The University of Toronto Assesses its Progress Towards 2030: The View from 2012 (September 2011)

Over a two year period, from 2007-09, the University of Toronto community engaged in an intense and highly productive planning exercise. This process was initiated by President David Naylor’s Towards 2030: Planning for a Third Century of Excellence at the University of Toronto. That document gave rise to a series of over 100 Town Hall meetings, consultation sessions, submissions, and deliberations involving the University’s faculty, students, staff, alumni, and governors. All this work culminated in five Task Force reports and then a Synthesis Report from the President, in which he brought together conclusions and recommendations from the Task Forces along with reflections and insights of his own. (http://www.towards2030.utoronto.ca/synth.html)

The Synthesis Report was presented to the Governing Council in October 2008, where it received overwhelming support and stimulated productive discussion. The Council approved in principle Towards 2030: A Long-term Planning Framework for the University of Toronto (http://www.towards2030.utoronto.ca/files/Long-Term_Planning_Framework_Oct_2008.pdf).

The Towards 2030 process had a number of positive results, not least of which is a clear reaffirmation of the University of Toronto’s vital mission. The Framework put it thus: ‘The University of Toronto will continue to be distinguished by a research-intensive culture, the academic rigour of its educational offerings at all levels, and the excellence of its faculty, staff and students across three distinctive campuses and in many partner institutions’.

The Synthesis Report set out a plan for how we can build on our achievements of excellence in research and teaching.  It stands as the University of Toronto's vision and guide for the next two decades. It is a summary of, and elaboration on, a large number of directions where a strong consensus emerged from the Task Force reports.

Three years on, much has happened, both at the University of Toronto and in the world.  It is time to see what progress we have made in the directions set for us in Towards 2030 and what new and ongoing challenges and opportunities lie before us. It is time to provide an update on Towards 2030.

Over the next six months, we will engage the community in discussion on how well we are following though on Towards 2030. These conversations will be conducted in Town Halls on each of the three campuses (click here to see precise dates and times), in governance bodies, in small group sessions, in meetings with deans, chairs, college principals, and directors of programs, and through a dedicated website which will collect written input. The aim is to produce Towards 2030: The View from 2012 in February and to take it to Governing Council for approval in principle in the spring of 2012.

We will ask, and try to answer, a broad range of questions, including, but not restricted to, the following:

The Fiscal Context: Problems and Solutions

We, with every other publicly-assisted University, find ourselves in economic circumstances that are much worse than those we inhabited a mere three years ago. Are we doing the things that will enable us to continue on our trajectory, despite the 2008 market losses and ensuing difficulties for public-sector defined benefit pension plans? Is our new budget model enabling us to rise to the serious challenges that face us?

Research Excellence

The University of Toronto is Canada’s most highly ranked research-intensive university. Are we maintaining and improving our research strength? How can we continue to attract and retain excellent faculty?

Our Undergraduate Mission

The education of undergraduates is a core part of the University of Toronto’s mission. Are we providing our undergraduate students with an excellent education and student experience? What have we done to improve it and what can we do better? Here we will need to examine how we are doing with respect to our recruitment and admissions practices, our enrolment planning, and our commitment to access. We will also want to address matters such as quality of teaching, small learning communities, first year programs, online education, student space, athletics and recreational facilities, the way we communicate with our students, counseling and health services, orientation and transition programming, and residence capacity.

Our Graduate Mission

We are in the midst of an unprecedented graduate student expansion. Are we managing that well? Are we putting structures in place to address issues of graduate education and graduate student funding and, more specifically, the funding of international graduate students?

Institutional Organization

The University of Toronto is a large and highly complex organization, with three campuses, 18 faculties, and approximately 70 centres and institutes. One of the topics for discussion here will be the advantages and challenges of our tri-campus structure and how to best strike the balance between the growing autonomy of the campuses and the unity of the University.

Academic Planning

Academic planning is always important, but it is especially important during perilous economic times. We have had some contention over divisional academic planning over the last three years and the Guidelines for Academic Planning that will soon arise from the Provost’s Advisory Group on Academic Planning will bring some clear principles to these difficult matters. We will be eager to hear from the community whether these principles and guidelines are on the right track.

Differentiating the University of Toronto

Towards 2030 noted that the University of Toronto occupies a special place amongst Canadian institutions of higher education.

The question of what the consequences are of holding this special place is a pressing one for both the University of Toronto, for government, and for our partners and benefactors. It would be good to hear what our students, faculty, staff, and alumni have to say about the role their University plays in the greater Toronto area, nationally, and internationally.

Cheryl Misak
Vice-President and Provost
University of Toronto