Thursday 17 January 2013

Programme closures

The AAUP has updated its general procedural guidelines for universities in financial distress. Here is what they recommend for universities contemplating programme closures due to finances:
First, as to governance and consultation, this report insists that faculty members must be involved in consultation and deliberation at every stage of the process, beginning with a determination that a state of financial exigency exists. We offer specific recommendations for such faculty involvement:
1. Before any proposals for program discontinuance on financial grounds are made or entertained, the faculty should have the opportunity to render an assessment in writing on the institution’s financial condition.
2. Faculty bodies participating in the process may be drawn from the faculty senate or elected as ad hoc committees by the faculty; they should not be appointed by the administration.
3. The faculty should have access to, at minimum, five years of audited financial statements, current and following-year budgets, and detailed cash-flow estimates for future years.
4. In order to make informed proposals about the financial impact of program closures, the faculty needs access to detailed program, department, and administrative-unit budgets.
5. The faculty should determine whether “all feasible alternatives to termination of appointments have been pursued,” including expenditure of one-time money or reserves as bridge funding, furloughs, pay cuts, deferred-compensation plans, early-retirement packages, deferral of nonessential capital expenditures, and cuts to noneducational programs and services, including expenses for administration.
6. Faculty members in a program being considered for discontinuance because of financial exigency should be informed in writing that it is being so considered and given at least thirty days in which to respond. Both tenured and nontenured faculty members should be involved.
They suggest that most programme closures fail to meet these kinds of procedural standards.

I joined Academic Board at Canterbury after the last round of programme closures and so have little to say about our own performance. But I will be thinking about the report should programme closures again loom.

Hat Tip: Inside Higher Ed. The full AAUP report is here.


  1. So, I have two opposing views.

    One says that processes like this would help the staff working in the programme to understand how severe the issues are, and to give them the opportunity to take actions to resolve the problem (i.e. waste less money, take pay cuts, make the course more attractive so it attracts more students). Which clearly would be a good thing.

    The other is that this is just employees acting as special interests - an opportunity for them to thwart or frustrate actions that management might want to take. I presume someone so inclined could use these processes to drag out a mooted closure for at least 2 years, or alternatively make the closure process so onerous that people give up and go and pick on someone easier.

    Any idea which is the more likely? My experience in academic organisations gives me a view.......

  2. As best I can tell, the main way we varied from it in our programme closures was on financial disclosures; I'm not sure that Departments even knew what their 2013 budgets were going to be prior to somewhere very late in 2012.

    I can see tons of advantages on all sides here. Central administration could lay out a process with set deadlines that followed the guidelines; a process's adherence to recognized guidelines builds faculty support for whatever winds up happening.