1.0 Teaching and learning

Enhance the transformative power of teaching and learning

Enhancing the transformative power of teaching and learning requires a focus on attracting, supporting and retaining local and international students, and attracting, supporting and retaining academics who are teaching and research innovators and leaders.

1.1 Increase retention and degree completion

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
Pemberton Cyrus, Associate Vice-President (Acting) and Anne Forrestall, Assistant Vice-Provost Student Affairs
(June 2018): • Student Retention Initiatives: Career and academic advising have been integrated in the Bissett Student Success Centre with training for advisors on providing advising to students on career development, understanding strengths and helping students to create integrated plans. This ensures a more holistic approach to career services, including combined programming, such as Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) for students applying to professional programs such as Medical School and Pharmacy. Integration will continue to occur, including the development of new Career On Track programming, a suite of programs (first year/advising curriculum) that includes Start On Track, Stay On Track and Back On Track.
• Back On Track program: Results of 2017/2018 pilot demonstrate an improvement in participants’ persistence. Students who completed Back On Track were retained at 81%, compared to 58% retention rate for those who were eligible but did not participate. Retention rate for program completers in FASS was 74% compared to 52% for non-completers; in Science, 91%  compared to 66% for non-completers; and in Agriculture, 75% compared to 54% for non-completers.
• First- to second-year retention is 83.4%
• First- to third-year overall retention rates are holding steady
• Increased first-year retention in four of the direct-entry Faculties, with a 7.2% increase in first-year retention in the Faculty of Engineering; four of the direct-entry Faculties experienced a decline in first-year retention
• FASS retention rate for first-year students continues to decline and is now below 70%. Given their large numbers, there is significant negative impact on the overall retention rate.
• Development of the first-year class for FASS intended to help with the engagement of first-year students with the Faculty, instructors and fellow students, expose students to the academic variety of the Faculty through a broad range of discipline-based lectures, work on establishing foundational FASS-based expectations and skills for academic studies and facilitate clearer degree planning, retention and degree completion
• 14 First Year Interest Groups (FIGS) were offered in FASS or Science: 78 students registered in Science FIGS with an 87% completion rate; 70 students registered in FASS FIGS with a 100% completion rate

Read more about priority 1.1

INFLUENCED BY: 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 3.2, 3.3, 4.2, 5.6
: 1.3, 1.4, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5


Dalhousie's percentage of students who successfully move from first to second year lags the U15. Retention rates for international students pose specific concerns. There is a need to better understand the academic and non‐academic factors which influence retention and degree completion of students in Dalhousie's direct‐entry programs.

The multi‐faceted strategy will ensure the effective development of a "culture of retention" across Dalhousie's campuses. The strategy will focus on effective analysis and proactive student success strategies; enrolment approaches from a retention and completion perspective; and continuous development, implementation and evaluation of all institution‐wide and faculty‐based student support practices.


  1. Improve student success year over year, with a focus on those students, identified by analysis, as being the most likely to be aided by defined strategies and organizational cultures. One measure of success would be increased retention and increased degree completion.
  2. Increase first year student retention rates for both Canadian students and international students above the U15 averages by 2018.
  3. Increase the completion time rates for 6 years or 7 years, as appropriate by program, to above the U15 average by 2018.


1.2 Focus on strategic student recruitment based on discipline, level & diversity

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
Ivan Joseph, Vice-Provost Student Affairs
(June 2018): • Established Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) Steering Committee, SEM Operational Teams and SEM Plan (with well-defined enrolment targets); obtained preliminary outcomes from SEM Operating teams
addressing Faculty-specific concerns
• Implemented paperless admission process for Open House, with improved yield of student offers
• Integrated and co-located Registrar’s Office admissions and recruitment personnel
• Received first update of Nova Scotia public school grades electronically (NSCAT)
• Obtained recommendation for additional financial aid funding from BAC to address student demand for assistance ($500k)
• Success across target Faculties and markets, including growth in female applicants in Computer Science, indicates the benefits of intentional SEM planning and the Integrated Marketing and Recruitment Plan
• Preliminary 2018/2019 registration statistics are strong relative to same time last year for returning students
• Scholarships and bursaries for undergraduate students (including the NS Bursary Program) was $24.7M in 2017/2018 compared to $24.8M in 2016/2017
• Enrolment stable at 18,846
• Enrolment of international students increased from 18.6% in 2016/2017 to 20.4% of student body in 2017/2018

Read more about priority 1.2

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5
: 1.1, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.2


Dalhousie has seen considerable enrolment success over the past decade as a result of strong strategic enrolment management planning. The university has invested thoughtfully in domestic and international student recruitment, aiming to achieve optimal enrolment across all academic programs, seek diversity in the student population, and promote Dalhousie as a world-class university.

