Presidential Appointment

Recruiting and appointing Dal's 12th president & vice-chancellor

Beginning in September 2018, the university conducted an extensive international search for Dalhousie's 12th president & vice-chancellor, governed by the university’s Senior Administrative Appointments Policy and Procedures, culminating in the appointment of Dr. Deep Saini for a five-year term, effective January 1, 2020.

Recruitment process

While the Board of Governors has sole power over the appointment of the president, a search committee was established to recruit and recommend a candidate for appointment, consisting of both Board-appointed members and non-Board-appointed members.

Search committee

The Presidential Search Committee was established by the Board of Governors under the Senior Administrative Appointment Policy and Procedures.

The search committee was chaired by Lawrence Stordy, then-chair of the Dalhousie University Board of Governors. The chair served as a non-voting member of the committee, except when necessary to break a tie vote.

The full membership of the committee consisted of an equal number of Board-appointed members and non-Board-appointed members. As per the policy, the majority of non-Board-appointed members were appointed by Senate:

Lawrence Stordy  

Board-appointed members
Cassandra Dorrington
Robert Hanf
The Honourable A. Anne McLellan (Chancellor)
Sherry Porter
Robert Richardson
Candace Thomas  

Non-Board-appointed members
Senate-appointed members:
Dr. Roberta Barker (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)
Dr. Frank Harvey (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)
Dr. Kevin Hewitt (Faculty of Science)
Dr. Louise Spiteri (Faculty of Management)

Dalhousie Student Union appointed member:
Aaron Prosper

Staff member:
Ian Nason  

Search consultant

Dalhousie engaged Odgers Berndtson, one of the world’s leading executive search consultant firms, to assist with the search process.

Consultant Jane Griffith, based in Toronto, focuses on the recruitment of senior leaders in the academic, not-for-profit and broader public sectors working with prominent universities, colleges and not-for-profit organizations across Canada. She is Odgers Berndtson’s National Diversity Leader, working collaboratively with clients and colleagues to champion diversity and inclusion.

For over 50 years, Odgers Berndtson has helped some of the world’s biggest and best organizations find the senior talent to drive their agendas. They deliver executive search, assessment and development to businesses and organizations across over 50 sectors, drawing on the experience of more than 250 partners and their teams in 29 countries.


On May 16, 2019, the Board of Governors announced that Dr. Deep Saini had been appointed as the university’s 12th president and vice-chancellor, effective January 1, 2020.

Appointment notice

May 16, 2019

Dalhousie University’s Board of Governors announced today that Dr. Deep Saini has been appointed as the university’s 12th President and Vice-Chancellor.

Dr. Saini, who is currently Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Canberra in Australia, was the unanimous choice of the search committee. He is an accomplished leader who combines significant Canadian post-secondary experience with a global outlook; a distinguished scientist whose belief in the transformative power of education has defined his life’s journey; and a warm, genuine and inspiring individual ready to build on Dal’s 200 years of achievement and chart a course towards even greater success in our third century ahead.

“I am honoured and humbled by the opportunity to serve as the 12th President and Vice-Chancellor of Dalhousie University,” says Dr. Saini. “The university’s singular commitment to its anchor role in the region’s economic and social development is fittingly matched to its lofty national and global aspirations — a balance that I have espoused throughout my career and will form the cornerstone of my leadership at Dal. The university’s students, faculty and staff are proudly devoted to the synergy between world-class education and a rich tradition of outstanding research and scholarship. I am thrilled at being given the chance to be part of writing the next chapter of this compelling story.”

Dr. Saini will begin his five-year term on January 1, 2020, and plans are underway for his first campus visit as President-Elect sometime in early June (dates to be determined). He follows Dalhousie’s 11th President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Richard Florizone, who served from 2013 until 2018, and Mr. Peter MacKinnon, presently serving in an interim capacity. With Mr. MacKinnon’s term set to conclude at the end of June, the Board of Governors will review options for interim leadership for the remainder of 2019 in the coming weeks.

About Dr. Saini

The search committee was thrilled and thoroughly impressed by the quality and quantity of candidates who were interested in this opportunity, from around the world — a testament to Dalhousie’s growing national and international reputation. Even among this competition, however, Deep truly stood apart.

Born and raised in India, Dr. Saini earned his PhD in Plant Physiology from the University of Adelaide in Australia. He has worked at four different U15 universities in Canada, beginning his academic career at the University of Alberta before becoming a leading researcher in plant biology at the Université de Montréal’s Plant Biology Research Institute. In 2006, he became Dean of the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, launching several new programs and increasing both operating and facilities funding during his term.

For most of the past decade, Dr. Saini has been either President or Principal of a major university campus, with transformative results. First, as a Vice-President at the University of Toronto and Principal of University of Toronto Mississauga, he led major internationalization efforts, oversaw a significant facilities expansion and increased faculty complement by nearly 100 professors. Then, as President of the University of Canberra — a young university of comparable size and international ranking to Dalhousie — he led the development and implementation of a new strategic plan which positions the school as a national leader in professional education and experiential learning, as well as in equity, diversity, inclusion and access.

Dr. Saini is multilingual, fluent in English, French and three South Asian languages. A lifelong champion for fitness and athletics who played field hockey and track-and-field as a student-athlete, Dr. Saini has been honoured by the Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists, Nanjing University, the Sikh Foundation of Canada, the Royal Society of New South Wales, the Punjab Academy of Sciences and the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce. He was featured in India Abroad's "2011 Power List" and is the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

About the search process

One of the insights Deep shared with us during the search process is his belief that, “team is at the soul of leadership.” In that spirit, I wish to thank the members of the search committee for their outstanding work.

In addition to myself as chair, the search committee consisted of six Board-appointed members, four-Senate appointed members, one student representative and one administrator. The committee’s diversity, both in perspective and in their Dal roles, allowed for robust and through discussions not only about the candidates considered, but about Dalhousie, its mission and its third century ahead. The result is a President-Elect we were all proud to support. My thanks as well to search consultant Jane Griffith with Odgers Berndtson for her fantastic work in support of this process.

The search, launched in September 2018, was conducted according to Dalhousie’s Senior Administrative Appointments Policy and Procedures.

In closing, my congratulations to Dr. Saini on his appointment. He joins Dalhousie at a time of tremendous momentum: record enrolment and fundraising, significant renewal of our campuses, and a strong leadership team in place across the university. Under Dr. Saini’s leadership, I’m certain these successes will be just a taste of what Dalhousie’s third century has in store.


Lawrence Stordy, QC
Chair, Dalhousie University Board of Governors
Chair, Presidential Search Committee

Employment agreement

Dr. Saini's employment agreement with the university is available for viewing here [PDF-1.4mB].