Photo credit: Amber Nicholson

Greater focus on teaching needed, Dal senate told

Discussion focused on Dalhousie as a world-class university

Class sizes and teaching were two of the issues that emerged from a discussion of Dalhousie University's future at a university senate meeting on Nov. 9.

The topic of discussion was Dalhousie being a world-class university.

Faculty at the senate meeting expressed the difficulty they are having balancing their time between teaching and researching.

Anne-Marie Ryan, senior instructor of earth sciences, said Dalhousie needs a better balance in order to be seen as world class.

"We need to create an environment that allows balance between university as a learning institution and university as a research institution," she said.

Ron Gilbert, assistant professor of health sciences, said class sizes are too big for one professor to handle. He said a world-class university needs to produce successful graduates and that requires more individual attention from Dalhousie professors.

"Is our enrolment running ahead of us? I know we need to pay the bills, but really," he said.

Shane Simms, a senate representative of Dalhousie Student Union, agreed with students needing more individual attention and said a way the university could fix this would be by hiring more teaching assistants.

"Teaching assistants are rare at Dalhousie and this makes it tough for struggling students to get the help they are searching for."

Dr. Carolan McLarney, vice-chair of Academic Programs, reviewed what makes a university world class before faculty was broken into small discussion groups at Monday's senate meeting.

"All world class organizations have three intangible assets. Concepts, competence and connections," says Dr. Carolan McLarney, vice-chair of Academic Programs.

The discussion involved about 40 members of the senate who had gathered to share their ideas on how Dalhousie is world class now, how can it become more world class in the future and what the senate can do to push this idea forward.

The senate is comprised of elected faculty members, elected student representatives, representatives from affiliated institutions and senior academic administrators.

Methods discussed to make Dalhousie a world class university:

  • recruit and retain world class faculty
  • improve resources
  • quality over quantity in regards to programs, classes and students
  • international focus
  • balance between student experience and professor research

Dalhousie president Dr. Tom Traves says the next step is to merge the information obtained from the meeting with further discussions that will happen across the university over the next couple of months. Ideas will
then be printed in the strategic focus document that will come out in January 2010.

The president's strategic focus plan is a five-year plan that outlines how Dalhousie can work towards becoming an "outstanding personal experience at a national university built around an excellent learning environment, acclaimed research strengths, broad program choices, and successful career preparation in cooperation with supportive external stakeholders."

"Following feedback on that document, I will then take the document to Senate and the Board of Governors for a final discussion," said Traves.



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