Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
Publication of a BRIEF ON UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIPS

On May 14, the Conseil president, Céline Saint-Pierre, released a brief by the Conseil entitled Universities: Working in Partnership. Around one hundred people attended the launch, which took place in the Palasis-Prince building at Université Laval.

In the brief, the Conseil states its position that university partnerships should be intensified, that support should be provided for their implementation, and that they should be managed more closely to take into account the fundamental mission of the universities. However, it points out that certain conditions must be met:

  • the development of partnerships must be monitored to ensure compliance with the university's mission
  • positive spinoffs for the training of students must receive more attention
  • university research funding must be based on the measures set out in the Québec Policy on Science and Innovation
  • institutional support and the management of partnership activities must be improved
  • more research must be conducted on partnerships

The position taken by the Conseil is based on an examination of various research findings, the results of its own consultations, and its analysis of different types of partnerships to discover how partnerships influence the teaching and research that constitute the heart of the university's mission.

In the brief, a careful study of the effects of partnerships on various components of the university's mission tends to challenge several preconceived ideas, and establishes a critical distance concerning statements suggesting that the universities are firmly committed to partnerships. The data and observations gathered demonstrate the positive effects of partnerships, but also circumscribe their limits.

Positive effects

In practice, a reliance on partnerships provides various forms of support for the university’s mission. First, it introduces diversity into teaching and research activities. According to the faculty members surveyed, their experiences allow them to enrich their teaching with concrete examples, and also extend the traditional boundaries of research and open up previously inaccessible research domains and data. Lastly, they enrich training activities, whether in terms of practical training, research training, international cooperation or continuing education. Next, partnerships highlight the importance of university research. The faculty members involved in partnership-based activities consider that the demand for their services is a mark of recognition for their academic or scientific expertise. In addition, partnerships increase their scientific renown. Last, partnerships lead to the development of special expertise concerning the protection of intellectual property resulting from scholarly work, skills connected with the marketing of research results, and strategies for disseminating scientific knowledge.

Counter-productive effects

The multiplication of research-based activities has also generated some undesirable side effects. In addition to the general concerns raised, there is the risk of a rift between faculty members, opposing teachers committed to partnership-based activities against colleagues who are not. There are also reports of an increased teaching workload, which reflects the lack of support reported by university teachers, especially with regard to secretarial, technical, professional and administrative support. There is also a risk of a negative impact on the productivity of faculty members. In this context, an important observation was that, within each institution, there is a lack of coordination of partnership-based projects with other university activities. An increased reliance on partnerships creates the need to review the management of university priorities concerning all its activities. In addition, partnerships must be supported by appropriate institutional policies and a competent staff of resource persons.

An ongoing project

Not all the consequences of experiments with partnerships have yet been determined, and to remedy this situation the Conseil recommends that a program be established to define and prevent potential problems.

To sum up, it is clear that students, faculty members, university administrators and civil servants must all continue to examine their actions and methods and create a consensus within their group, if the essence of the university’s mission, namely the education of students, is to be preserved. The primary responsibility lies with the Minister of State for Education and Employment, and also with the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, to provide support for the university’s mission in all government policies, decisions and positions designed to regulate partnerships between universities and the community and to define the role played by Québec's universities in technological and social innovation.

Document complet (PDF)
Abridged Version (PDF)

Panorama • Volume 7, Number 2 • June 2002

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