By Bryan Weismiller
The University of Calgary bolstered its bid to become one of the country’s top research universities as it announced more than 100 new hires and plans to create a teaching and learning centre. While presenting the university’s community report, president Elizabeth Cannon said 50 assistant professors and 60 post-doctoral scholars will be hired within the next year, at a cost of $12 million.
The announcement comes one year after a strategic plan was unveiled to make the U of C one of Canada’s top five research universities by its semicentennial.
“All of these announcements are perfectly aligned with what we need to do to continue to raise our game and make sure that we’re on track to meet those goals by 2016,” Cannon said after the presentation.
The former Nickle Arts Museum will be overhauled to house the new teaching and learning centre. The 4,000-square-metre site will feature a simulation centre, mock classrooms and lecture spaces. University officials said it supports both research and teaching initiatives.
Hardave Birk, students’ union president, trumpeted the university’s commitment to teaching Tuesday — something students felt was lacking in the past.
“One of the biggest concerns that we’ve had here at the university, that we’ve consistently heard from undergraduate students, is the quality of teaching on campus needs to be better, (it) could improve,” Birk said.
The U of C has proportionally fewer assistant professors compared with other Canadian institutions, according to university officials, and the announcement spells a 16 per cent boost in academic staff. Paul Rogers, president of the university’s faculty association, also lauded the additional hires.
The number of professors has declined over the past four years as enrolment has reached record highs, placing “an extra load on academic staff,” Rogers said.
In 2008, there were 1,776 full-time academic staff, according to a university head count. Staffing levels jumped slightly before dropping in consecutive years to 1,719 in 2011.
“Fifty warm bodies will get us closer to where we were in terms of academic staff a few years ago,” Rogers said in an interview Tuesday.
Birk said the quality of instruction should improve, adding the new institute for teaching and learning is a “step in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Cannon described the new centre as a long-term project, which still requires planning. She didn’t provide a specific timeline or cost.
“It is in the millions,” she told reporters, when asked for clarification.
Cannon also said the university ensured its “financial house” was in order before adding staff and planning the new centre.
“It’s a significant expense to us, but we look at it as an investment and there are not too many universities in a position to do this right now,” she said. (Calgary Herald)