Bringing Dal's Third Century Promise to life: ‘An expression of our collective ambition’

Get to know Dalhousie's new Strategic Plan (2021-2026)

- June 16, 2021

Dal President Deep Saini and Provost Frank Harvey unveiled Third Century Promise to the university community Tuesday during a virtual launch event.
Dal President Deep Saini and Provost Frank Harvey unveiled Third Century Promise to the university community Tuesday during a virtual launch event.

Dalhousie University has seen plenty of change and growth over its two centuries of history on the path to becoming the major university it is today.  

With its bicentennial celebrations behind it and a third century ahead, Dalhousie is poised to make even greater strides forward with a new strategic plan now in hand.

Dal President Deep Saini and Provost Frank Harvey unveiled Third Century Promise to the university community Tuesday during a virtual launch event, offering faculty and staff their first full look at a plan that was more than two years in the making.

“Our university community has conceived and shaped this plan together over the past two years,” said President Saini during the launch. “It is a shared plan that builds on Dalhousie’s past, embodies the potential of our present, and will help us shape a path to an even more inspiring future.”

President Saini described the plan as “an expression of our collective ambition” as it was developed through an unprecedented level of engagement with the university community that involved surveys, planning sessions, learning circles and self-study teams.

“It’s grounded in your hopes, dreams, aspirations and ambitions for Dalhousie.”

Pillars of promise

The new plan, which was approved by Dal’s Board of Governors in April, seeks to lay out the university’s long-term ambition while providing clear, actionable strategy for the next five years.

It does so with a refreshed vision of a Dalhousie that “inspires our diverse community to serve Nova Scotia, Canada, and the world through innovative and impactful teaching and research, world-class scholarship, a passion for learning, and a deep sense of social responsibility.”

This vision, in addition to the university’s mission and values laid out in the plan, is underpinned by five key pillars of promise:

  • Exceptional student experience
    To be among the very best universities in Canada for student experience and success.

  • Inclusive excellence
    A thriving community of faculty and staff, where everyone belongs.

  • High-impact research
    Growing our research impact here in Canada and around the world.

  • Civic university with global impact
    Uplifting our province and region while expanding our global reach.

  • A foundation for inclusion and distinction
    Modernizing and enhancing our physical, digital, and social infrastructure to support our drive for inclusion and distinction.

Each pillar is supported by a series of actions, which Dal will track to measure its success in unlocking the promise of each.

(For further information about each pillar and their action items, visit or download the full plan below). 

Download: Third Century Promise [PDF—3MB]

President Saini will oversee Dalhousie’s progress on the plan as a whole, with the university’s Provost Committee — led by Provost Harvey — managing implementation.

Provost Harvey and his team are at work now on an implementation plan detailing the various initiatives the university will undertake to achieve the action items laid out in Third Century Promise. It will outline, in practical terms, how the university plans to measure and monitor its work on an annual basis.

Shared plan, shared implentation

Just as Dal’s strategic planning process was built upon the grassroots involvement of staff, faculty and students, so will its efforts to put it into action.

“It's designed to be collaborative, to engage and empower stakeholders to feel invested in the success of the strategic plan,” said Provost Harvey of the implementation plan now in development.

The goal is to align efforts across the university, to connect planning with resources and to set clear measures of progress, with timelines tied to Dalhousie's budget cycle to ensure financial support for priorities.

“And it's designed to be change-ready, responding to changing environments, successes and emerging challenges to allow for adjustments when required,” he said.

Each pillar in the plan will be supported by one or two executive sponsors who have authority and responsibility for that strategic area and who will identify leads responsible for implementation and collaboration across strategic actions. Further, each action item will have a strategic lead or two to carry out planning and oversight.

The implementation plan will also be designed to build an “institution-wide and integrated planning culture” that will help ensure progress across all pillars and actions over the next five years starting with a push this fall.

From pandemic to Third Century Promise

President Saini closed the launch event with a note of thanks to all who helped make the plan possible, particularly given the challenges of a global pandemic.

“This has been a challenging year, and I know how hard it is to look to the future when faced with very immediate and urgent challenges,” he said. “That so many of you in our university community have devoted so much time to this strategic planning process shows your commitment, your character and — above all else — how much you care about this great university and the work we do together.”

President Saini, who joined Dal in January of 2020, struck a tone of optimism about the work ahead on what is his first strategic plan as president.  

“I am so grateful to have all of you with us as we set the course to even greater heights and as we live up to and fulfill our Third Century Promise together.”


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