'FOURTHRIGHT' VIEWS on THE FUTURE:
Four-Year Strategic Business Plan 2002/2003 to 2005/2006
By: Dean Lewis Klar
Faculty of Law, Univeristy of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
This year the University of Alberta embarked upon a Four Year Planning cycle for all faculties and administrative units. Each faculty was required to construct a four-year strategic business plan outlining the faculty's strategic initiatives from 2002 until 2006, including details on how these initiatives are going to be funded.
Planning too far ahead is something that I have always felt uneasy about. Whether it is an over abundance of pragmatism, or some may call it cynicism, it always seems that things never work out as one imagined. This is true especially where finances are concerned.
Nevertheless, the exercise was not a discretionary one, and after weeks of cogitating and consulting, the Faculty of Law's "Four-Year Strategic Business Plan 2002/2003 to 2005/2006" was finished.
Let me share some of the highlights with you. The major challenge facing our law school over the next four years is finding the revenue to move us ahead from where we are now. Although I am, of course, not a totally objective analyst, it is my belief that our law school has done extraordinarily well over the past several years. Despite a very competitive market, we have made some terrific new hires. Our research is becoming increasingly more recognized, we are winning major research awards, and our research funding has increased significantly. In terms of fund development, alumni affairs, graduate studies, and law school environment, we have made great progress. Our graduates think highly of their law school experience, and the Faculty of Law is recognized as one of the top in Canada.
The Plan recognizes that in order for the Faculty to move forward it is important to increase the number of full time tenure track faculty. We have set a target of hiring ten additional faculty members over the next five years. This would improve our student/faculty ratio from approximately 18:1, where it currently stands, to 13:1. At this ratio, and assuming that other law schools stand still at their current complement, we would move from our current 11th place to the fifth spot in terms of ratio. It is also important to increase the percentage of our students who receive scholarship or bursary support, as here again we compare very unfavourably with other Canadian law schools. Hiring new faculty and being able to better support our students has ramifications for all of our strategic goals, whether they relate to the faculty's research and scholarship, quality of the teaching and the curriculum, or quality and diversity of our student body.
How can we do this? There is a strong consensus that although it is important to continue to press for more government funding, to continue aggressively with fund raising from donors, and to seek support for research from foundations, a differential tuition fee for law students is inevitable, if we wish to accomplish our initiatives. The fact is that higher differential tuition fees are in place in all Ontario law schools and will most likely be adopted by law schools across the country. The plan is to return these fees directly to the law school so that it can hire and retain new staff, improve its curriculum, and increase its financial support for students. Other law schools are presently doing this, thus the longer our law school waits, the further behind we fall.
Our strategic initiatives relate to improving the law school's teaching and curriculum, making better use of technology, improving our admissions process, strengthening and expanding our graduate program, creating a positive teaching and learning environment, improving and increasing our research and scholarship, creating a strong and supportive alumni base, and increasing the international dimension of our teaching, research and law school experience. Increased revenues from tuition is not an end in itself, but only the means of accomplishing our initiatives. In addition, of course, money is not everything, and even with increased revenues we must be progressive and alert to the other things which must be done in order to move our law school ahead.
I look forward to discussing our plan with you and receiving your advice and input.
© 2001-2002 Dean Lewis Klar
Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
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