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Quality

Brad Buckham, Engineering

The University of Victoria’s success is dependent on the quality of the activities in which we engage and the resulting accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff. As a mid-size university we face the challenge of carefully selecting those areas in which we choose to develop and excel, while ensuring that our students experience the highest-quality education possible. As a destination university, we have set the goal to offer programs in teaching, research and support of such quality as to place us in the upper 20 per cent of a national set of comparable programs as judged by peer evaluation. We must build our areas of focus carefully, with the choice of disciplines and specialties being driven by our strengths and aspirations in teaching, research and scholarship, by questions of enduring nature, and by the evolving needs of society.

Areas of focus in teaching, research and scholarship will be determined by departments, schools and faculties, based on the following criteria:

  • consideration of intellectual value and societal need
  • student demand
  • the ability to be a national or regional leader in the area
  • collegial support among faculty
  • an established or planned ability to attain a critical mass of faculty in the area.

Whatever areas of concentration we develop, we must provide our students the fundamental benefits of a liberal education: knowledge, the development of good judgment, communication skills, critical thinking, quantitative analysis, civic engagement and global citizenship.

As a destination institution, we must also focus intently on the residential nature of the student experience, the quality of the learning environment beyond the classroom, and our commitment to experiential learning and civic engagement. We must build a community on our campus where students from diverse backgrounds and regions experience and contribute to a socially and intellectually engaged and connected campus.

Academic programs, teaching and learning

A rich and diverse set of academic programs across the full range of disciplines is essential to our reputation in teaching and research. A significant number of new undergraduate, graduate and professional credentials have been developed over the last five years, in keeping with the growth in undergraduate and graduate student numbers during that period. New programs are developed when there is a demonstrated societal need and value, student demand, faculty expertise, and the capacity for UVic to become a leader in the field. The quality of teaching and learning in our academic programs demonstrates our commitment to our students and is critical to the success of our students and faculty. It is informed by the linkages between education, research and professional development.

We expect that programs will reflect the dynamic nature of the disciplines and evolving interdisciplinary areas. Faculty and instructors are supported in the development and integration of sound pedagogical principles, effective instructional practices and educational technologies to promote reflective learning and critical thinking. Flexible, inclusive and distributed course and program delivery formats — including face-to-face, blended and online learning  —  will meet the needs of a broader demographic of students. We are committed to better integrating experiential learning, interdisciplinarity, internationalization, civic engagement and lifelong learning within the academic fabric of the institution.

In this period of resource constraints, academic programs will grow at a slower rate, but they must be continuously evaluated to ensure they are of the highest quality, provide value to students and society, and are sustainable. The ongoing decline in community college students transferring to our upper-year programs will require a compensatory increase in the size of our first- and second-year programs so as to maintain our enrolments. We must therefore increase our focus on the quality of the first- and second-year experience to improve student retention and success. We must also ensure that our five- to seven-year external reviews of all units are honed to help us focus on areas of highest priority within the university.

Objective 12: To ensure that our undergraduate and graduate programs of teaching and learning are of the highest quality, responsive to intellectual developments and student needs, inclusive, and organized around best practices in teaching and learning.

Key strategies:

  1. ensure that integrated planning, academic plans and external reviews of departments and faculties address, among other things:
    • future programming and staffing based on existing and emerging areas of educational and research strength
    • current and anticipated enrolment trends
    • opportunities for reallocation of resources to higher-priority areas
    • employment and educational equity initiatives
    • activities designed to enhance student recruitment, retention and success
    • opportunities to integrate universal instructional design principles
    • articulation of learning and research, student engagement and intellectual challenge
    • incorporation of activities that enhance opportunities for experiential learning, civic engagement and internationalization.
  2. use information from the Course Experience Survey and other survey and comparative data to improve the quality of education and the learning environment.
  3. explore options for enriching student learning and outcomes through a variety of mechanisms, such as refining and assessing the utility of establishing “breadth requirements” in the curriculum.
  4. encourage an early declaration of degree programs so students will connect to an academic unit early in their studies and improve the options for switching degree programs.
  5. provide departments and faculties with increased flexibility in academic planning including, for example, through the development of variable credit course options, credentials that respond to adult and part-time learners’ needs and enhanced summer programming.
  6. develop an institutional plan for effective use of educational technologies.
  7. encourage and support collaborative programs with other regional, national and international institutions as they support the achievement of our educational and research goals.
Objective 13: To enhance the quality of our students’ classroom experience and ensure that the strong research culture at the University of Victoria is brought into both the physical and the virtual classroom.

