Implementing the provost model at Dal

- September 4, 2014

Provost and Vice-President Academic Carolyn Watters. (Danny Abriel photo)
Provost and Vice-President Academic Carolyn Watters. (Danny Abriel photo)

Dalhousie’s senior administration has been undergoing changes in its structure, with the goal of better aligning university decision making with Dal’s academic mission.

The changes focus on a key part of the vice-president academic’s portfolio: the role of provost.

“The provost serves as the university’s senior academic leader,” explains Dal President Richard Florizone, who outlined the general principles of the provost model in an email to faculty/staff over the summer.

“The provost not only oversees our academic operations, but works to ensure that other aspects of our administration — such as budgeting, student support and fundraising, as examples — are coordinated around our core mission.”

The provost has been part of the vice-president academic’s position at Dal for years, but its responsibilities have not been as fully exercised as at many other Canadian universities, including most of the U15.

“A fully implemented ‘provost model,' as we’ve called this, recognizes that our top priority as a university is teaching and research,” says Dr. Florizone. “By emphasizing the provost’s responsibilities, we ensure that our academic priorities drive decisions around allocating resources, renovating or adding new facilities, and other similar concerns. It makes our planning between academic and administrative units more integrated while providing a clearer and more efficient decision-making process.”

Better alignment

A fully implemented provost model has the provost ensuring the integration of university planning and resource allocation, in a process that includes vice-presidents, deans and other university leaders.

So just what does the new provost role look like?  The provost:

  • Ensures university plans and budgets align with academic priorities;
  • Oversees integrated strategic planning;
  • Works closely with the vice-president finance and administration on budgeting and resource allocation;
  • Serves as chief academic officer, ensuring collaboration and integration among all the vice-presidents to further the academic mission.

The Provost Committee is a key component of this process. The group’s membership includes all of the vice-presidents, and it’s responsible for assigning resources to strategic directions and recommending institutional proposals, including capital projects, to the full President’s Executive group for approval. The Provost Committee is chaired by the provost, with the vice-president finance and administration as vice-chair.

Dr. Watters continues as provost

Carolyn Watters, the current vice-president academic and provost, will continue to serve in the position, but her title has changed to “provost and vice-president academic,” switching the order of its dual role. She says having the provost chair both the Deans’ Council and the Provost Committee will improve integration between the university’s academic and administrative leadership. The model has been in trial mode over the past several months and fine-tuning of the details will be completed this fall.

“With our new Strategic Direction approved by Board and Senate in the spring, our task now is to develop and implement focused plans around our key priorities, from student retention to research's returns to society,” says Dr. Watters. “The Provost Committee will have a key role to play in that process, together with our deans and other academic leaders.”

The provost model does not add more personnel to Dal’s senior administration, although some titles and reporting relationships of administrative staff are likely to change. Dr. Florizone says the university will be finalizing and communicating these changes in the coming weeks.


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