The Strategic Academic Plan (SAP) outlines strategies to advance Laurier’s mission and vision over the next five years. It is built on the foundation of the 2010–2015 Academic Plan and is set in the context of how Laurier was described in that plan.
We continue to endorse the core principles expressed in the 2010 plan: discovery and innovation, civic engagement, diversity, integration, global citizenship, sustainability, justice, quantitative and scientific analysis, communication and performance.
Academic programming and research at Laurier remain best understood as grouped under the domains listed in the SAP and subsequently elaborated and refined in the Strategic Research Plan (2014) and the Strategic Mandate Agreement.
Identify the academic programs (or sets of programs) which exemplify academic excellence and Laurier’s strengths in experiential learning, pedagogical innovation and community engagement, and leverage these program strengths to build impact as a comprehensive university.
Sustain, leverage and enhance our sector-leading and differentiated academic programs.
Laurier is built on a foundation of academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Within this context, it is important that we proactively identify programs capable of being provincial and national leaders (our “sector-leading” programs) as well as our programs which are differentiated by their distinctive and articulated programmatic approaches. We recognize that academic programs at Laurier are highly interdependent and that the sustainability of all programs and the comprehensiveness of the university depend on connections among faculties.
Over the term of this academic plan, programs and departments will be encouraged to engage in unit-level planning aimed at program enhancement informed by external benchmarking. Of necessity, programs will need to identify their strengths and aspirational goals and to track progress towards them. Progress will be measured in part through defined institutional metrics as well as through metrics particular to discipline or approach. Institutional metrics will assess quality, demand, productivity, impact and outcomes. Separate sets of institutional metrics (both qualitative and quantitative) will be developed for undergraduate and graduate programs. The selection and definition of specific metrics will be carried out in consultation with the relevant dean(s) and informed by best practices.
In this plan, we recognize those programs which have already built a provincial or national reputation in 2015. In a highly competitive postsecondary sector, programs of exceptional quality are a critical differentiator. Sector-leading programs are reputational cornerstones that distinguish the institution and can, when properly leveraged, enhance the educational experience for all students. Building sector leading programs is a long-term task and requires that programs be prioritized within their faculties, fully recognizing that the strength of one sector-leading program will benefit other programs. Here, we identify the Bachelor of Business Administration, the Bachelor of Music, and the Master of Social Work as three long-standing programs that have achieved sector-leading quality and reputation.
These three programs are distinguished by their outstanding performance across key parameters, including:
The purpose of identifying these three programs in the plan is so that they may serve as exemplars. If the strategies outlined below are effective, Laurier’s next academic plan will be able to point to more sector-leading programs. Across Laurier’s faculties, there are many programs which are on the cusp of achieving sector-leading excellence. Additionally, other programs are academic and regional leaders essential for solidifying Laurier’s differentiating strengths as a comprehensive, liberal arts and sciences-based institution integrated with the communities it serves; these programs are equally served by the following strategies.
We recognize that it is neither desirable nor feasible for every program to be differentiated and in high-demand. A critical role of many programs is to be part of the interdependent web that enables a university to be comprehensive. Laurier is also home to excellent distinctive smaller programs which generate significant impact internally and externally. Research-based graduate programs, for example, are critical to Laurier’s continued growth in research intensity.
Build an intentional structure of experiential learning connected to program learning outcomes which themselves are connected to the “communities of interest” critical to Laurier’s graduates.
Academic programs meet program learning outcomes through a combination of classroom-based pedagogies and experiential learning. The challenge over the next five years is for programs to examine their learning outcomes and consider how best to assess each of them, considering experiential, classroom-based, and other pedagogies. Laurier has a strong tradition of teaching excellence and experiential learning. Our goal over the next five years is to focus more intentionally on integrating experiential learning by:
Making these connections concrete will support students to develop and test the knowledge and skills required for them to be successful beyond university. It is recognized that these learning outcomes are achieved by many approaches (Strategy (c) in Academic Excellence). Experiential learning is emphasized in the plan to encourage further enhancement during the next five years, as well as to enhance our strong connections to our communities.
Build a diverse 21st-century university by educating a larger proportion of students from outside the traditional cohort of Ontario high school graduates.
Diversity strengthens the university as a whole. There is a societal imperative to continue to diversify the student body, both to meet the needs and aspirations of under-represented groups and to reflect the cultural, societal, political, environmental and economic complexities that define our age. In particular, development of intercultural competencies must be a hallmark of Laurier graduates.
Aboriginal learners are the single-most under-represented group in Canadian higher education. Laurier recognizes the unique heritages of Aboriginal peoples and supports the intentions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to preserve and express their distinctive indigenous cultures, histories and knowledge through academic programming, scholarship and co-curricular activities. Laurier recognizes the unique needs of Aboriginal learners and communities. We seek to create a climate where learning about and understanding indigeneity is part of the core experience for all students, faculty and staff.
Over the next five years, strategies are focussed on Aboriginal learners, internationalization, and mature, part-time and transfer students. The purpose of this narrowly defined goal is to ensure that we can make significant progress on these important objectives. The goal is not to diminish focus, or lessen emphasis, on other types of diversity. We are confident that Laurier will continue to promote empowerment and education and to eradicate the barriers that inhibit access to equal opportunities. We advocate for the inclusion and equal treatment of everyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, religion, age, ability or socio-economic background, as well as recruitment and retention of highly qualified and diverse faculty and staff to support our educational mission.
To meet the demand for education from mature, part-time and transfer students, it is critically important that Laurier increase learners from these student populations. As a university which has traditionally depended on recruiting principally from Ontario high school graduates, such diversification is also important for our overall sustainability as an institution.
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