Key strategies:

  1. support individual faculty, academic units and the Learning and Teaching Centre in the development and delivery of programs and courses, particularly those aimed at enhancing the first- and second-year experience.
  2. ensure that faculty and departmental academic plans engage active researchers in the delivery of core courses and enhance the support for the integration of research and creative endeavours into the learning and teaching environment.
  3. focus upper-year programs on research and graduate program strengths and provide undergraduate students with opportunities to engage in research activity as part of their programs.
Objective 14: To be nationally and internationally competitive in the quality of our graduate program offerings in recognition of the growing need for highly educated graduates.

Key strategy:

  1. fully integrate graduate programs with the research expertise of the departments, Faculties and research centres and ensure that the planning and review process fully addresses the quality of graduate programs.
Objective 15: To support a broad range of flexible course delivery options, including face-to-face, blended and distributed learning as part of the UVic tradition and as a mechanism for increasing access to higher education.

Key strategies:

  1. support the development of inclusive and flexible distributed and distance learning programs in national and international locations, when those initiatives support both student need and the academic priorities of the unit.
  2. integrate support for distributed and distance learning across the whole institution and provide professional development for faculty and staff in this area.

The broader learning environment and an engaged campus

Since UVic is a destination university, many of our students spend more time on campus than do students at many other universities. The quality of the learning environment outside the classroom is therefore central to the success of our students and it serves as one of our university’s key differentiating features. Current demographics indicate that our new students will come from further afield and from more diverse backgrounds, socially, culturally and economically. In addition, students with disabilities are participating in post-secondary education in larger numbers. Building an engaged campus requires increasing the number of students living on campus, thereby creating a critical mass to support a lively and vibrant, seven-days-a-week campus community. It will also require a broad range of effective and well-integrated student services to support our students from recruitment, application and admission, through to graduation. Social, cultural and recreational opportunities on campus will also increase.

Objective 16: To support the student experience by building a comprehensive and integrated student service environment focused on anticipating and meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse student body.

Key strategies:

  1. provide university-wide educational support services encouraging the development of writing, math, research and communications skills.
  2. develop and implement an integrated array of responsive student services that anticipate and meet the needs of our diverse student body (housing, financial aid, academic advising, counselling, etc), both for on-campus and distance students.
  3. continue to improve student services in order to enable the success of students with disabilities.
  4. build on the value and potential of the Learning Commons to enhance support for international and interdisciplinary students.
  5. enhance the capacity of our athletics and recreation programs to support the physical well-being of members of the university community and enable the development of nationally competitive intercollegiate sports.
Objective 17: To enhance the sense of campus community among UVic students, staff and faculty.

Key strategies:

  1. increase opportunities for and encourage the engagement of students, faculty and staff in intellectual, social, cultural and recreational activities both virtually and on campus.
  2. facilitate on-campus opportunities for informal gatherings of both UVic and local community members.

Experiential learning

Experiential learning is a feature that differentiates UVic from many institutions. Co-operative education, practica, field schools, internship programs and a range of civic engagement opportunities enrich the learning environment, contributing to our students’ intellectual development and their civic-mindedness. These features of our educational experience will be enhanced in the years ahead.

Objective 18: To increase co-op, internship and other experiential learning opportunities for UVic students.

Key strategies:

  1. increase the number of co-op placements available to our students.
  2. use student financial aid resources to develop programs of on-campus co-op and internship opportunities for our students.
  3. examine new forms of experiential learning that meet the needs of students and complement established co-op and practicum opportunities.
  4. establish and assess learning outcomes for experiential education.
Objective 19: To increase opportunities for civic engagement in teaching and learning activities for all students.

