Senate approves new Academic Plan


McMaster is embarking on a new direction in undergraduate education and it now has an academic compass to navigate these new and uncharted waters.

The McMaster University Senate yesterday approved a new Academic Plan for the University which spells out the institution's guiding principles and defines the ways in which the University will uphold these tenets.

One of the key principles in the document is the establishment of a learning environment that directly links the student educational experience, particularly at the undergraduate level, to the research and scholarly activities of the institution.

“Students (and their parents) often ask us why they should attend a
research-intensive university such as McMaster. The answer is that these research-intensive institutions embody the culture, perspective and means to provide the type of education that is being sought by students and employers,” says Harvey Weingarten, University provost and vice-president academic and chief architect of the new plan. “We can provide a university education that has the capacity not only to present the cutting-edge content in the field, but also to allow students to develop the generic, critical thinking, inquiry, research and communication skills that are inherent elements of the scholarly life and that form the foundation of a well-educated student.”

The “McMaster University Academic Plan” embraces many of the
recommendations contained in report of the 1997 Boyer Commission on
Educating Undergraduates in the Research University titled “Re-inventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities.”

The Boyer Commission Report recommends ways to provide a distinctive and improved undergraduate experience that builds upon the research culture within institutions like McMaster. These include: make research-based learning the standard, construct an inquiry based first year; remove barriers to interdisciplinary education; build on the first-year experience; and use information technology creatively.

The Academic Plan suggests preferential treatment be given to academic plans within the institution which achieve the recommendations of the Boyer Commission Report.

Other objectives laid out in the plan include:

o the creation of incentives and rewards to engage individuals in
activities that achieve the academic objectives contained in the plan,
but particularly those that help the linked concepts of scholarship and teaching flourish;

o the redirection of resources from programs which fail to meet all of the institution's academic directions;

o that all new full-time faculty members at McMaster participate in seminars and workshops during their first year to improve their teaching skills and to become familiar with techniques that promote active learning. New faculty would be given release time from teaching to attend these workshops.

o the development of a human resource plan by September 2000 which
outlines faculty and staff needed to meet institutional enrolment
targets set in anticipation of a forecasted enrolment increase
commencing in 2003.

“This plan will help us to advance and focus academic planning and
resource allocation at McMaster. It also provides us with a navigational tool to set apart distinctly the educational experience at McMaster from that offered by other institutions. This document clearly spells out McMaster's role in providing students with a set of life and learning skills that promote a continuing ability and desire to learn, and it will be our guide for the next five years,” says Weingarten.

The document received the unanimous endorsement of the University's
Planning Committee in January 2000. The plan was approved by Senate on Feb. 9.