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Margin Notes

AUCC lays out five commitments to Canadians

The commitments follow a year of “intense conversation” among members on strategic renewal.


In his speech this morning as incoming chair of the board of directors of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Stephen Toope laid out five commitments “on behalf of Canada’s universities” as they embark on their second century of collaboration through AUCC. Prof. Toope, president of the University of British Columbia, was speaking at the AUCC annual meeting in Montreal, where the association was celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Also at that meeting, yesterday, AUCC unveiled a new statement on academic freedom.

In setting the context for the five commitments, Prof. Toope noted that, “We live in a time when knowledge alone is not enough … The world we live in is simply changing too fast. … Today, economic, social and personal fulfillment depends less upon what we know and more upon what we are capable of learning, and the degree to which we are able to respond to change around us.”

The five commitments by AUCC are part of what the association calls a “strategic renewal” of its activities. They are a result of more than a year of intense conversations among the members of “the emerging needs of Canadians … and the actions we are taking in response,” said Prof. Toope. Drawing on all these discussions, AUCC staff and members have worked “to identify and articulate five perennial and emerging needs, needs that we, collectively, as stewards of education, are committed to addressing.”

Here are the five commitments, in full, from Prof. Toope’s speech:

  • We commit to broadening the view of education. Universities are part of a larger landscape of education and we cannot, alone, contribute fully to Canada unless that entire landscape is healthy and robust. We are committing to invite and lead a conversation across Canada regarding the entire experience of education from preschool to post-doctoral, for the good of all Canadians.
  • We are committed to innovation in learning. New research into teaching and learning and new technologies is providing a host of learning tools and approaches. Our three pillars of education, research and community engagement are increasingly converging, with opportunities for a more deeply integrated learning experience. We are committed to enhancing the learning experience of undergraduate, graduate and professional students by drawing on a full range of educational, research-based and
  • We affirm our commitment to excellence.  We share a responsibility to ensure that every student is fully equipped to play a role in a larger world and in a very new kind of Canada.
  • We are committed to addressing the world’s toughest problems. We are determined to continue the growth of graduate studies and a robust research agenda in order to develop new knowledge that addresses key problems in a world of increasing complexity. And,
  • We are committed to cultivating engagement and partnerships. We reach beyond our institutions to cultivate alliances, working relationships and initiatives of shared purpose. We work with and learn from community organizations and social groups in order to research and implement solutions to local and global problems.  We invite partnerships with business within our academic mandate to improve the transfer of knowledge to the marketplace. We will work with one another in collaborations among universities within Canada and around the world. By joining forces we are better able to address highly complex issues and accelerate the pace of research.

In a question-and-answer session that followed his speech, Prof. Toope noted that the rest of the day would be devoted to discussions among AUCC members “to see how to take these commitments and make them ‘real’ operationally … to establish a clearer advocacy agenda that is speaking to the broader purposes of Canada, not just to an insular idea of what we need.”

Indeed, said Dr. Toope, “that’s actually how this whole conversation began, [from] a sense that many members of the community had that we had exhausted a way of approaching these questions, which was based on our own perception of need, rather than a perception of service, and how we can better contribute and what needed to happen in order for that contribution to be made.” That dialogue, he said, will continue at the next board meeting and again at the meeting of the entire AUCC membership in the spring of 2012.

Paul Davidson, president of AUCC, added that these discussions are occurring “at a timely moment.” As a result of the federal election this spring, there is now a majority government, which gives the association a “four-year time frame – which is longer than we’ve had in a long time – to think of a multi-year agenda.” As well, with a series of provincial elections now nearly wrapped up, “the table is set for a national conversation” on these issues, he said.

Dr. Davidson also added that he hopes these conversations take place within universities as well. “There may be roles for your senates. There may be roles for your boards. This is a conversation that we expect to carry on for some years to come. This is not a six-month advocacy strategy, but really a much longer period of engagement to achieve the results we’re hoping for.”

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is a former editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Jane Forgay / October 27, 2011 at 13:32

    Thank you for linking to the AUCC’s media release on October 25, 2011: “Canada’s universities adopt new Statement on Academic Freedom”.

    Perhaps it’s implicit in the statement that academic librarians also have academic freedom, but as a collections and an instructional librarian I was disheartened not to see that librarians were mentioned explicitly. Librarians are just as “committed to the pursuit of truth and its communication to others, including students and the broader community” as faculty members are. We too must be free to take “risks and tackle controversial subjects” as we acquire and promote the availability of a wide array of resources to our students and researchers. The relevance and importance of this activity to the scholarly process should be recognized and stated by AUCC.

    Jane Forgay, History, Independent Studies, and Political Science Librarian
    University of Waterloo
    Waterloo, Ontario