Dalhousie’s significant strategic enrolment management efforts have yielded an enrolment growth of over 24% from 2002 to 2012, giving Dalhousie the highest enrolment of any university in Atlantic Canada. The university’s recruitment approach has been based on and informed by institutional data, market research and evaluation, and best practices. Efforts have been coordinated across the institution with strong support from faculties and Communications and Marketing. Growth has varied by faculty; while enrolment in some programs has grown quickly, there continues to be unfilled capacity in others. The university’s ability to grow enrolment in some high demand programs, such as Nursing, is limited by government capacity regulation.

The geographic origin of students who choose Dalhousie each year is unique among Canadian universities and is a direct result of where we have invested our recruitment and marketing efforts. Over 50% of Dalhousie students come from outside of Nova Scotia, giving the university the highest proportion of out-of-province students of any major university in the country. Atlantic Canada’s major demographic for university enrolment (18-25 year olds) is in decline and projected to continue to decline over the next two decades.


Our goal is to deliver an exceptional Dalhousie student experience.

  1. Develop a smart growth plan/enrolment strategy by spring 2015 to guide Dalhousie’s recruitment planning to 2018. The strategy will include program-level enrolment targets developed in consultation with faculties and schools with an aim to maintain market share in Atlantic Canada, as well as outside the region and internationally, while also identifying opportunities for future growth.

Download the charter [PDF-141kB]


1.3 Strengthen student experience, leadership development and additional support for our locally diverse and international students

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
: Ivan Joseph, Vice-Provost Student Affairs
(June 2018): • Approved the Health & Wellness Framework
• Sexualized Violence Policy approved by Senate
• Launched interprofessional health model including Walk-in Counselling and met ≤1-day access (same day) for mental health support and primary health care
• Year-to-date, wait time for ongoing psychological therapy significantly reduced over 2016/2017 results. The KPI established for the 2017/2018 year is ≤ 59 students. Students waiting for ongoing psychological therapy have access to same-day service through walk-in appointments in Student Health and Wellness. In the first term (September to December 2017) of operation, student wait list for ongoing therapy dropped to 24 students from 191 for the same time period the previous year.
• Graduate Student Experience Working Group identified priorities for strategic action to enhance holistic student success of graduate domestic and international students
• Student Impact awards in 39 award categories recognized 57 students and 9 student groups
• Completed $2.8M bathroom renovations in Summer 2017 and $491k renovation of 45 rooms in Chapman House (Truro)

Read more about priority 1.3

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.5, 3.1, 3.2
: 1.1, 1.5, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5, 5.2


Fulfilling our mission of teaching and learning requires supporting our students' academic success and providing them with a compelling out‐of‐classroom experience. At Dalhousie, this includes academic support services such as advising, counselling and The Writing Centre, and non‐academic services such as residences, athletics and recreation, Health Services and the International Centre. Feedback from the 100 Days consultations and other data point to several opportunities and gaps including: scholarships and financial support; support for international students, graduate students, rural students, and mature students; writing support; athletics and recreation opportunities; and employment skills development. As we evaluate the next set of investments and initiatives in these areas, we should focus on those that will have the greatest impact on student success. Other considerations should include the impact on NSSE scores and on our overall enrolment.


Our goal is to deliver an exceptional Dalhousie student experience.

  1. Conduct a review of Student Services that considers and makes recommendations on how the unit can best be organized, particularly in light of the new Provost model, to deliver an exceptional student experience that meets the needs of our diverse student body.
  2. Develop a strategic action plan for Student Services that targets the student populations that our analyses show are most at risk of not completing, recognizes the diversity of our students, values their well‐being and ensures alignment with the academic mission of the university.

Download the charter [PDF-135kB]


1.4 Embark on strategic program reviews to enhance the effectiveness & student focus of our program offerings

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
: Pemberton Cyrus, Associate Vice-President (Acting)
(June 2018): • 10 programs received full accreditation in 2017, including UME/MD (Medicine), Continuing Professional Development (Medicine), BCD Community Design Honours (School of Planning), MPlan (School of Planning), MRI Certificate (Health)
• Internal program reviews in 2017/2018: 10 Undergraduate, 11 Master’s, 6 PhD
• Senate reviews of the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences and Agriculture began in Fall 2017
• Dalhousie Undergraduate Medical Education Program accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools
• Draft Senate Policy for Faculty Reviews of Academic Programs is nearing completion. Faculty consultations have met with considerable support. The policy provides the minimum expectations (which are rigorous) for all program reviews, both undergraduate and graduate. It is being pilot-tested in Earth Sciences in Spring 2018. Complete consultations and Senate approval for implementation expected in Fall 2018.

Read more about priority 1.4

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 2.4, 5.3
: 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 2.1, 3.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5, 5.3


Dalhousie has more undergraduate programs per student than other U15 members. This diversity can be a strength, but it is a potential weakness if we distribute scarce resources over too many programs. Although other universities have chosen a process of centralized program review, Dalhousie has selected Faculty-based program reviews in the context of academic program planning, aligning with relevant Senate policies, and with some central coordination to develop and support overall principles and practices and to monitor and learn from similar efforts at other universities.

A systematic process is required to ensure Dalhousie maintains relevance and academic vibrancy.