Key strategies:

  1. formulate the desired learning outcomes associated with outstanding student performance in civic engagement and implement a co-curricular record to recognize and chronicle student involvement in campus and community activities.
  2. create opportunities for UVic students to have some significant engagement with diverse communities, locally, nationally and globally, and, where academically relevant, explore the possibility of developing community activities for which students can receive credit.
  3. develop support structures that assist faculty in achieving excellence in the integration of scholarship, teaching, learning and academic-based community engagement.

International

The University of Victoria is committed to fostering global understanding by all students, faculty and staff. There is a broad consensus that a global perspective is fundamental to a university’s functioning, identity and achievement of excellence. We must build on our tradition of excellence in internationalization across our research, teaching, academic support and civic engagement activities. Building capacity at home and abroad, we will reach out and attract more students from around the world, encourage our students to participate in international exchanges and co-op placements, and further internationalize our curriculum to support our students’ development of as global citizens.

Objective 20: To further enhance internationalization of the university through student and faculty recruitment and mobility, research partnerships, internationalization of the curriculum and experiential learning..

Key strategies:

  1. develop a plan to enhance international student recruitment with a long-term goal of doubling the number of international students.
  2. continue to expand student study-abroad opportunities including exchanges, co-operative education placements, field schools, practica and internships.
  3. support further internationalization of the curriculum across all academic units and encourage the development of programs with international foci at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
  4. focus on high-quality comprehensive institutional partnerships, taking into account geographic and social diversity, principles of mutual respect and learning, and potential for faculty, student and staff exchanges, experiential learning and research opportunities.
  5. provide support for faculty who go abroad for a short period to an institution with the intention of building a long-term partnership.
  6. support the development of international research projects, including through identifying potential funding sources and assisting with project design and management.
  7. design and implement programs to support the transitional and ongoing needs of international students, including credit transfer, language and cultural support, housing support, co-curricular activities and services and linkages with domestic students, and facilitate bridging to academic programs through the English Language Centre.
  8. provide support for visiting international scholars, where possible making available working space in an office or laboratory and short-term accommodation.
  9. building on our continuing commitment to respectful relationship-building with First Nations, enhance relations with Indigenous communities around the world.
  10. develop training programs to enhance cultural competence for faculty and staff to further support the unique needs of international students.
  11. engage our alumni in the implementation of our international strategy.

Research

Focus on research, scholarship and creative activity differentiates universities from other educational institutions. The ideas, discoveries and innovations emanating from universities profoundly affect the well-being of society as well as its international competitiveness. UVic has earned its position as a leading research university in Canada by building upon our areas of established and emerging strength, by securing the support needed to sustain our research growth, and by promoting the mobilization and application of knowledge for societal benefit. The university is now well positioned to further advance its research activity and to support the development of major national and international research initiatives and platforms.

Objective 21: To nurture our culture of excellence in research, scholarship and creative endeavours, enhancing UVic’s local, national and international impact and reputation as a leading, innovative, research-intensive university.

Key strategies:

  1. support the highest international standards of research, scholarship and creative activity through the recognition of excellence in faculty recruitment and in merit, tenure and promotion decisions across the university.
  2. increase faculty and student success in external funding programs through grant facilitation and mentoring programs at the appropriate departmental, faculty, research centre and university levels.
  3. create and respond effectively to emerging research funding opportunities and priorities at the provincial, national and international levels, including through active government and corporate relations programs.
  4. provide and sustain a high-quality research environment and infrastructure (services, equipment, facilities, space, platforms, etc.) through well-coordinated administrative support, planning and operational mechanisms at every level of the university.
Objective 22: To promote greater alignment of our research, educational and support programs, so that we can optimize the benefits derived from our investments in people, systems, infrastructure and programs across the university.

Key strategies:

  1. review and renew UVic’s Strategic Research Plan to reflect internal and external priorities that enhance our strengths.
  2. promote linkages of our major research initiatives, infrastructure and platforms (e.g. oceans, digital humanities, etc.) with our academic programs through integrated planning processes.
  3. increase the opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student engagement in research by the strategic use of resources, including student financial assistance, special funding programs and internal support.
Objective 23: To enhance the societal benefit derived through mobilization of research knowledge and creative endeavours from across the disciplines.

