of financial exigency, a recommendation that the resources of a program be maintained at current levels represents a positive gain to the program.

Quintile 3 – Maintain with reduced resourcing
These are sound programs that are adequately-aligned with university priorities. In a climate of financial exigency, a recommendation that a program be maintained with reduced resources recognizes that many programs will face budgetary decreases, and no persuasive justification has been presented for exempting this program from general budget adjustments.

Quintile 4 – Reconfigure for efficiency/effectiveness
These programs may be aligned with university priorities in some respects, but would benefit from being restructured or reconfigured. This might entail merger with other programs, rearticulation of program objectives, adaptation of the program to changed conditions, or other steps to breathe new life into the program. The resource implications of such change might be either positive or negative for an individual program.

Quintile 5 – Candidate for phase out
These programs may or may not be solid and stable programs, but they are not as well-aligned as others with current university priorities. By placing a program in this quintile, the task force is not determining that the program will, in fact, be phased out, but providing information to the university about programs which may no longer be sustainable if the university has to reduce its investment in academic activity.

It will be evident from this table that we are working from the premise that, given the financial circumstances facing the institution, resources to many worthwhile programs will have to be reduced, and that this expectation must represent the norm under our system of categorization. Without the kind of review we are now doing, we assume that the likely approach to meeting the requirements for budgetary reductions would have been across-the-board cuts. The descriptions we have adopted therefore suggest that for a program to be maintained at its current level of resources, the unit must make a positive case for its high priority to the university. This is even more so in the case of programs for which additional resources should be recommended.

Our mandate is to indicate to the university our assessment of the priority standing of existing academic programs. Our report will contain a body of information which we hope will permit the university to make informed decisions about which programs should be considered for reconfiguration, for disinvestment or for new investment. When we identify a program as a candidate to be phased out, we are not necessarily making a judgment that the program has not merit or rationale. Rather, this assessment represents our conclusion that the program is not as high a priority for the university as other programs.

One thought on “Academic quintile characteristics

  1. For those programs assigned to the 3rd, 4th and 5th quintiles I contemplate a genuine concern amongst faculty, staff and students about the longer term health of these programs. What are the incentives to engage in curriculum renewal/innovation, the tasks that we were engaged in for much of 2012-2013, in this situation? Do we anticipate current students to vote with their feet and move into those programs assigned to the 1st and 2nd quintiles, or simply leave the campus to explore educational opportunities elsewhere?

    My experience with disestablishing programs has not been pleasant. Disinvestment leads to a decline in morale of the affected faculty and staff and the migration of students away from these programs. It is a long and drawn out process – students have up to 10 years to complete their programs of study. In cases that I am familiar with the faculty in the affected programs have been compelled to support a document that is presented to Faculty Council that effectively seals the fate of program – it is tantamount to signing you own death warrant in my opinion.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

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