Task Force on Public Policy Studies

PDAD&C #0, 2001-2002


TO:   Principals, Deans, Academic Directors and Chairs
FROM:   Adel Sedra, Vice-President and Provost
DATE:   July 3, 2001
RE:   Task Force on Public Policy Studies

I am pleased to announce the establishment of a Task Force on Public Policy Studies. The terms of reference and membership of the Task Force follow.

Task Force on Public Policy Studies

In the past two decades, the world of public policy in Canada and other advanced nations has been buffeted by political, economic, technological, cultural and demographic change. Demographic changes have placed increasing demands on established governmental social programs, even as fiscal pressures have strained the capacity of governments to respond. Meanwhile, cross-national economic and technological forces beyond the scope of any national or sub-national government have gained increasing strength. These changes have called into question the perceptions of the role and capacity of governments that prevailed in the mid-twentieth century, and have raised issues of the balance of public and private activity, the use of policy instruments, and the design of institutions. For those who seek to influence, formulate, implement and respond to governmental actions, these are enormous challenges. It has never been more important that Canadian universities respond to the needs for intensive and independent research on these issues, and for the development of a strong cadre of people with the capacity to understand and address them.

The University of Toronto has very substantial strengths in areas related to a broad spectrum of fields of public policy - health and social policy, education, global development and economic competitiveness, environmental policy, law and regulation, among others. These strengths are grounded in robust discipline-based academic units - a fact which has both advantages and disadvantages. The clear advantage of this discipline-based strength, and one which must be preserved, is that scholars of public policy maintain close connections with the full richness and rigour of their respective disciplines. The disadvantage is that our strengths in public policy have remained relatively hidden within their disciplinary homes. Nor has there been a vehicle to encourage and facilitate collaboration across policy fields with regard to common and cross-cutting issues such as the translation of research into policy, technology assessment, values frameworks, etc.

Until recently, a similar situation prevailed with regard to international studies at the University of Toronto. In that case, the provision of a very attractive physical facility, housing some but not all of the units with strength in international studies and providing a central venue for seminars, symposia and other events, created a much-need profile and focus for cooperation for international studies at the University, and, by accommodating the administration of a collaborative master's program in international studies as well as undergraduate international and area studies programs, facilitated linkages across these programs.

It may be possible to learn from and build upon our experience in international studies in order to enhance public policy studies at UofT. As was the case for international studies, there is the possibility of seeking private funding to renovate a very attractive physical venue to serve as a nucleus and an identifying presence for policy studies. Given substantial strength across disciplines, it may also be possible to develop a collaborative master's program in public policy, and to do together what no one department can do independently. The appropriate organizational model to accomplish these ends needs to be developed. One possibility is a School of Public Policy, to function as both a physical presence and a virtual network of related programs and units across the University.

No university in Canada is better positioned to build capacity in public policy than is the University of Toronto. Situated in a major metropolitan area which is home to the provincial government and a broad range of organizations in the broader public and private sectors, the University also embraces, in addition to its traditional strengths in arts and science, a full spectrum of professional programs including the health sciences, law, education, engineering, management, social work, planning, architecture, forestry, information studies and others. In sum, the University of Toronto has the ingredients to create a network of educational and research resources in public policy that matches the University's ambition to rank with the best public research universities in the world.

In order to realize this potential, the Provost has established a Task Force on Public Policy Studies with the following Terms of Reference.

  1. To review the range of graduate and undergraduate teaching and research activities in public policy at the University of Toronto.
  2. To assess the extent to which the teaching programs of the University fully reflect its research strengths in public policy.
  3. To review the way in which public policy activities are organized at selected universities in Canada and elsewhere that might constitute a reference group for the University of Toronto.
  4. To identify the potential for partnerships between the University of Toronto and other universities in Canada and elsewhere in the development of teaching and research programs in public policy.
  5. To make recommendations regarding:
    1. An organizational framework to take full advantage of the discipline-based teaching and research strengths in public policy at the University of Toronto, and to foster the further development of public policy studies, including the possibility of establishing a School of Public Policy.
    2. The range of activities in public policy in which further development should be pursued, including master's and/or doctoral programs, undergraduate courses, executive education, visiting professorships, conferences and symposia, etc.
    3. The appropriate activities and units which could be housed in a building dedicated to public policy studies.

It is anticipated that the Task Force will issue an interim report recommending an overall framework and, as appropriate, informing the striking of a Project Committee for a dedicated public policy building, by October 15, 2001. A final report with fuller recommendations regarding the organizational and program structure is to be submitted by February 15, 2002.


Carolyn Tuohy, Vice-President (Policy Development) & Associate Provost - Chair
Carl Amrhein, Dean, Faculty Arts and Science
Geoff Anderson, Department of Health Administration
Michael Berkowitz, Chair-designate, Department of Economics
Ron Daniels, Dean, Faculty of Law
Ken Leithwood, Associate Dean-designate, OISE/UT
Michael Marrus, Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Roger Martin, Dean, Rotman School of Management
Bob McNutt, Principal, University of Toronto at Mississauga
David Naylor, Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Lou Pauly, Director, Centre for International Studies
Paul Thompson, Principal, University of Toronto at Scarborough
Rob Vipond, Chair, Department of Political Science

The Task Force welcomes submissions, sent to the attention of the Chair, Room 206, Simcoe Hall, University of Toronto, 27 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1.

NOTE: See UPDATED Information