This critical review of undergraduate programs must ensure that we have high academic expectations of our students and, equally, that these students encounter the best possible educational experiences in Western's lecture halls, classrooms, and laboratories. This review comes after three decades of growth in undergraduate enrolment at Western. Faculty positions and other resources unfortunately have not kept pace with this growth in enrolment. During the last five years, in particular, the number of faculty and staff positions have fallen significantly while enrolment has continued to grow. While our faculty and staff deserve enormous credit for their dedicated efforts to preserve the quality of a Western degree under these difficult conditions, a review of our undergraduate enrolments and programs is definitely in order.
In 1993 Western's Senate approved a resolution to reduce gradually the first-year class at Western from a target of 4,000 full-time students to a target of 3,750. This reduction will have the greatest effect in the Faculties of Arts, Science, and Social Science. We believe that it is important to carry out the Senate resolution over the next three years. Accessibility at Western must imply access to a high quality academic experience, and if our academic expectations of Western's students are high, so, too, must be our standards of admission. Over the last decade Western has granted an average of about 24 undergraduate degrees per 100 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) enrolment at all undergraduate levels. Western's performance in this regard is approximately 14% higher than the Ontario average of about 21 undergraduate degrees per 100 FTE enrolment. We must continue to admit students who can meet the high standards of a Western degree, while providing those admitted with a challenging yet supportive academic environment.
Is it possible to create a situation which will cause students to take up intellectual issues as a part of life, rather than as what one does "in class" in isolation from "the rest of life"? How can we foster the thoughtful life? These basic questions turn on the qualities we seek in our students and the experience that our community offers them from the day they join us.
Although a large part of our recruitment activities should continue to be aimed at attracting outstanding students from across Ontario, we must pay particular attention to attracting undergraduates from other parts of Canada and the world. We believe the quality of undergraduate education at Western for all our students can only be enhanced by a greater mix of students from the various regions and cultures of Canada including First Nations students from across the country. Moreover, as an institution that values its international reputation, Western should aspire to offer an attractive educational experience for students from all parts of the world.
Residences play an important role in the ability of Western to attract excellent students. Residence life is an integral part of the undergraduate educational program and academic support services of our institution. Demand for our residences has remained strong; in particular, demand for first-year residence space continues to exceed availability. We are currently unable to offer housing to every incoming first-year non-London student who requests residence space. Western is moving forward with a proposal to build a 500-bed residence which will open in 1997. Availability of residence space is a very important factor to students, and particularly to their parents, when considering their choice of universities. Although first-year accommodation is a priority, significant demand from upper-year students for on-campus housing also remains.
1.1 The University should adopt the following Statement of Purpose for its Undergraduate Programs:
All who graduate with an undergraduate degree from Western should be able to communicate effectively in writing and speech, to share knowledge and work supportively with others, and to respond from their own perspectives to the moral, political, and practical issues of life and work in modern society. Western believes that undergraduate studies characterized by critical thinking, intellectual discipline, and freedom of thought and discussion benefit our students as individuals, foster respect for humane values, and contribute to the fulfilment of our responsibility to the larger society. These objectives are common to all our undergraduate programs. In addition, our Honors programs seek to provide students with sufficient knowledge in a particular discipline for entry into leading graduate programs or for further study in a profession, while our professional programs seek to provide our students with the knowledge and ethical and social understanding necessary to the practice of their profession.
1.2 The Provost should establish the Provost's Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Student Recruitment and Orientation which should present to Senate a coordinated recruitment plan for attracting students from diverse backgrounds from Ontario, other provinces, and internationally. This plan should be aimed particularly at:
i. increasing the proportion among Western students of Ontario scholars and those with secondary school averages of above 85% and those above 90%;
ii. increasing the participation in undergraduate studies of students from other regions and cultures of Canada and of international students. This plan should include a program of undergraduate scholarships and steps for increasing the effectiveness of Western's secondary school liaison program, including further involvement of current faculty, Emeritus Professors, and students in the recruiting process. The plan should also include a procedure to evaluate the program annually, with a major assessment in 2000.