Key strategies:

  1. deliver high-quality knowledge mobilization support services for the academic community along a continuum from more traditional (academic publication, conferences, etc.) to more civically engaged approaches (e.g. community research partnerships).
  2. support community-engaged research in areas of mutual interest to the university and the wider community, including NGOs, community organizations and government.
  3. build high-quality partnerships between university researchers, community groups and the private sector through the work of UVic Industry Partnerships and the Vancouver Island Technology Park, increasing our contributions to innovation and to the economic well-being of society.
  4. promote strong linkages and exchanges between university researchers and those working in public policy and programming.
  5. promote a culture across the academy that appropriately recognizes and rewards excellence in academic-based civic engagement.

Lifelong Learning

Objective 24: To support lifelong learning by increasing continuing education opportunities for on-campus and online adult and part-time learners.

Key strategies:

  1. develop and deliver programming in diverse disciplines to support the personal and professional development needs of individuals and communities in the region and, in areas of unique strength, address national and international continuing education needs.
  2. develop expanded opportunities to deliver new and existing academic programs for lifelong learners.
  3. enhance transfer and laddering initiatives that lead from certificate, diploma and English as an additional language programs and courses to an undergraduate or graduate credential.
  4. increase the continuing education courses, programs and events offered by faculties and departments in collaboration with the Division of Continuing Studies.

Library and scholarly information services

In an age of ongoing print production, digital scholarship, data-driven research and interdisciplinary studies, libraries continue to build on a proven track record of supporting the research culture and information needs on campus and in the broader community.

At the core of our academic mission, the University Libraries enable the bridging of disciplines and distance. Through welcoming physical and virtual environments, the library provides a gathering space for both the campus and the external communities.

As a centre for learning, UVic’s library system is positioned for the future — flexible and responsive to academic needs, providing support for writing, studying, tutoring, career guidance and interdisciplinary learning. Spaces and services will continue to be customized to meet new challenges and our librarians will create new opportunities for our students and faculty. Far beyond being repositories for information, our libraries will play a key academic role in supporting publishing, digitization, collections curation, internationalization and knowledge mobilization.

Objective 25: To develop library and scholarly information services that support the creation of knowledge within the university by serving the evolving information needs of students and researchers.

Key strategies:

  1. develop an institutional library plan reflecting the changing environment and technologies in the digital era.
  2. support the development of our libraries as places for the integration of teaching, research and scholarship.
  3. develop an information acquisitions budget to place us in the upper 20 per cent of a national set of comparable universities.
  4. strengthen the collaboration between the library and information and communications technology to the benefit of learning, teaching and research.
  5. strengthen the collaboration between UVic and other academic institutions to facilitate the integration of information technology into learning, teaching and research while maintaining an appropriate balance between the acquisition of electronic resources and print material.
  6. support the needs of distance and on-line learners in accessing library information.

Services

Our faculty, staff and students, as well as visitors to our campus, depend on effective and efficient infrastructure and administrative support to ensure that they are able to achieve their goals. A support culture that is service-oriented, knowledgeable, committed and friendly builds both the productivity and the morale of our institution.

Over the past decade, the university has seen significant growth in all areas. In many areas, it is apparent that our processes and support services may no longer meet the needs of a larger, more complex university. A focus on simplifying and standardizing administrative practices and policies to best meet the needs of students, faculty and staff is required to maintain and enhance the quality of our institution.

Objective 26: To have in place support services that contribute to the achievement of our strategic goals and to develop our administrative processes and policies so as to effectively meet the accountability and administrative needs of the university.

Key strategies:

  1. establish benchmarks and implement best practices to provide the highest quality services in support of teaching and research, and assess our success through our cyclical review process.
  2. enhance organizational effectiveness through the ongoing cyclical review of all policies to make sure they are concise, functional and accessible.
  3. conduct cross-institutional reviews of major administrative processes in order to standardize, simplify and increase efficiencies.
Objective 27: To continue to build and maintain a relevant and reliable information technology infrastructure that supports the goals of the university.

Key strategies:

  1. develop an updated, sustainable information technology plan to support our teaching and research mission and provide the services essential to that mission.
  2. work with partner institutions and government agencies to enhance the computing, communications and collaboration infrastructure required for our campus and for regional, national and international research and teaching collaborations.
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