posted on Jan. 25: Campus must embrace change to manage growth, meet challenges


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Harvey Weingarten”]McMaster must embrace change, while recognizing the challenges now are to manage growth, not cope with downsizing, provost Harvey Weingarten says.

In his fifth annual State of the Academy address given yesterday (Jan. 24), Weingarten said success in an era of growth requires different strategies and actions than in periods of downsizing like the mid-1990s when the provincial government made dramatic funding cuts to universities.

Weingarten said the University needs to change for several reasons:

* increased student enrolment due to the “double cohort” Class of 2003;

* increased faculty retirements;

* different student expectations;

* competition from non-traditional education providers; and

* the increased complexity of the university environment.

Full-time undergraduate enrolment in 1980 was about 10,000, he said, but by 2003 it is projected to be almost 15,500. This increase in the student population will be coupled with an increase in faculty retirements: by 2011, about 250 of the 1,000 full-time faculty will reach retirement age.

A prof-a-week mode

Weingarten said the University has been in the hire a “prof-a-week” mode for the last two years and must continue to do so to replenish the faculty complement. In 1999, 76 faculty were hired and 57 were hired last year. McMaster is conducting 107 active faculty searches now.

Hiring new faculty is “going to be very expensive for us,” said Weingarten, noting the average recruiting and relocation costs per hire total $8,888.

Weingarten said he is not fazed by competition from private universities, but he is concerned about the growth of global marketing of international curricula by business and university consortiums.

“They're very aggressive and they're taking these curricula and taking it to the world,” he said. “This is the kind of competition we face. It means we have to think about what is the role of professors and it requires us to think and change the way we do things.”

Weingarten said his “sense of the (University's) capacity to change is far more optimistic than it was.”

Less reliant on government funding

Part of that optimism stems from the fact the University is less reliant on government grant money for operating costs because of the increase in “other money” raised through returns on trusts and endowments, fundraising and revenue generating activities, he added.

In 1985, tuition and other money made up about 15 per cent of the total operating funds. In 2000 they made up almost 50 per cent.

Weingarten said the strategies that will promote success during a time of growth include planning effectively, investing in physical and human infrastructure, attending to the balance between work and life and ensuring there is a culture of innovation.

“The institution needs to say where it is going and how it will get there,” he said, “and act consistently with the plan.”

Plans in place

He noted there is an academic plan in place for undergraduate education and a report card will be issued on the plan in March. A new plan for graduate studies was just adopted at Senate meeting earlier in the month and a research plan needs to be drawn up, Weingarten said.

The University must also evaluate the implementation of the plan, he said. “We're a little light on that,” he added.

Finally, the University must be ready to modify its plan if circumstances change and “We must deliver the message over and over.”

McMaster is investing in physical infrastructure through grants from SuperBuild and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and making general improvements to the University's physical plant, inside and outside, Weingarten said.

He said the University is also investing in staff and faculty spending more than $1 million a year on training programs and hiring people with specific expertise, such as an assistant vice-president human resources, to help manage growth. As well, more non-teaching staff are needed to support learning environments and research.

Weingarten said the concept of innovation is not difficult nor mysterious.

To promote innovation the University needs to bring in new people, stop looking backwards to the way things used to be done, focus on the core mission and manage the important things.

“We're very bad at this. We over manage like crazy at this institution and it's not going to help us.”

Ed.'s note: The complete text of the provost's speech will be available on the Daily News in the coming days.