the Research-Intensive University:
The University of Western Ontario is known as a university with a strong local and regional base combined with national and international stature in its teaching and research. Western is today a distinguished community of inquiry, scholarship, and learning that integrates broad, diverse and innovative undergraduate programs with outstanding graduate and professional education characterized by a commitment to research and discovery.
Western’s identity as a research-intensive university requires that we never lose sight of a fundamental characteristic of universities: the integral relationship between teaching and research, and the expectations of both the University and society that all of our faculty members will strive to excel in research or scholarly work that is related to their specific academic interests and to disseminate this knowledge. Western is an academic community defined by teaching in a research environment; research in a teaching environment. These principles carry with them the institutional responsibility to provide appropriate support and facilities, and they involve a commitment to identify areas of teaching or research where Western has achieved, either by deliberate planning or good fortune, clear national or international leadership. As a strategic initiative, we must take steps to make selective investments to ensure that areas of excellence are identified and sustained, and that they continue to grow and flourish. In a competitive environment for faculty, such investments can be crucial to retaining our faculty members who may be courted by other universities with greater overall resources than Western.
A central theme of the University’s 1995 strategic plan, Leadership in Learning, was a commitment to selective and strategic budgetary decisions, coupled with a recognition that decisions at all levels must differentially support activities that are most critical to Western’s scholarly objectives in teaching and research. The pressures that prompted the adoption of a more selective budgetary process are even more urgent today than they were six years ago. Foremost among these pressures is the reality of continuing restraint in public operating funding: only the determined differential support of areas of strength and priority holds any promise of sustaining or enhancing Western’s status as an internationally prominent research-intensive university. In such an environment, an uncritical allegiance to breadth – to being all things to all people – risks a slide towards mediocrity. Our ability to attract and retain the best faculty and students is dependent upon our building and sustaining areas of strength which achieve national and international scholarly recognition.
Given these considerations, the University must continue its selectivity in planning in order to allocate resources to programs that are best able to enhance Western’s quality, distinctiveness, and reputation as a research-intensive university. Selective decisions that will consistently support particular scholarly directions over time require the reference point that can only be provided by formal academic plans that identify areas of real strength and priority within each unit. Such plans will help us maintain the important balance between responding to simple resource shortages and investing in maintaining and strengthening areas of excellence and strategic priority.
In a large, complex, decentralized university such as Western, Deans, Chairs and Directors of Schools are pivotally important in the process of consultation through which the ideas and goals of the Faculties are developed into the plans that will form the basis for resource allocation. It is crucial to the success of this process that Deans, Chairs and Directors consult extensively with faculty and staff members at the unit level, because only through such consultation can academic plans accurately reflect the faculty’s objectives and secure their support, as well as that of staff within the units. A corresponding process must take place in the administrative and support units, including staff at all levels. The development of these plans should take into account the necessity for units across the University to be able to respond in a timely and creative manner to changes within established discipline areas, to emerging challenges and opportunities, and to unanticipated opportunities and eventualities.
The programs supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Research Chairs (CRC), the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (ORDCF), and the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) have been designed with the unambiguous goal of recognizing and fostering areas of national and international strength and excellence. The two federal programs require participating universities to develop a coherent Strategic Research Plan that presents arguments in support of identified research areas that are of strategic priority to the institution. Proposals for support from these programs are then judged in part by their compliance with the institution’s Strategic Research Plan. Western has prepared interim institutional research plans in support of proposals that we have submitted to these programs, but these plans are tactically based and responsive to the particular requirements of the specific programs.
The 2001-02 University Budget calls on the Provost and the Vice-President (Research) to require all Faculties, Departments, and Schools to develop Academic Plans. The Provost and Vice-President (Research) will use the Faculty plans as a basis for the development of an overall plan for the University. These Academic Plans will play an important role in future selective budgetary decisions. They will be a reference for future internal decisions, including faculty complement planning (replacement and additional positions), and central allocation decisions will reflect the plans’ priorities. They will also shape future Canada Research Chair nominations and the University’s response to other external funding opportunities. The Vice-Presidents have also asked the non-academic units to develop parallel Operational Plans. Assuming eventual success in addressing the University’s inadequate resource situation, the Academic and Operational Plans will form the framework for investment of new base operating funds.
To meet the objective of becoming a leading
research-intensive university, Western is commited to
building its areas of strength in research and teaching.