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UVic proposes establishing a faculty of health by May

There’s some resistance among faculty members.
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The Human and Social Development Building at the University of Victoria. The faculty would shut down and many of its departments would join the new health faculty. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The University of Victoria is looking to establish a new faculty focused on health education, training and research as early as May.

The move is seen as a way to improve research and educational offerings in B.C.’s increasingly competitive post-secondary environment, with the university saying it has potential to “generate more donor funds, sponsored research and government support.”

Students in many existing health-related studies at UVic could soon be receive their diplomas from the proposed faculty of health.

Those affected would include students studying nursing, social work, kinesiology and public health.

The faculty of human and social development would shut down as many of its departments are earmarked to join the new faculty.

A draft proposal from a 19-person university committee recommends establishing the faculty of health on May 1.

Faculty, students and staff would migrate from other faculties in the following year.

The faculty of health is to initially offer existing programs but could eventually add new undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a number of other educational offerings, the proposal said.

Four of seven academic schools within the faculty of human and social development — nursing, social work, health information sciences, and public health and policy — have been recommended for the new faculty of health.

The other two departments intended for the new faculty include the school of exercise sciences, physical and health education, currently part of the faculty of education, and UVic’s division of medical sciences.

Other departments being considered for the new faculty include the department of psychology and a counselling psychology program.

The proposal recommends that the three other human and social development faculty schools be reassigned to one of the university’s nine other faculties. The human and social development faculty would be disbanded entirely by 2026.

These changes are laid out in a 23-part omnibus motion; the proposed changes need approval from the university’s senate and board of governors.

UVic’s governing bodies have not voted on a structural change of this magnitude since the 1990s, when the faculty of arts and sciences was split into three.

Monica Prendergast, acting president of UVic’s faculty association, said while there has been a “good amount” of consultation on the part of the university, it’s unclear whether the university senate will approve it.

Prendergast, who hasn’t decided if she will vote for or against, expects the vote to be split in the senate, which has strong faculty representation. “We’ve had some faculty express real concern about this move,” she said, adding: “We don’t want to see anybody forced into joining this faculty.”

UVic spokesperson Kirsten Lauvaas said that all nine academic units currently destined for university’s new faculty of health have provided letters of support for the proposal.

“Any faculty member who doesn’t wish to move to the faculty of health will be able to request to move to another faculty in accordance with their collective agreement,” she said in a statement.

About 100 out of the 900-strong faculty contingent at UVic have been proposed for affiliation with the faculty of health.

Work on a new health faculty began last May, though discussions about creating a health research facility at UVic date to 2021.

The proposed faculty would be headed by a dean of health.

The university is holding a special senate meeting on Feb. 9 to present the proposal and to give senators time to make an informed vote on March 1.

mjlo@timescolonist.com