UVic rushes to compete for millions in research dollars

MONEY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS AND RESEARCH

Due to successful fundraising, UVic students wishing to travel will receive new funding from the President’s Asia Partners Fund and the President’s Excellence Fund. Over a four-year period, UVic will invest $300 000 to support students travelling to Asia and $60 000–$70 000 to UVic students who wish to have part of their education in another province. Funding will also be increased to existing programs that support Indigenous students who go back to communities and engage in research initiatives.

UVic president Jamie Cassels also discussed the Canada First Excellence Fund, a federal program which will disburse $1.5 billion in funds to Canadian research institutions over the next 7–8 years. Cassels was pleased that the funding was targeted towards human talent and discovery as opposed to building new infrastructure. However, the timelines are “impossibly short.” Universities were asked two weeks ago to submit a proposal for the first tranche of funding, worth up to $350 million, by Feb. 2. Applications for the next tranche, worth up to $800 million, will be due on Oct. 30 of this year. UVic could partner with other universities in its research proposals, but cannot make more than one proposal per tranche. UVic VP Research David Castle has been asked to “leave no dollar on the table,” and will lead an accelerated proposal to fund UVic’s existing research on the environment, oceans and coasts, and climate change. However, Cassels said that the compacted timeline “might not have the hallmarks of the usual UVic broad-based consulting process.”

DIVESTMENT

In response to the fossil fuel divestment movement, UVic will hold a public forum on Jan. 26 which will include a panel discussion featuring representatives from Divest UVic, Suncor, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, and UVic’s climate research institute. The free event begins 7 p.m. in Flury Hall (B150) in the Bob Wright Centre.

CAMPUS PLAN UPDATE

Valerie Kuehne, acting VP Academic and Provost, said that the university would begin consultations on the 2015 Campus Plan update next month. The Campus Plan, last updated in 2003, guides the physical development of the campus. According to Kuehne, the 2003 update prioritized “compact growth” due to limited land, which she believed was prescient since UVic constructed nine new buildings since then. She emphasized that the updated plan should reflect the university’s academic mission, while providing flexibility to respond to unforeseen needs.

VP Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill said that while UVic “has neighbours that are very interested on what we do on campus,” the academic goals of the university should drive development. There will be several mobile booths from Jan. 13–16, with an official launch slated for Jan. 28 from 4:30–6 p.m. that will feature Eric Higgs (director of the environmental studies school) and Andrew Rowe (a professor of mechanical engineering). An Ideas Forum will take place Feb. 4 from 11 a.m.–8 p.m. in the Michèle Pujol room. There will also be a website available during the consultation process.

UNIVERSITY RANKING SUMMARY

Tony Eder, director of institutional planning and analysis, began the meeting with a summary of “university ranking season.” Eder said that while rankings like the Times Higher Education (THE) survey advertise UVic’s merits to international markets and the parents of prospective students, word-of-mouth and campus visits were more influential in final enrolment decisions. He also believed that certain ranking schemes relied too heavily on reputational surveys (particularly the THE and QS World rankings). Eder attributed UVic’s less favourable reputation scores to lack of information on the part of respondents as opposed to negative opinions, and that the UVic Difference Project (a comprehensive communications and marketing plan) is having a positive effect.

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES AND UPDATES

UVic’s search for a permanent VP Academic and Provost aims to have a shortlist of candidates in the next month, and more information will be disseminated in public forums then.

UVic has also amended its admissions requirements for the Combined Program in Music and Computer Science, which will allow students to enter the first year, when students have been required to transfer in during their second year in the past, which the Senate Committee on Admission, Re-registration and Transfer (SCART) believed was cumbersome. The proposal passed unanimously.

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