  1. Establish core principles, framework and criteria for Faculty Academic Program Plans in 2015. Using these core principles, etc., Faculties develop individual Academic Program Plans.
  2. Engage in Faculty-led strategic reviews of their program portfolios, through implementation of the Academic Program Plans (including their frameworks for review), with all Faculties completing their review by December 2018.
  3. Ensure that cyclical program reviews are aligned (yet non-concurrent) with all cyclical Senate Reviews of Faculties by 2018.
  4. Develop a suite of recommended core elements in direct-entry undergraduate programs. Examples might include experiential learning, research / inquiry-based learning, work integrated learning.

Download the charter [PDF-151kB]


1.5 Foster and support innovation in program development and excellence in teaching and pedagogy

EXECUTIVE SPONSOR: Provost & VP, Academic
: Pemberton Cyrus, Associate Vice-President (Acting)
(June 2018): • Consultation for proposed Academic Program Framework aligning with draft Senate Policy for Faculty Reviews of
Academic Programs
Program Development:
• New Academic Innovation Awards: 21 projects were funded for a total of $100k in addition to 7 Teaching and Learning Enhancement Grants totalling $40k through CLT
• Work integrated learning: 4,376 students (23.2% of all students) participated in more than 220 courses designed to offer structured work experience
• Further efforts to integrate academic and career development, working with ADAC and Student Affairs (Bissett Student Success Centre already integrates academic and career advising)
• Adoption of single recommended student response system for in-class use, in support of student success and consistency of practice across programs (Dalhousie currently has 5 such systems in use across various programs)
• Further consultations of the E-Learning Strategy and potential endorsement by Senate Learning & Teaching Committee
New Programs
• New programs approved: PhD in Agricultural Sciences, Master of Science in Business (pending MPHEC approval), BA in Cinema and Media Studies, Minor in Creative Writing
• New programs in development: PhD in Psychiatry, Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of Business Administration (new, combined MBA program), Medical Residency, Palliative Medicine, Medical Residency, Pediatric Radiology, Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (The Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation has been developed collaboratively by the Faculties of Management, Agriculture, Computer Science and Science, with Engineering and Sustainability developing certificates. The goal is to launch the Minor in Winter 2019.)
• New certificate programs approved: Certificate in Art and Visual Culture, Nursing Certificates (Acute and Critical Care; Mental Health Nursing; Oncology Nursing; Public Health Nursing), Certificate in Web and Mobile Development, Certificate in Data Analytics, Graduate Certificate in Big Text Analytics, Certificate in User Experience, Design and Evaluation
• New certificate programs in development: Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Teaching and Pedagogy:

• A program portfolio approach has been initiated for all Science undergraduate programs called “Science For”
• Dal’s principal expert in experiential learning, Dr. Jenny Baechler, has been hired to work with FASS faculty and others to expand experiential learning across FASS undergraduate programming
• Hired a Senior Educational Developer, Diversity and Inclusivity in CLT, a position that will allow the university to increase support for diversity-related initiatives with instructors and academic programs across the campus
• Lecture Capture was made available in 18 classrooms and used in 42 classes, which have a total enrolment of 8,832
• Hosted 22nd annual Conference on University Teaching and Learning (DCUTL) (May 2018), with the theme “Exploring the Future(s) of Higher Education: Supporting Inclusive Teaching Excellence”
• CLT launched (with ~40 faculty/instructors already signed up to participate) new Faculty Certificate in Teaching and Learning
• Dalhousie Teaching award recipients included Dr. Alison Thompson (Chemistry); the First Year Chemistry Program, Department of Chemistry; Gaia Aish (Chemistry); Stuart Carson (Department of Math and Statistics); Madeleine McKay (Health Promotion), Kirsten Jones (Chemistry) and Phillip Joy (Health Promotion)
• Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grants: 7 grant recipients; Teaching and Learning Enhancement Grants: 6 recipients; Change One Thing Challenge: 2 recipients

Read more about priority 1.5

INFLUENCED BY: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.4, 5.3, 5.6
: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.1, 3.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.5, 5.6, 5.7


Maintaining our relevance and academic vibrancy requires that we continue to innovate in teaching, including new pedagogy, and develop further interdisciplinary programs and e‐learning opportunities. The current Academic Innovation Initiative has undertaken this work and we need to continue it, to better share practices across the institution and to determine the next set of new investments in academic programs. We also need to respond to the technological changes that many believe will transform higher education, developing a clearer strategy and approach to e‐learning that sifts through the hype and brings together best practices from inside and outside Dalhousie.

A university's success is directly tied to high quality and relevant differentiation in programs and tied to pedagogical excellence.


  1. Develop an institutional academic program plan, stemming from Faculties’ approved program plans.
  2. Adopt a Dalhousie Learning Charter for students and professors (expectations and evaluation methods) for each Faculty.
  3. Provide career‐long learning opportunities for pedagogical development through CLT available to all faculty.
  4. Develop and adopt teaching and learning initiatives that support student success.

Download the charter [PDF-136kB]