December 14, 2006      
From the Principal

Another active semester is coming to a close at Bishop’s – it seems only yesterday that we welcomed the 2006 entering class to campus in September. The fall has been filled with notable events. Dr. Lorne Nelson opened a new observatory on the roof of the Nicolls Building. Renovations aimed at making the Library more hospitable to students were completed early this semester. You will read about a national scholarship winner below. Bishop’s hosted a number of conferences on campus this semester, bringing professors from around the world to Bishop’s. Our students continued their outstanding performances in the classroom, on stages, on the playing fields, and in the community.

Last month Bishop’s received mixed “grades” in two annual rankings of Canadian universities. In our first appearance in the Globe and Mail University Report Card we scored top marks in seven out of the 15 grading categories for the Very Small (less than 4000 students) group of Universities. Generally we did well in areas we expect to excel in, such as Quality of Education (A), Quality of Teaching (A), Class Size (A+), Student Faculty Interaction (A+), Most Satisfied Students (A), and Diversity of Extra Curricular Activities (A). The grades for the Report Card are based on a student survey conducted last spring, so it gives us a good idea of what our most important constituent – our students – think.

The Maclean’s University Rankings were released two days after the Globe and Mail Report Card. 26 universities refused to submit the requested data to the magazine, causing some controversy about the accuracy of this year’s rankings. Bishop’s did agree to participate, although we too share the concern of our colleagues across Canada as to the methodology and measures used. Overall Bishop’s fell from fifth to seventh (out of 21) in the Primarily Undergraduate category. We are not satisfied with this result, but when you dissect the rankings there are some positive signs. Our scores in Average Entering Grade, Student Retention, and Proportion Who Graduate all improved this year.

Next semester will be one of paramount importance to Bishop’s. I am confident that negotiations will continue in an environment of respect and collegiality. Of equal importance is the strategic planning process. The landscape of post-secondary education is changing, and it is increasingly competitive to recruit students, faculty and staff to Bishop’s. We will remain true to our past, but change is necessary. That change will not come from the Strategic Planning Committee – it will come from all faculty and staff of the University.

We have already seen examples of departments/areas that have made changes – not always major ones - that have shown great benefit. The English Department, for example, made structural changes to their program, added Film Studies, and changed some of their course titles. The result? The English Department now has the third largest number of course registrations at Bishop’s. Another example – Environmental Science. The Geography Department numbers were dwindling until a program overhaul created the Department of Environmental Studies. The Department has seen stong growth in terms of Honours and Majors as well as course registrations.

Other areas, and not only academic ones, will need to engage in the same sort of intense self-examination, looking for ways in which we might better deliver the Bishop’s experience, or at least differentiate ourselves from other small, liberal, residential universities. I look forward to your collaboration as the planning process unfolds.

The holiday season is a time to give thanks, so please allow me to thank you for your efforts throughout the semester. Bishop’s has many attributes, but our number one asset is the commitment of the men and women employed here who ensure an unparalleled Bishop’s experience for our students. Thank you.

Best wishes for the holidays,
Robert Poupart
Principal and Vice Chancellor

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