1.3 The undergraduate student's earliest experience at Western can have a lasting impact and has been identified as a critical time of influence on a student's success. A special team, chaired by the Provost or designate, in conjunction with the University Students' Council, should be established to investigate the direction, focus, and governance of Orientation week. Western recognizes that University orientation is a year-long process, and this team will examine linking the First Year Experience programs with faculty members and departments involved in offering first-year courses and programming.
1.4 The Vice-President (Administration) and the Senior Director of Housing and Food Services should bring forward two plans in the Fall of 1995:
i. A plan for first-year on-campus housing which, by allocating more of our housing to first-year students, would allow the University to offer on-campus housing to every student admitted to Western from outside London in 1997, when the new residence will open.
ii. A plan for upper-year on-campus housing, which would allow for the construction of 300 units of apartment-style accommodation in the year 2000 in a financially prudent manner, with part of the financing to come from rent increases on our current housing, to be instituted in 1996 and assigned to a Building Fund.
1.5 The University should maintain the Senate-approved policy of moving to a first-year enrolment of 3,750 by 1998-99; the quality of undergraduate education cannot be sustained without controlling enrolment.
1.6 Western recognizes the need to provide an open and welcoming environment for faculty and students from diverse backgrounds. The programs on communication and diversity in the classroom which are currently part of the Orientation for New Academic Administrators should be incorporated into the ongoing programs of the Educational Development Office.
1.7 The Provost should oversee the development of a standard teaching dossier as a basis for annual evaluations and consideration for promotion and tenure for all members of faculty, to be in use by September 1, 1996. This dossier should include the results of a University-wide undergraduate course/instructor evaluation comprised of roughly ten standard items. Statistical results of the evaluation of courses with five or more respondents should be made available in traditional formats and through the campus electronic bulletin board. Guidelines and format of the teaching dossier and course/instructor evaluation should be submitted to Senate for approval prior to May 1, 1996.
1.8 The Dean of Graduate Studies should oversee the development of a University-wide Graduate Teaching Assistant evaluation process. The format of these evaluations may vary somewhat across disciplines and assignments (e.g., laboratory sections, seminars, grading assignments) but should include evaluations by undergraduate students and faculty supervisors.
1.9 The University, through the Provost, should refine and institute on a permanent basis 1995's pilot survey of graduating students regarding their academic experience at Western. The Provost's Office will compile and report the results to Senate on an annual basis.
1.10 The Provost, in collaboration with the Deans, should coordinate an examination of Western's current procedures for the review of undergraduate programs. These reviews now are associated with the selection of Chairs and Deans, and with accreditation of some programs. We must be confident that these practices are effective and consistent with the expectations of the Council of Ontario Universities' Undergraduate Program Review procedures, scheduled to be initiated in 1995-96.
1.11 Departments should examine first-year courses to ascertain how well they bridge the gap between pre-university preparation and the requirements of more advanced study in the discipline; deficiencies identified by this examination should be speedily remedied.
1.12 The Provost, Faculties, and Departments should collaborate to strengthen interdisciplinary dimensions of undergraduate studies at Western. Four new elective first-year half-courses should be introduced in 1996-97, to expose new students to basic scholarly concerns and current research challenges in Science, Social Science, the Humanities, and the Professions. Emphasis should be placed on developing an understanding of the modes of inquiry which characterize the various disciplines and skills in critical thought and communication. If this program is successful, it will be expanded as appropriate on an annual basis.
1.13 The budgetary cutbacks of the past five years have increased class sizes and decreased course selection in many areas. The responsibility of offering optional courses for the majority of undergraduates has fallen on the Faculties of Arts, Social Science, and Science. In order both to distribute some of this responsibility and to offer a wider range of Western's academic activities to students at the undergraduate level, the Provost should encourage all Faculties to offer additional courses designed for students without a background in their specific disciplines.
1.14 The University, through the Provost, should allocate $750,000 from the Undergraduate Teaching Enhancement Fund in 1995-96 and a minimum of $300,000 in each of 1996-97, 1997-98, and 1998-99, for undergraduate course development and the enhancement of classroom facilities, with particular emphasis on the provision of the hardware and courseware required to support innovative teaching approaches using computer-based information technology.