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Principal's Message: Strategic Reframing Initiative

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Published: 8 Mar 2011

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing to update you on the Strategic Reframing Initiative (SRI), following my messages of last October and December. The SRI is developing ways we can work better across the University, by improving our success and accelerating our progress in five key areas:

  • Transformative research and innovation:
  • Philanthropy
  • Cost efficiencies
  • Enrolment mix
  • Performance enhancement

Simply put, the work we are doing will enable us to find more resources and to use our existing ones most effectively. Securing additional resources will be essential in order to achieve our goals - goals that will allow us to continue to be, now and in the future, one of the world's best universities.

Why we need to change

The competition for top students and professors, for research funding, and for talented administrative and support staff has never been stronger.  As you know, we face particular funding challenges in Quebec: low tuition and funding levels, as well as a decline in provincial research investment in recent years. However, we are also not taking full advantage of other funding sources to fill this gap. Our leadership in particular areas of research funding, for example, is being challenged.

This underfunding has a very real impact on our academic mission and our ability to serve Quebec, Canada and the world.

Why the SRI matters to McGill

At heart, the SRI matters because McGill's mission matters. The SRI is about fully supporting the people of McGill - students, staff and faculty - who realize our academic mission of research, teaching and community service to make a difference to Quebec, Canada and the world.

It aims:

  • to help our researchers, with minimal red tape, to attract the funding they need to put their great ideas to work serving society;
  • to give our outstanding students more support, both academically and financially, to help them fulfill their potential;
  • to give our dedicated staff a working environment that is agile in its operations and that best supports them in delivering high quality, efficient and effective administrative and support services; and
  • to express to those who support us that every dollar we receive is precious and will be targeted to enhance our distinctive contributions.

What We're Doing

Through the SRI, we are taking our innovative spirit and applying it to our operations. Working groups for each of the five areas mentioned above have recently completed their fact-finding and have made preliminary recommendations to the SRI Steering Committee. The Steering Committee, in turn, has recommended some projects to McGill's senior executive for review and approval.  While recommendations are still not final, there are already some general findings I can share with you:

  • We will better support our researchers in applying for funding, particularly for international and large-scale projects. Our applications to international funding sources such as the National Institutes of Health and international foundations, for example, can be higher-which will translate into more resources to allow our professors to carry out their great research.
  • We will align with the best practices of our peer universities to increase philanthropic giving. The average gift to McGill, adjusting for institutional size, is less than half the average gift to our U.S. public peers, though we are enormously grateful that a high proportion of our graduates donate to their alma mater. We will strive to match the best institutions worldwide.
  • We will streamline our financial processes. To take just one small example, each year Financial Services receives more than 60,000 vendor invoices, and issues about 68,000 cheques. We are planning to implement an e-payment system as the sole method of interaction.
  • We will save money, and reduce our environmental footprint, by further improving our energy efficiency. Our energy use per square-metre is still the second-highest of Quebec universities, despite recent improvements. Our large number of historic buildings makes it more difficult to conserve energy, but our new Energy Plan will advance our progress.
  • We will strengthen and expand our working relationships with foundations and industry. Our researchers clearly have the capacity to create innovation. Over the past five years, McGill researchers have ranked #1 in securing NSERC Idea-to-Innovation Grants and CIHR Proof of Principle funding. However, we are not doing as well as we can in turning these ideas into partnerships. McGill receives 8.8 per cent of the total sponsored research funding for all Canadian universities, but our share of the research funding flowing to Canadian universities from business is only 6.5 per cent.
  • Although we have made significant strides in implementing new measurement tools over the past few years, many departments and administrative units still don't have the systems and information they need to effectively track, and adjust, their performance. We will improve here.

Project implementation is expected to start in early May. I invite you to consult the SRI website (http://www.mcgill.ca/sri/), which is being regularly updated as we launch new projects flowing from the recommendations of the working groups.   We will be keeping you informed about SRI progress, through the website and other means.

Change of this sort - a transformation of the way we conduct our work -- requires making some tough choices. But through this process, we are being ever guided by our mission. We are dedicated to teaching, research, scholarship, serving society-and to holding ourselves up to, and meeting the highest international standards. Working together, we are positioning the University to meet the challenges on the horizon, and those yet unseen, and most important, to realize our highest aspirations in the context of our most noble mission.

Thank you for your support to these efforts, and warm appreciation for all we are already achieving,

Heather Munroe-Blum
Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University

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