Redesigning the university for 2025

February 20, 2008

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By Diane Luckow

A report proposing wide-ranging changes that will see SFU through to 2025 will be sent to Senate for discussion on March 3.             

Removing Barriers: A Design for the Future of Simon Fraser University, is the result of 2 1/2 years of study and extensive consultation with faculty, staff and students. Prepared by the task force on academic structure, it recommends changes that will re-align and expand faculty structure, enhance interdisciplinary teaching and research, and introduce new programs focused on the environment and sustainability.

A key recommendation proposes disbanding the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS) and creating three additional faculties as well as a new College of Lifelong and Experiential Learning and an Institute of Advanced Scholarship.

The three new faculties would be:

  • a Faculty of Contemporary Arts, Communication and Design, consisting of the Schools of Communication, Contemporary Arts, Interactive Arts and Technology and the masters of publishing program. This faculty, encompassing arts and culture and the interface with technology, would be unique in Canada.
  • a Faculty of Engineering and Computing, comprised of the Schools of Engineering Science and Computing Science
  • a faculty devoted to the environment and sustainability which would encompass units such as the School of Resource and Environmental Management, the department of geography, the environmental science program, the Centre for Sustainable Community Development and the graduate certificate program in development studies.

The names of the new faculties are not yet determined. The report also recommends relocating the School of Kinesiology, now in FAS, to the Faculty of Science.

“These changes strengthen our academic programs and highlight areas of emerging strength at SFU while maintaining our traditional disciplinary strength in the arts and sciences,” says John Waterhouse, V-P academic. “Our goals are to make it easier to recruit high quality graduate and undergraduate students, provide an environment that will support cutting-edge research and better connect the university with its external communities.”

A College of Lifelong and Experiential Learning would cut across all academic faculties to re-invigorate and redefine community education and outreach activities, says Waterhouse. An experiential learning division would encompass niche programs such as the Semester in Dialogue as well as a mandate to develop programs to further enhance SFU’s ongoing experiential learning programs. 

The report also recognizes the need to remove a variety of barriers that impede interdisciplinarity. The task force envisions more faculty members holding appointments in more than one department while centres and institutes could offer degree-credit courses that are interdisciplinary in nature.

The report identifies, too, a need to redefine and refocus programming related to the environment. “We think it’s important to bring together the natural sciences and social sciences to develop programs dealing with environmental issues,” says Waterhouse. New programs would also be developed in the areas of information and communications technology.

While there are costs associated with the recommendations — the net cost for the faculty changes alone is estimated at $1.25 million — Waterhouse says that academic restructuring is essential to maintaining a university that moves with the times and offers a contemporary research and learning environment. Funding for the changes would come from the Strategic Initiatives Fund.

If the report is approved by the board of governors in May, some of the changes, including the new faculty structure, could be implemented as soon as April 1, 2009. Other changes, says Waterhouse, will involve more work, consultation and time.

For the complete report visit
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