Changes to university leadership – a follow-up to yesterday’s announcement

Yesterday all members of the campus community received an announcement regarding the elimination of two associate vice-president positions as actions taken as part of TransformUS. Understandably, I and others have received questions on the specifics of the actions undertaken and the individuals affected. Many are wondering why the secrecy, why not name names or provide more details as to the reasons behind the actions?

Let me start by saying that there is no easy way to eliminate a position and no easy way to find out that you have lost your job. Out of respect for all affected, we consciously choose to limit the information we share to those who are immediately impacted by the changes as part of their position at the university. We are not trying to keep secrets or ignore the significant impact the eliminated employee has made to the university; instead, we are respecting the privacy of the individual. I can see that it is less clear when the position spans the university in terms of scope, but the principle of privacy remains uppermost in our minds. Any sharing beyond what I have described is at the discretion of the individual and the affected units. Continue reading

University of Guelph provost shares her thoughts on program prioritization

Today, Maureen Mancuso, provost and vice-president academic at the University of Guelph shared her perspective on program prioritization with University Affairs magazine. As the University of Guelph has been a leader in Canada in undertaking this type of process, we are often asked about their experience. We encourage you to read the article to see first-hand what Provost Macuso’s thoughts are on program prioritization.

Brett and Greg

Reprinted with permission from University Affairs magazine. Original can be viewed at

Explaining the Program Prioritization Process
It’s one way for institutions to become sustainable.
by Maureen Mancuso

A number of Canadian universities are engaged in a Program Prioritization Process (PPP). Others are contemplating related initiatives.  As with any significant trend that involves change to traditional ways, anticipation leads to legitimate questions but also to sloPPPy thinking. There are a lot of myths about just what PPP is, many of them straw-man distortions of what the process actually involves. My university just completed the first and most attention-getting part of such a process – the ranking of programs – so I feel well- placed to state what PPP is and is not. Continue reading

How do we compare on tuition?

In the past few days we have had many questions and comments posted with regard to tuition and would like to take a moment respond to some of these.

We understand that students do not want to pay more. No one would. Costs of many things go up from year to year, and this includes the costs of running a university. Students are paying 23% of the operating revenue of the U of S, a relatively constant share that has not increased more than a fraction of a percentage point in years. Not only are students at the U of S paying a constant share, this is a lesser share than at most other universities. We appreciate that paying this share may be difficult for some students (and/or their parents in some cases). Our university is working to help those who face particular barriers by increasing the numbers of scholarships and bursaries, offering learn-where-you live distributed education to keep living costs lower, and developing great support services for Indigenous learners. Continue reading


This morning we announced tuition rates and fees for 2014-15. With the university currently looking at ways to decrease costs and increase revenue we know that there will be questions about how tuition rates are set and whether tuition and fees are used to balance the university budget. We want to clarify that we have not, and will not, set tuition rates to balance our books. Our students, and providing students with a high quality and affordable education, continue to be our priority.

For the university, tuition helps to fund the enhancement of the student experience. For students and their parents, tuition is just one piece of the investment they are making in getting a high quality university education. The cost of books, supplies, student fees, transportation, housing and other expenses also result in financial obligations for students and their families. We know our students are making a significant financial investment in their future by choosing the University of Saskatchewan and that is why, in October 2009, our Board of Governors adopted a tuition strategy based on three principles. These principles guide our thinking and processes when rates are set annually. The principles are described below. Continue reading

Prioritization and other universities

There was considerable interest in program prioritization at a recent interuniversity meeting I attended.  Present were around 80-100 academic and research administrators from universities in Western Canada and beyond.

Everyone present was deeply concerned about budgets in an era universally recognized as one of severe ongoing resource constraints for higher education.  Speaker after speaker addressed the need to make decisions differently, to make choices about academic programming, and to stop doing or scale back some activities selectively while investing in others.  As one speaker from outside Saskatchewan put it, “we have no option but to transform our educational programming in the next two years.”

In fact, pretty much every university but one whose representatives spoke in the meeting indicated they were looking at a Dickeson-like approach to prioritization. Continue reading

Revision to PCIP recommendation principles

On Thursday morning, PCIP and the president met with several chairs of University Council and part of our discussion focused on the criteria PCIP will use when evaluating projects /initiatives that will be included in the recommendations put forward for decision for our governing bodies. In the course of this discussion, a suggestion was made to have the first criterion, “institutional benefit/transformational,” changed to include messaging consistent with the vision currently being developed by our president. Continue reading

Reflections on the discussion period of the TransformUS task force reports

As the two of us reflect on the last eight weeks of conversation about TransformUS, a couple of points stand out.

The first is the wide interest in our community regarding the TransformUS process. Some 28,000 individuals appear to have viewed the web pages, watched the live streaming of town halls or attended meetings in person. A smaller number, 800, made individual, group or anonymous comments. The comments were diverse, and in many cases quite lengthy. Overall the tone was professional and constructive.

A second salient point is that those who submitted comments generally did so to express various concerns. Some are afraid for the consequences for programs in which they work or study, or from which they have graduated. Some are upset with the possible impacts of an open and public prioritization process on reputation and attitudes. Others worry that an imperfect process or flawed data might determine critical decisions that affect us all. Behind these concerns, we perceive a deep attachment to the University of Saskatchewan – a sense of respect, love and ownership. The same concerns seem to have motivated those who wrote in or spoke to support the process and to support the need to make choices. Continue reading

Principles, criteria and preliminary data analysis

The Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning is at work in the early stages of the analysis portion of the analysis and implementation plan phase of TransformUS and we wanted to provide you all with an update on our early work. PCIP has developed a set of principles for process management and a set of criteria for the future evaluation of projects/initiatives as we begin to identify these in the development of the implementation plan.

Our principles for process management are: 1) transparency and accountability; 2) evidence informed; and 3) collaborative. What this means is that in all we do, we commit to being accountable and communicating about our work; we will ensure all actions we present in our implementation plan are based on evidence; and that we continue to work with leaders and key stakeholders to ensure all actions are decided on and acted on in a collaborative manner.

In terms of the criteria we will use for the evaluation of projects/initiatives to be included in the implementation plan, all will take in to consideration, at a minimum: Continue reading

Why $44.5 million?

Many questions have been asked of us about the projected shortfall in university resources. One of the main questions has been “Why do we continue to speak about the $44.5M projected deficit when we have reduced this gap and the university’s financial situation has changed since 2012?”

This question requires a response in two areas, firstly about us continuing to communicate about a $44.5M gap when we have taken actions to reduce this gap, and secondly that a Multi-Year Budget Forecast (MYBF) developed in 2012 requires periodic updating to reflect the current reality. Continue reading

TransformUS update: Thank you and next steps

Below you will find links to two letters regarding TransformUS. The first is a letter from President Ilene Busch-Vishniac concluding the consultation and feedback phase of TransformUS. The second is an update on next steps from Provost and Vice-President Academic Brett Fairbairn and Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler.