Introduction

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Introduction

Arts & Science is a vibrant and diverse intellectual community, home to over 27,000 undergraduate students, 4,500 graduate students, 900 faculty members, and 600 administrative and technical staff.

We are the largest academic division at U of T, and Arts & Science alone is comparable in size to most major Canadian universities. With over 300 undergraduate and 100 graduate programs, and more than 2,400 undergraduate courses, the Faculty provides a wealth of educational opportunities across a wide range of disciplines.  Our academic units are consistently ranked top in Canada and are among the most highly ranked worldwide.  We bring together extraordinary expertise that spans the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences.

In our 2020-2025 Academic Plan, we focus on how we can leverage this remarkable breadth, capitalizing on our strengths as a Faculty of Arts and Science to provide exceptional student experiences, foster innovation in teaching and research, and nurture and promote the achievements of our world-renowned faculty.

   

Developing “Leveraging our Strengths"

Our Plan has taken shape through a series of consultative exercises in which we have engaged with the full range of our faculty, staff, and students.  We first developed an A&S Priorities Discussion Paper (2018), refined through a series of consultations with our academic leadership, student organizations, staff, and Faculty Council.  The Discussion Paper identified five strategic priorities: capitalizing on our strengths as a Faculty of Arts and Science; improving the student experience inside and outside the classroom; pushing the boundaries of our research excellence; promoting diversity and accessibility; and building partnerships with our communities.  These strategic priorities are supported by a crucial operational priority:  the need to expand and improve Faculty capital and infrastructure.

The A&S Priorities Discussion Paper provided a framework for the Provostial review of the Faculty in 2018, which involved a detailed self-study process and site visit by three expert reviewers from peer institutions.  Their report, and our administrative response to it, identified key areas of strength on which we can build, as well as potential new directions for our research and teaching mission.  Following the review, a set of working groups composed of faculty, staff, students, and College Principals developed a set of recommendations responding to issues raised in the reviewers’ report, guided by the themes outlined in the A&S Priorities.  Finally, the Dean engaged the A&S community by inviting every student, postdoctoral fellow, faculty, and staff member to participate in a series of in-person strategy sessions, as well as an online survey, to help us identify the best ways to leverage our strengths.

Throughout our consultations, we discerned consistent themes. A&S students, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and faculty highlighted the extraordinary opportunities for innovative learning, teaching, and research across the Faculty.  Our discussions also underscored areas where we can streamline processes, build new strengths, and provide a more supportive environment for teaching, learning, and research.  We heard from our undergraduate students that they need access to more on-campus community space and would appreciate more interdisciplinary opportunities in their programs of study.  We heard from graduate students that they value both academic and non-academic career pathways and would benefit from more professional development opportunities.  We heard from Assistant Professors that we need to better support teaching innovation and provide more opportunities to build community.  We heard from University Professors that we need to build on our interdisciplinary research strengths and develop strategies to recruit top international graduate students to our programs.  We heard from staff and academic administrators that we need to do away with outdated policies and practices that result in unnecessary work and barriers to innovative teaching and research. We are grateful to the many individuals who have contributed to this Plan, whose voices and perspectives have enriched our vision for future possibilities and directions for the Faculty of Arts & Science.

In drafting this document, we have worked with an Academic Plan Advisory Committee made up of academic leaders from across A&S.  We drew from our 2018 A&S Priorities Discussion Paper, the 2018 external review and our response to it, the 2019 Working Group Reports, and our Faculty-wide consultations. We have developed an Academic Plan, “Leveraging our Strengths,” that identifies our key directions and sets us on a path to achieve our goal of an exceptional intellectual community with a culture of caring, enriched by diversity, that capitalizes on our strengths as a Faculty of Arts & Science. “Leveraging our Strengths” positions the Faculty as one of the top centres of innovative research and teaching excellence worldwide.

Overview of the academic planning process timeline and related documents

 

Alignment with Institutional Context

Throughout our planning process, we have been mindful of the strategic vision of the larger institution in which the Faculty resides.  Our Plan is aligned with the goals set out in the “Three Priorities: A Discussion” document issued by University of Toronto President, Meric Gertler: “leverage our urban location(s) more fully, for the mutual benefit of University and City;” “strengthen and deepen key international partnerships by means of a well-defined strategic focus;” and “re-imagine and re-invent undergraduate education.” We have also been attentive to the Report of the University of Toronto’s Truth and Reconciliation Steering Committee. In developing our Plan, we have considered the President and Provost’s joint response to this report which included calls to action regarding Indigenous spaces, Indigenous curriculum, and Indigenous leadership. We have engaged with the Faculty of Arts & Science Dean’s Advisory Committee on Indigenous Teaching & Learning and have incorporated their input into this Plan. 

We have also considered how best to address the recommendations set out in the Provostial tri-campus review, “One University, Three Campuses,” which has provided an opportunity for us to evaluate and enhance the relationship between the Faculty of Arts & Science and the arts and science divisions at University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) and University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC); through meetings of the Tri-Campus Deans, we have identified new opportunities for coordination and cooperation in our tri-campus graduate programs.  Finally, as we implement “Leveraging our Strengths,” we will work closely with our partners across the institution to address the recommendations of the Report of the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health.

 

Looking to the Future

Our current planning process and the Faculty’s fiscal health are interdependent. To achieve our academic goals, resources must be available.  Conversely, our resources depend on our academic success.  In the recent past, A&S experienced a severe structural and accumulated deficit that constrained our academic aspirations throughout the 2008-2013 period. As the Faculty emerged from that period of austerity, our priorities focused again on expanding faculty complement and addressing longer-term financial stability. Since 2013, Arts & Science has hired new faculty across the sectors. We have also experienced a pronounced graduate program expansion and some growth in our undergraduate enrolment, particularly among international students. Looking to the future, we anticipate a period of relative stability in our graduate and undergraduate enrolment and faculty complement.  However, changes in our undergraduate student complement may occur in response to demand and demographic change, and in accordance with agreements with the Provincial government. We focus our attention for 2020-2025 on a new set of priorities articulated in “Leveraging our Strengths,” mindful that a necessary condition for academic success is continued financial stability.

Over the next five years, we will push the boundaries of our research success by building new collaborations locally and internationally, and supporting innovation within and across disciplines.  We will re-envision undergraduate and graduate education to include experiential and international learning opportunities; we will provide an enriched and exciting environment for students, inside and outside the classroom.  We will celebrate a multiplicity of new perspectives and foster a culture that embraces the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.  We will engage with our communities — local, national, Indigenous, and international — and draw from the experiences of our extraordinary alumni base to forge new and valuable partnerships and outreach opportunities.  We will tackle our infrastructure challenges, ensuring that our faculty and students have the space and facilities they need to achieve excellence.  As we start this new decade, in which we will celebrate the University’s bicentennial in 2027, A&S has charted a course in “Leveraging our Strengths” that will transform the teaching, learning, and research ambitions of our Faculty.