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CAUT Policy Statement

Academic staff must play the decisive role in making academic decisions and setting academic policy in order for post-secondary institutions to fulfill their public responsibilities for the creation, preservation, and transmission of knowledge and for the education of students. Academic staff associations have a role to play in strengthening systems of shared governance at their institutions and in protecting and fostering the voice of the academic staff within them.

Final authority for administrative and financial matters should be the responsibility of the Board of Governors, composed of both external community representatives and internal members, all of whom are selected through open and transparent processes. The Board’s membership should include the President, representatives of the academic staff regardless of type of appointment, alumni, non-academic staff, and students. Among its functions, the Board should serve as a link between the institution and its many publics, with a responsibility to mediate between them while protecting the integrity of the institution’s academic mission, institutional autonomy, and academic freedom. Every effort should be made to ensure that the Board reflects the diversity of the institutional community and of the community in which the institution is located. Membership on committees of the Board should be open to all of its members.

Academic decisions and setting of academic policy should be the responsibility of a senior academic body (typically called a Senate[1]) committed to collegial governance. Associated functions should include but should not be limited to articulating the academic mission of the institution, determining its programs of study and related curricular matters, determining academic standards, oversight of long-range academic planning and its implementation, and oversight of the academic operations of the institution. In addition, the Senate should have unlimited power of recommendation to the Board on any matter within the Board’s purview that the Senate considers to be of import to the institution. This requires that the Senate is apprised of Board and administrative proposals or initiatives before final decisions are made and has meaningful opportunities to consider and provide recommendations.

Both the Board and the Senate should operate transparently. Senate and Board procedures and rules should be written and publicly available, and consistent with procedures and rules set out in legislation constituting the institution and in collective agreements negotiated between the institution and its academic staff association. These should include clear articulation of powers, duties, and functions, including details about any delegated powers, duties, or functions where their delegation has been authorized. Senate and Board agendas, attachments, and minutes should be posted publicly without undue delay. The composition of Senate and Board committees should be posted on their respective webpages. Academic staff should not be required to sign excessively restrictive confidentiality agreements.

The majority of the Senate should be academic staff elected by their colleagues. The Senate should include student representatives elected by students. The President and Vice-President (Academic) should be ex officio members with vote. Other administrators at the rank of Dean and above should have voice but no vote. There should be one or two representatives elected by the Board of Governors. There should be a Speaker of Senate elected by the Senate who should have no other administrative post within the university. Every effort should be made to ensure that the Senate reflects the diversity of the academic community at its institution, and that barriers to equitable participation are identified and removed. Senators who are academic staff should be a majority on all committees of Senate and should be elected by Senate following an open committee nomination process.

Academic staff should be a majority in all bodies that make recommendations or decisions on academic matters in departments, faculties, schools, or colleges.

The President and the Vice-President (Academic) should be appointed or reappointed with the approval of both the Senate and the Board in an open and transparent process. Such appointments should be made on the recommendation of search or reappointment committees. These should be joint committees of the Board and Senate and include effective representation of academic staff as well as student and non-academic staff representation. Demonstrated ability to foster effective shared governance of the institution should be included in criteria and in duties listed in position descriptions.

The President, Vice-President (Academic), and any other officer whose duties include a significant role in supporting governance processes should be subject to periodic performance evaluation, with opportunities for input by all members of the Board and of Senate. Evaluation criteria should include criteria concerning performance of duties with respect to fostering effective shared governance of the institution.

Approved by the CAUT Council, November 2019;
Approved by the CAUT Council, April 2024.


[1].  Although the term “Senate” is used in most institutions, other terms are used, e.g., General Faculties Council (at most Alberta universities), University Council (universities in Saskatchewan), Conseil universitaire (Laval), Education Council (colleges and institutes in British Columbia), Learning Council (University College of the North). A few institutions (e.g., University of Toronto) have a unicameral system with a Governing Council that fulfills the roles of both Board of Governors and Senate.