Principal pitches provost position

New role would be combined with vice-principal (academic) portfolio

Principal Daniel Woolf says changing the vice-principal (academic)’s role to a vice-principal and provost position will make the University administration more efficient.
Principal Daniel Woolf says changing the vice-principal (academic)’s role to a vice-principal and provost position will make the University administration more efficient.
Journal File Photo

Queen’s will adopt a provost governance model for 2010-11, pending Board of Trustees approval, Principal Daniel Woolf said.

The provost model would change the vice-principal (academic)’s title to vice-principal/provost.

When the University begins its search for the next vice-principal (academic) after current titleholder Patrick Deane finishes his term in July 2010, the job would be advertised as a vice-principal/provost position.

“The provost plays a role not simply in the traditional vice-principal’s role but also, in a sense, becomes the chief operating officer of the University,” Woolf said.

The addition of the provost title would give the vice-principal (academic) more responsibility to help co-ordinate the University’s non-academic offices and departments.

“The issue is to co-ordinate among all the vice-principals so that we have integrated planning at the University, which I think hasn’t been as systematic in the past as best practices would indicate it should be,” Woolf said.

He said the salary for the new position would be negotiated with the candidate.

The provost would have more input in the University’s financial decisions than the vice-principal (academic)’s office currently has.

The office is responsible for the budgets of all of the academic departments, Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane said.

“We’re heavily involved in the sense that the units that report to the academic vice-principal between them combine to make up the majority of the operating budget,” he said. “But the University office in charge of budget is located within the portfolio of the vice-principal (finance and operations).”

Deane said the models he’s seen at other universities put the budget office within the portfolio of the provost.

“The provost becomes, among the vice-principal groups, the first among equals.”

Deane said the new title would result in a structural change for managing internal affairs.

“The practical, hands-on administration of internal affairs comes into the hands of the provost as chief operating officer, which frees the principal up not only to do the external obligations of the job but also do the parts of the internal life of the University that are very important, like being close to students and close to the faculty.”

It would be a symbolic change as well, he said.

“It makes explicit the academic priorities of the institution if the vice-principal (academic) is the person with the fundamental control over budget issues,” he said. “That does send a clear message to the whole institution that that’s the nature of the business and the values that will guide the decision making around resources.”

Woolf said there wouldn’t be a separation between the principal’s and provost’s roles, where one is externally focused and the other is internally focused.

“It’s not just when the principal is away, but precisely when the principal is out-and-about engaging with the internal community, it’s necessary there be a strong second-in-command,” he said. “I don’t see this by any stretch as an internal or external division.”

Woolf said his aim to change to a provost governance model is part of his plan to make the University administration more efficient.

“It’s not the magic bullet for everything because you need to have the right person for the role,” he said. “Governance is an ongoing issue that’s going to take us several years to sort out.”

Many universities in Canada have already adopted this model, he said.

Greg Moran, University of Western Ontario (UWO)’s vice-president (academic) and provost 1995-2005, gave a presentation at the Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 3 about the proposed new model.

“Usually what happens is the provost has broader responsibilities for non-academic support units that have a direct impact on students and their education,” Moran said, adding that each institution amends the role according to its needs.

UWO has had a provost for about 20 years, Moran said. Other institutions, including the University of Toronto and Wilfrid Laurier University, also have provosts.

“The whole point to this is to have someone who plays this kind of central role in co-ordinating, planning and budgeting within the institution whose primary responsibilities are academic.”

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